CLEARFIELD – Everyone responds to adversity in different ways.
Some of us give in to the temptation to give up. Others decide to fight with everything they have. And still others are determined they will not be beaten, and they will make their lives mean something.
For John Crissman, it was a matter of keeping active and giving himself a challenge. For him the result has been a beautiful and popular attraction to the Clearfield community.
Crissman said he is a Stage 4 cancer survivor. He felt he needed a challenge, and something physical to give him a reason to get out of bed in the morning and to accomplish something positive.
He looked at his property along the river on River Street and saw potential. He said in addition to making the riverbank more attractive, he wanted to provide safer access to the river for canoes and kayaks.
He started clearing the bank and saw how good it looked and kept going, and Elliott’s Park was born. “My fiancée, Carol Turner helped,” he said, and they received encouragement from the community so, “we kept going and going and going.”
Elliott’s Park is now in its eighth year. “I didn’t anticipate coming this far,” Crissman said.
Elliott was Crissman’s chocolate lab/golden retriever mix dog, which was also Crissman’s constant companion and encouragement during his cancer treatments.
“He was a very special friend,” Crissman noted. The park is the kind of place Elliott would have loved, a place to roam and romp and play in the water, so it seemed only appropriate to name the park after him.
As the park has grown and improved, the response from the community has been mostly positive. Crissman said there are people who come almost every day. People come to fish or use the boat launch, many come in nice weather to eat their lunches or just spend some quiet time near the river.
In order to keep everything nice for everyone, Crissman installed security cameras and has a night watchman. He said there have been a few attempts at vandalism, including some signs stolen, but for the most part, he simply wants to prevent problems before they start.
One might think it’s difficult to keep up with maintenance, but Crissman said it mostly involves mowing and trimming, about 12 hours of work a week altogether.
He also said he has a list of things he wants to work on, keeping up with safety issues, for example. And each year he and Turner work to sand and repaint the picnic tables and benches to keep them nice.
And there’s always something new and different to look at and experience. Crissman has brought in different whimsical things, including a totem pole, bear carvings and a Bigfoot carving, as well as the fun carvings further downstream.
And Crissman and Turner decorate the park for different holidays. Right now visitors can find some ghoulish goodies, including a cemetery. Come Christmas, the park will be transformed into a winter wonderland with lights and other features.
So, what is Crissman’s favorite part? “I like it all!” he said, but one thing he is particularly proud of this year is the cabin, built this summer with the help of George Magnuson.
“He’s a real craftsman,” Crissman said, “and a pretty remarkable person.” He said he wanted a little cabin for a while, and Magnuson helped him bring it to life and added little touches he would not have thought of.
Of course, there is always something new in the works. Crissman said his nephew is helping him work on a footbridge over the little creek nearby.
He said right now they are held up by permitting and added that the state Department of Environmental Protection has, for the most part, kept an eye on what they have been doing but let them go ahead. He said they are really working to enhance the area for everyone.
Another thing he would like to see is an easy access point for emergency swift boats.
And right now, he’s working on a project unique to the area. He said he doesn’t want to give away too much about it, but it is indigenous to the area, but there is nothing like it here.
To find out what else Crissman has done, and what he has planned, he said people can take a trip to River Street and spend some time at the park.