published Wednesday, August 28,1996
F.H. Buhl's vision continues in park
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RESIDENTS CAN FOLLOW LEGACY OF GENEROSITY
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Your donation will help keep Buhl Farm viable
By Jennifer Hall
Herald Staff Writer
``The Farm is to be used as a playground and a place of cultural enhancement for the public in general and especially for the residents of the community.''
-- Frank H. Buhl, 1914
In 1911, Frank H. Buhl announced his plans to turn a 300-acre farm into a playground and donate it to the people of the Shenango Valley. Eighty-five years later, Buhl's vision remains a reality.
Like a farm, the activities begin daily at about 5 a.m. The roadways and paths throughout Buhl Farm in Hermitage are speckled with walkers and their pets. But by 6 a.m. more walkers have joined the bunch and the flow continues into the evening.
And many area golfers learned and then perfected their technique at Buhland, the park's 9-hole golf course. Affectionately known as ``Dum Dum,'' a name with an unknown origin, it is believed to be the only free golf course in the world.
From picnics to fishing and from tennis to baseball and Casino dances, to name a few activities, Buhl Farm has touched the lives of almost every family in the Shenango Valley. The Summer Concert Series on Sunday nights attracts almost 700 people who tote lawn chairs and blankets to the grassy area in front of the Performing Arts Center.
The park is active year-round. The fields used for flying kites in the sun turn into sledding areas while the Casino and activities buildings remain active with meetings and receptions. And the walkers never quit.
In the 1910s, Buhl spent $1 million to construct the farm. Buhl died in 1918 and his wife, Julia Forker Buhl, kept his dream alive until she died in 1936. He left a trust to support his farm and ensure that it would remain a place for families to enjoy without spending a lot of money.
But with falling interest rates and rising costs, the trust is no longer enough to support the park. Carolyn Williams, director of activities and programming for the park, is searching for ways to maintain the park while staying in line with Buhl's dream. ``Many people walk in every day and take it for granted,'' she said. ``But they never think about where it's going to be in 20 years.''
Mrs. Williams and Buhl Trustees oversee park operations. In recent years, capital improvements have included the reopening the Casino, renovating pavilions and adding a security team. ``I want the legacy to remain alive,'' Mrs. Williams said. ``I want to be able to count on it for my grandchildren.''
The trustees built a driving range two years ago with the hope that the funds raised by the minimal fees there will offset the $55,000 it takes to run the Buhland course annually.
``The things that have to be done with the golf course and the roads alone ... People just don't think about it, but there is con
stantly work that has to be done to maintain the beauty,'' Mrs. Williams said.
People walking the roadways from dawn to dusk are a common site at Buhl Barm. Susan and David Williams recently were strolling with their 4-mont-old twins, Jocelyn and Jesse. The family visits the park almost every day. (Jean Angelo/Herald)
Mrs. Williams sits in her office in the Casino looking out the window into the vast expanse of the park, watching as many of those who enjoy the atmosphere pass by. In an effort to raise funds to help with the increased costs, Mrs. Williams has devised a plan that takes 70 volunteers and lots of buttons reading ``Keep the Legacy Alive.''
``I thought Buhl Day would be the perfect day,'' she said about the fund-raiser that asks some of the 30,000 people who attend theannual day for Frank and Julia Buhl to donate money.
Annual ceremonies to recognize the generosity of the Buhls began in 1914 and were suspended during World War II. Supporters reinstated the Buhl Day festivities as they are today in 1980.
This year, clearly marked volunteers will walk the parade route, circle the park and station themselves at the entrances,asking those who have enjoyed the park at one time or another to donate to its survival.
``I feel it's our opportunity to make sure this legacy is passed on the way it is,'' she said. ``I'm hoping the community will do its part in donating.''
I hate to think of a day that someone would have to pay to get into the park.''
But if those who use the park donate and the fund-raiser becomes a natural part of Buhl Day, Mrs. Williams doesn't see Buhl's vision blurring.
``This way nobody has to dig deep ...'' she said. ``How much is it worth to them? Even if it's a dollar or $5 as they walk into the park. That's all we ask.''
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Updated August 29, 1996