SPRINGFIELD TWP.: Lake Kim Tam Park, a summer swimming hole and playground beloved by generations of families, won’t open for the season this Memorial Day weekend and it’s unclear when, or even if, it will again.
The private park along Canton Road is in the process of being sold after patriarch Charles “Bill” Patton, who built the spring-fed attraction in the late 1950s, died in December.
His daughter Lana Bodnar has taken over the trust that owns the park and has decided to sell the property — to the chagrin of grandson Benjamin Litz who has fought in court against the park being sold.
Attorney Dean Young, who represents Bodnar, confirmed Friday that the trust is negotiating with a potential buyer.
“We expect a new owner to improve the park and make it an even better place for families to go,” he said, adding that there are no plans to turn the property into housing.
Young declined to name the buyer. Summit County property records show that the property has not yet been sold.
The two parcels that make up the property, about 13 acres, have been appraised by the county for a total of $286,680.
The park, which sits along the Tuscarawas River, includes a man-made lake with diving platform and slides; shelters; concession stand; apartments on the second floor; and volleyball, basketball and tennis courts.
The park used to sell season and daily passes, and was open for rent.
Young cautioned that Kim Tam might not open this season.
“There is going to be a period when it’s closed so improvements can be made,” he said.
He couldn’t say when it would reopen.
The park usually opens for Memorial Day weekend.
Litz, 42, who lives at the park and has worked there for the last eight years after being in the restaurant industry, wants Kim Tam to remain in the family and is upset it’s being sold.
The park was named after Patton’s daughters Kimberly and Tamara.
Litz said this week during a lengthy interview that he was “muscled out” by family and misled when he tried to purchase the park.
He posted a message on the Lake Kim Tam Facebook page this week saying the park wouldn’t open this season and it was being sold.
The post had been shared more than 1,700 times and received more than 500 comments as of Friday afternoon.
Just a few weeks earlier, Kim Tam was selling season membership passes and accepting reservations for the shelters. Litz was ordered May 8 by Summit County Probate Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer to stop soliciting for passes and rentals.
Litz plans to hold an open house Sunday and Monday at the property, allowing people to visit for free. He said he would show home movies of his grandfather and display photos of the park through the years.
“This is kind of an opportunity to say goodbye and say thank you,” he said. “It’s what Grandpa would have done.”
Everyone is welcome, he added.
Asked how his grandfather would feel about what’s happened, Litz started fidgeting and his eyes welled up with tears.
“He wouldn’t be happy. That’s for sure,” he said.
Patton wanted him to take over the property, he said.
He doesn’t believe Kim Tam will ever reopen.
Litz, who assumes that he will have to move, said one of his last acts at the park will be to scatter some of Patton’s ashes in a family rose garden there.
He identified John Frola Jr., who lives nearby, as the future buyer.
Frola confirmed Friday that he has had some discussions but there is no formal agreement in place.
“It would be premature to say anything in regards to the property,” he said.
If he did purchase the property, it would be to maintain it as a park, he added.
Young, who also serves as a Springfield Township trustee, disputed Litz’s contention that the park would never reopen.
“I personally have great memories of Kim Tam, and we want it to be a place that people come back to and their kids come back to,” he said. “That’s our goal. It’s going to be as good as it was in its best day.”
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ .