Donation helps enhance Wolf River
By Scott Bellile
Family members of the late Greg Stilen Jr. are committed to establishing a public riverside gazebo in his memory.
To prove it, the New London man’s surviving family members – mother Margie Stilen, brother Jonathon Stilen and sisters Judy Mayo and Sara Mendoza – pooled together a $10,000 donation and presented it to the New London Parks and Recreation Department in April.
The family wishes to install the gazebo on an existing but unused concrete slab in River Trail Park, behind Community First Credit Union and next to the Wolf River. Greg Stilen loved to boat and fish on the river.
“We want other people to enjoy being down at the river as much as he did and be able to have a place to go, whether to picnic or just hang out by the river or go fishing, whatever, so people can enjoy the river,” Margie Stilen said.
New London Parks and Recreation Director Chad Hoerth added a covered gazebo would be valuable to the city because it could serve as an outdoor concert venue or a destination for fishermen to take cover during rainstorms.
The timeline for completion depends on how early the family raises the full cost for the gazebo, as public dollars will not be put toward the project.
“The family is being the driving force behind the fundraising effort for this project,” Hoerth said.
The cost of the gazebo may range from $23,000 to $35,000, depending on whether the family goes with a 24-foot-wide or 32-foot-wide design, Hoerth said.
So far a little over $12,000 has been raised, Hoerth said. That includes funds raised from the annual Greg Stilen Jr. Memorial Bass Tournament, which began in the summer of 2015 when he died.
“This is just another example of us partnering up with either individuals [or] organizations to improve the parks system,” Hoerth said. “Unfortunately it was because of a tragic event, but hopefully some good can come out of that tragedy for the good of the public.”
Greg Stilen, 26, was killed in a motorcycle accident on July 14, 2015. He was traveling home on U.S. Highway 45 on his way home from work at Walker Forge in Clintonville.
He graduated from Lincoln Tech Indianapolis prior to beginning at Walker Forge. He could have worked at all sorts of places in the Midwest, Margie Stilen said, but he returned to his native New London because he loved the civilians and the Wolf River.
Margie Stilen said she looks forward to seeing the gazebo finished so people have a spot where they can appreciate the Wolf River the same way her son did.
“He’d want to improve the park and everything,” Margie Stilen said of River Trail Park. “He loved it down there.”
Hoerth said the project does not have a timeline or finalized design or final dollar amount, but the Stilens’ donation will help speed up the decision-making.
Community members can donate to the cause by participating in the third annual Greg Stilen Jr. Memorial Bass Tournament scheduled for Sept. 2 in New London, or by directing a donation to the project to New London Parks and Recreation Department.