After providing iconic views of the Owensboro and Daviess County landscape for more than 30-years, the future of the fire tower at Panther Creek Park has come into question.
And it’s an issue that local resident Zac Ferrell has taken to heart.
While park-goers could previously climb the tower’s 83-steps to get to the top, it was recently closed to the public due to structural concerns.
“It is just an iconic piece of Daviess County, and Daviess County is no stranger to having things that are very unique and kind of niche to our community,” Ferrell said.
The tower is currently fenced off and closed to the public. Ferrell was uncertain how tall the tower is.
In the days before aviation and cellphones, fire towers were an important tool in detecting and preventing the spread of forest fires. According to the Forest History Society, fire towers gained popularity during the 1930s and several were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Ferrell said the fire tower in Panther Creek Park, at 5160 Wayne Bridge Road in Owensboro, has been at the park since it was moved there from Cloverport 30 years ago. At one time, there was another fire tower in Yellow Creek Park that was moved to Daviess County from Indian Hill in Hancock County.
Ferrell has taken up a petition, spending last weekend out at both Panther Creek and Yellow Creek Parks collecting signatures to present to Daviess Fiscal Court.
“I have got about 150 signatures,” he said. “I am not really doing it full-time, I am just doing it on the weekends.”
While asking for signatures, Ferrell also asked signers to confirm that they are Daviess County residents.
Ferrell addressed Daviess Fiscal Court during a recent meeting, asking about the future plans for the structure.
County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly said that it is too early to make any formal announcements about the fire tower, but noted it was closed to the public after County Engineer Mark Brasher recently inspected it.
“It was shut down because of our concern about the safety of the fire tower,” Mattingly said.
Ferrell said his main goal is to have the tower restored to the point that it can continue to be an amenity for the county’s parks department.
“I think it would be a missed opportunity for it to be taken away,” he said during the meeting.
While Daviess Fiscal Court has spent the last few years investing in capital improvement projects at its parks, Mattingly said previously that it is time to switch gears and focus on park maintenance for the time being.
“I know they actually painted the upper portion of it last fall, and they did an excellent job,” Ferrell said. “To the best of my knowledge something happened — it was locked up — so I am just here to ask are we going to be able to save it (or) are we going to look at doing away with it?”
When the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, like many others, Ferrell said he had to adjust his exercise routine. Since softball was no longer an option, he turned to hiking the trails at the local parks.
“I would go up 83 steps up the fire tower,” he said. “You have majestic scenic views at the very top.”
Ferrell said it is a view that cannot be captured anywhere else in Daviess County, and for that, he thinks it is worth saving.
Mattingly said no decisions have been made yet regarding the future of the tower.
“We have no timetable right now as to when that would move forward,” he said. “We will start looking at it, I would say probably July 2021, because the monies for an engineer to look at it will be involved in about $250,000 that we put in there to enhance the safety in our parks.”
Ferrell said his goal is to not only prevent the fire tower from being removed but for it to be available for public use again, if at all possible.
To sign the online version of Ferrell’s petition, visit, https://www.change.org/p/residents-of-daviess-county-kentucky-save-climbable-panther-creek-fire-tower?fbclid=IwAR2HpxliK29EH7FbvGhA92pwLF1kWZm1FYl8J6Q8dK-HgE5ASeOK0GH2hg8.
Nathan Havenner, Messenger-Inquirer, firstname.lastname@example.org, 270-228-2837