New ownership and volunteers working to restore historic Eden Sp - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

New ownership and volunteers working to restore historic Eden Springs Park in Benton Harbor

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They call it a labor of love. A big piece of Michiana history, sat vacant for decades. Now, dedicated volunteers are working to bring it back to life.

Eden Springs Park was opened by the House of David religious commune in 1908 and closed in the early 1970's. Until 2009 it was left to let nature take it over, until new owners said they couldn't let it happen.

The sound of train whistles was a popular sound for those who visited Eden Springs Park in its heyday.

"There was a lot of people who came here because it was the days before television and movie theatres. This was a destination," says Jeff Boyersmith who is volunteering his time to help spruce up the park.

Eden Springs Park was filled with fun for the whole family. There was a famous baseball team, train rides, a zoo, restaurant, beer garden and a stage for entertainment.

"It was wonderful. Us kids used to come down here. We used to walk 10 miles to get here," says Margaret Adams, who performed at the park.

It doesn't quite look the way it used to, but thanks to about a dozen volunteers, it's making a comeback.

"I have good memories of it as a child. Like everybody, the ice cream and riding the train," says volunteer, Debbie Boyersmith.

Boyersmith's grandfather played on the baseball team before leaving the commune. Over the years, she watched the park fall apart and hoped someone would save it. "When I heard that some people had bought it and were going to start cleaning it up and fixing it up, It's like, 'I'm in!'" says Debbie Boyersmith.

Among the new owners, Ruby Dixson who actually lives in North Carolina. She and her husband, along with another investor, purchased the park from the House of David in 2009.

What drew them to the park all the way from down south? A love for the antique trains. "He found out they were gonna basically scrap a lot of the stuff and he just couldn't let that happen," says Dixson.
 
Dixson says at first she thought she'd be an owner from a distance, but can't help getting attached to the park and the history immersed in its soil. She says, "It's a hidden gem. The more you're here and the more you go around and look at the things, you just fall in love with it. You just do what you can to save it."

For the past few years volunteers have been working like dogs to restore the park. "In that time period between the 70's to four or five years ago, you've got 40 years of overgrowth and so on, so we had a lot of cleanup doing that," says Jeff Boyersmith.

The hard work is paying off. Those famous trains are running again, offering rides every weekend in the original carriages that have been riding the track for more than a hundred years.

There's still plenty more work ahead, but where there's a will, there's a way.

"I don't care what I do. If it's pulling weeds or pulling stuff out of an old building, or whatever I can do to make it look nice," says Debbie Boyersmith.

That work is much appreciated. In just the couple hours we spent at the park, two groups of people with fond memories of Eden Springs, came to check it out and see the progress.

"When you come, it just reminds you of how good it was. Hearing the train whistle through the trees," says Steve Adams, whose mother performed at the park.

While the park may never look quite as it did decades ago, the vision of the volunteers is clear; to once again make it a destination.

"This will be another reason to visit the region," says Jeff Boyersmith.

The owner says they eventually want to offer things like entertainment and ice cream in the park. They want to keep the history alive because they believe it's an important part of the community.

If you'd like to help restore the park, call 269-927-3302.

Train rides are offered from 12-5pm on Saturdays and Sundays.



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