Tree destroys Freetown park shelter house

FREETOWN — The message on Sharon Yost’s sweatshirt expressed her feelings: “I don’t believe this is happening.”

On Sunday morning, she received a call about a tree that uprooted and crashed into the shelter house at Pershing Township Park in Freetown.

“I thought, ‘OK, I’ve got to go right down there,’” said Yost, who is the trustee for Pershing Township.

When she arrived at the park, she saw a large white oak tree across the shelter house.

“That’s a pretty big tree that came through here,” she said, recalling hearing thunder and seeing lightning and rain early Sunday. “Apparently, the wind just came through here right.”

The tree destroyed the shelter house, which had a concrete stage and a gravel area with wooden benches. The force of the tree shifted the concrete blocks on the stage wall, resulting in it leaning to the left. The benches and picnic tables were destroyed, too, and limbs fell from a couple of other trees in the area, one landing on a chain-link fence and damaging part of it.

Yost said the shelter house had been in place since 1939.

“Some businessmen bought this land and built the shelter house, and they put a roof on it then,” she said.

At some point, the businessmen started selling their part of the land. The property wound up becoming the property of Pershing Township.

Since then, it has been remodeled a time or two, Yost said. It once was used for entertainment during the Freetown July Festival, which later was renamed Freetown Freedom Festival.

“We had people that used it for reunions,” she said. “(The park) is more used as a playground — the basketball court, merry-go-round, slides — but we do have a family or two that will have a reunion here.”

Yost said it’s too soon to determine if the shelter house will be rebuilt.

“People are saying, ‘Well, we’d like to have it built back.’ Do they know how much lumber and metal roofing (costs)? The township can’t afford a price like that,” she said.

She reached out to the insurance company, and she was meeting with a representative Monday afternoon.

“We’ve got to see insurance first. We can’t even start on bids or anything,” she said of getting a damage cost estimate and figuring out the cleanup process. “We will probably have to get some estimates from people that do things like that. Hopefully, it’s covered.”

Yost also has had people from the community reaching out wanting to help with cleanup, but that will have to be handled by professionals.

The area currently is roped off with several “Do not enter” signs.

“When you go to clean it up, you do not want lots of people in there anyway,” she said. “If one person moved a limb, you get another one rocking, it could roll right over there. All it would take was somebody to just hit that (stage wall) just right and it would fall over.”

Yost said it’s possible a fund could be set up for people to donate, but that hasn’t been established yet.

“We didn’t want to start anything until we see what insurance is going to do,” she said. “We can do nothing at all until we find out from insurance.”