Marcum family, volunteer leader pleased with Marcum Park honor

The Marcum family and Hamilton’s coordinator of volunteers both say they are delighted with the prestigious award Marcum Park won last week from the American Planning Association.

The park was named one of five American Great Public Spaces award winners, joining prior honorees like New York’s Central Park and Chicago’s Millennium Park. Since the award began in 2007, only 290 neighborhoods, streets and public spaces around the country have been honored.

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“This is an honor that is not given very often, and only to the best of the best,” Kurt Christiansen, president-elect of the organization.

Both the family of Joe and Sarah Marcum, who contributed more than $3.5 million to the park, and the volunteers, who make possible the free evening concerts at the park’s RiversEdge Amphitheater, played big parts in the park receiving the award. It’s unusual these days for families to make such significant gifts to such public areas, Christiansen said.

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“My family’s proud to have been instrumental in securing the ground,” said Steve Marcum, the son of Joe and Sarah, who also have three daughters. “We also heavily participated in the amenities you find in the park, like the fountain, the little river, and the children’s area, and of course, all the plantings.”

“Build it and they will come, and I believe they have,” Marcum said.

“I’m quite proud of the fact that Hamilton, a town of 60,000 people, held its own against Chicago, Stamford, Ct., and places where there’s a lot of money,” Marcum said. “I’m glad even little guys like us can hang with the big boys.”

He said he’s proud of his parents, both in their mid-90s, who “give away a lot every year. This is probably the biggest project they’ve ever done.”

Hamilton officials during the park’s ribbon-cutting ceremony last year also praised Steve Marcum and his sisters, noting the parents asked their permission to spend the money before they did so.

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Karen Wittmer, Hamilton’s program coordinator for volunteers, said 150-180 volunteers help each summer with the RiversEdge concerts, about 15 for each show, mostly serving beer.

“It’s amazing,” Wittmer said. “We couldn’t do it without them. To make the concert series successful, we have to have the volunteers down there, and people come back year after year because they love it so much.”

“It’s such a beautiful venue and beautiful area, and they just love being part of the good things going on in Hamilton,” she said.

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Most of the volunteers live in Hamilton, many of them working for businesses downtown. Also, many city employees volunteer their time after work.

“I just put the call out, and they come,” she said. “It’s amazing. They’re wonderful.”

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