Letter: River Rats helped make Mill Race Park possible

From: Dan Fox


On a recent Sunday morning, I took my dogs for a walk in Mill Race Park. This park is truly a treasure for our city, and if you haven’t spent much time there, I encourage you to do so. Walking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, a covered bridge, lakes and more.

Much of the credit for this beautiful park goes to a group of men and women called the “River Rats.” They spent many hours cleaning up the area and managed to raise money and community awareness with their tireless work, beginning sometime in the early 1960s.

In the early 1990s when the park was later improved and expanded, many of the River Rats were honored by having their names placed on small plaques in front of benches installed along the River Walk, a walking path along the river in the park. But the regular floods have taken their tolls. Many of the benches were damaged and have been replaced, but the plaques seem to have been lost.

Most of the River Rats from that time have passed on, including such people as Carl Miske, Jim Kauper, Tom Essex, Bob Vinson and Virgil Taylor, to name only a few. I know there are many more, and that is my point. We must not forget these community leaders. A sign does exist along the River Walk mentioning the River Rats, but their names are not listed.