Over the 40 years I have been involved with the development of Talleyrand Park, there have been many surprises. The first was in late 1974. New to Bellefonte, my husband, Rob, and I, along with a few local friends, organized a group of “artsy newcomers” to protest the idea that due to lack of funds and interest, Borough Council should sell the park to Kmart.
We surprised council members by offering to help raise funds and work on designs for development and we created a new volunteer group — one that would leave the land better than we found it, while also giving back something to our beautiful historic town. The Talleyrand Park Committee continues to this day, spearheading a collaboration of citizens, organizations, foundations, businesses and government agencies with the Borough of Bellefonte and providing grant writing, landscaping and design development for Talleyrand Park.
The first major project included a gazebo, built by local bricklayers who donated their work. Finished for the 1976 bicentennial celebrations, it receives the most use in the park. It has hosted weddings, summer concerts and community events.
In 1978, Gulf Oil Corp. donated land where a gas station stood next to the Big Spring. Now it’s the George Grey Barnard Sculpture Garden and the focal point is the Bellefonte-born sculptor’s bust of Lincoln.
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From l985 to 1989, grants from the Pennsylvania Conservation Corps, with matching funds from the borough, enabled disadvantaged youth to construct a footbridge, suspension bridge, restrooms, pergola, fencing and the brick promenade in front of the train station.
Support from various entities included benches, tables, memorial trees and playground equipment in 1993, and the Governors Memorial in 1995. Thousands of daffodils were planted, and new playground equipment arrived in 2010.
Maintenance includes environmental efforts by the Park Committee and the borough. With grants and help from the Centre County Conservation District, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Centre County Prison, 300 feet of stream bank was restored, stemming severe erosion. Plans are underway to restore the south side of Spring Creek.
Recent additions are the Edible Landscape Garden and a historic relic — the remains of a fanciful fountain that in 1893 graced the Centre County Courthouse lawn. Upcoming is the historic Freight House, to be moved by Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association to the park as a kayaking museum.
In 2014, the Talleyrand Park Committee was awarded the Excellence in Historic Preservation from the Centre County Historical Society.
OLLI at Penn State — open to adults who love to learn — will be offering more than 100 courses this spring semester, including “A Tour of Talleyrand Park: Its History and Recent Additions,” led by True Fisher. To receive a free spring semester catalog, call OLLI at Penn State at 867-4278 or visit olli.psu.edu.
True Fisher is chair of the Talleyrand Park Committee and president of Rob Fisher Sculpture LLC.