Ervin Park – Tuscola’s Playground
*excerpted from “Tuscola Strolling Through The Past 1857-2007”
It all started because Nathaniel G. Ervin, known as Grat, and his wife Jenny, were concerned with civic betterment and wanted to be remembered in Tuscola. Throughout his life in Tuscola, Ervin had advocated beautifying Tuscola by planting trees along the streets. It was he who planted all the hard maple trees from Sale Street north on Main Street. Grat Ervin died during the typhoid epidemic in 1916 after an illness of three weeks. In his will he provided that about twenty acres of land at the north end of Main Street, belonging to him, be given to the city of Tuscola to be used as a public park to be named after him. This was accepted most graciously by the people of the city and by 1918, $5,000 was raised by taxation to beautify the park.
The city immediately went to work planting trees and shrubbery, additionally two stone light fixtures were placed at the two entrances to the park. During the early 1920’s persons in and around Tuscola patronized the nine-hole practice golf course that occupied the southern half of the park. The course was dispensed with a couple of years later because improved roads made professional courses accessible and more attractive.
In 1939, an amphitheater was added to the north end of Ervin Park, built by WPA labor. In the 40’s and 50’s a festival was held every summer called “Homecoming.” It lasted about a week. It featured a tent for merchant’s displays, a carnival for the children and concerts hosting the big bands of the day – Lawrence Welk, Tiny Hill, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, to name a few. The amphitheater deteriorated and was torn down in the sixties.
A swimming pool was added to the southwest end of the park in 1957, providing a fun place for area residents to cool off on hot summer days and for the Tuscola Torpedoes swim team to practice and hold swim meets. Ervin Park has four ball diamonds that are in use all summer by baseball teams (all ages) and softball teams (all ages). The park also provides tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, a walking track, horseshoe pits, a volleyball court and plenty of playground equipment. A modern playground was built by volunteers in 1995, and makes an attractive addition to the south end of the park. Tuscola’s Fourth of July Celebration is the best part of the summer activities every year. Festivities start in the park early in the day, with ballgames, mud volleyball, 3-on-3 basketball tournament, food vendors, music and is capped off with a spectacular fireworks display at dusk. With two pavilions and ample picnic tables, Ervin Park is the perfect gathering place for the citizens of Tuscola all summer long.