Civic leaders looking to clean up town park

SHIRLEY — Civic leaders in Shirley are leading a charge to revitalize the town’s only park, which has fallen into disrepair in recent years.

The town council is hoping to assemble a park committee made up of a dozen residents who are committed to restoring Shirley Park. Broken benches, outdated playground equipment and an overgrown baseball diamond sit on the 26-acre park, which lies just east of the community’s downtown area.

By restoring the park, officials hope to draw more families to the community of about 800, located on the Henry County Border, said Dennis Denny, president of the town council.

A former park committee, which has disbanded, previously organize community fundraisers and events to plant trees at the park and maintain the grounds, Denny said.

Since then, the park hasn’t received the TLC it needs.

Donna Love, a Wilkinson resident who works in Shirley, is leading the effort to reorganize the park committee. She runs a youth center in a building located on park grounds, and said she’d like to see upgraded playground equipment installed. The park’s current jungle gym is decades old and has chipped and faded paint.

While 20 students who attend the youth center still use the park equipment, Love said its appearance isn’t inviting.

Denny said he hopes the park might become a destination for festivals and community concerts — events it used to conduct annually — he said.

Theresa Ebbert, president of the Shirley Visionaries, a group of residents trying to regenerate interest in the town, which has lost population and businesses in recent decades, said the group hopes to partner with the park committee to improve the area.

At Shirley’s 125th anniversary celebration in October, the town was recognized by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs as a Main Street Community, a distinction that carries a potential for increased funding for revitalization efforts focusing on area businesses and buildings.

The visionaries, who lead the local main street program, plan to apply for several state grants this year to raise money for playground equipment, Ebbert said. She hopes to raise between $15,000 and $20,000 to buy a new jungle gym, she said.

Updating the park will likely generate more interest in the area and encourage community members to get together, she said.

“It’s a place that young families can get together to meet neighbors; it really enhances the community quite a bit,” she said.

To learn more about the park committee, call Love at 317-498-4361.

Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or