Guest Editorial by David Zajac
There are a few areas in our city that have seen such significant “transformation,” so prevalent and undeniable, like Gill Creek Park. The dedication of the Niagara Street Neighborhood Revitalization Organization Inc. and the leadership of its most prominent member are to thank for this.
As a child, I remember when the park’s sole venues were the two baseball diamonds, a basketball court, the bathroom pavilion, and a small concession stand that stood behind home plate of the Falls Street diamond. I played baseball games there as a member of the Cadille Post A’s for Midtown Little League. As the years passed, the number of games played dwindled, till they ceased all together. The baseball diamonds fell into severe disrepair and eventually were overrun by burnt grass – even the concession stand was demolished. Eventually, the entire park became just a large grass field that was left for the city to maintain.
Once a pivotal landmark for me soon lost its luster as time waged a war against it.
The transformation of the park into what we know it as now did not happen overnight and it did not come about without a lot of perseverance from locals who saw the park's true potential – especially those members of the Niagara Street Neighborhood Revitalization Organization Inc. I would argue that the most passionate member, when it came to the revitalization of Gill Creek Park, was Mr. Ronnie “Ron” Anderluh.
In my opinion, Mr. Anderluh’s activism for the revitalization of Gill Creek Park will forever be unmatched.
In his eulogy at Ron’s funeral services Mr. Cancemi noted that Ron truly lived his life by his motto: “Take action and create change for the betterment of our community.”
Nothing embodied this way of living more than his devotion to revitalizing Gill Creek Park. Over a decade of hard work, countless phone calls with endless meetings, and innumerable fundraisers, he was able to transform the park into what it is today: A timeless landmark for people of the community to enjoy.
It is truly remarkable how a vision can turn into reality. Now we have lighted walking paths that connect Niagara Street to Falls Street, new basketball and volleyball courts, a pavilion area, a playground and, of course, the beautiful gazebo that is the epicenter of it all.
Ron not only envisioned the structures that are now in the park, but also what the park could play host to – from the small carnivals to the highly anticipated Wednesday concerts series.
When a concert was playing, our community paused and people from all areas instantly became long-lost neighbors. What a sight to see when Niagara Street would be lined on both sides with cars, lawn chairs in the open grass in front of the gazebo, while others would be dancing to the music, and even the passing traffic would slow down to hear the music for a few seconds.
None of this is possible without Mr. Anderluh being the first to arrive every week and the last to leave as the band was packing up. He was a pioneer who understood it was about building from the ground up and creating figurative bridges that helped revitalize a community. For me, he took a park that wowed me nearly 20 years ago to a park that transcended excellence for all ages and generations.
As I passed by the park recently, I could not help but think, “What would this park look like today if it were not for all the time and dedication put in by Ronnie ‘Ron’ Anderluh?”
It is for this reason that I am calling on all of the members of the Niagara Falls City Council to take into serious consideration the renaming of Gill Creek Park to “Ron Anderluh Memorial Park.”
The communities surrounding this park will forever owe him a debt of gratitude for all the time and dedication that he put in to revitalize it. I believe it would be a fitting tribute to his legacy. This is the perfect way to ensure that a man guided merely by a motto was able to accomplish so much.
“Take action and create change for the betterment of our community.”