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City wants new plan for parks

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GREENFIELD — Trails, programs for families and even a new pool or water park could be addressed in a new five-year plan for the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department.

The city’s park board and staff are in the first stage of planning for the next five years of parks and facilities in the city. Public feedback, they say, is key to looking forward, and they hope city residents fill out a survey to show areas they would like to see improved.

Ellen Kuker, who became city parks director last fall, said she would like to see input from a diverse group of residents, from people who use the parks daily to those who rarely set foot in one.

“I’m raising a 7-year-old, so I know what I’d like to see,” Kuker said. “But this input from the community will give us goals and objectives, help us know how to prioritize and give us a roadmap for the next five years. For someone new to the department, that’s invaluable.”

The department sent a survey on bright yellow paper to city residents in their utility bills last month. Surveys can be mailed back to the department or brought in by hand; Kuker said people may also fill out surveys at the Patricia Elmore Center.

The survey lists questions ranging from how often residents attend educational programs in the Patricia  Elmore Center to whether the city should issue a bond to expand major park facilities.

What to do with the aging Riley Park Pool will undoubtedly come up again. Replacement of the pool was a priority in the last master plan. In 2006, the Greenfield City Council narrowly approved a plan to borrow $3.5 million to build a new water park, complete with slides, a children’s pool, a “lazy river” and a new locker room.

But ultimately, former Mayor Rodney Fleming vetoed the measure, saying the city couldn’t afford the project based on a projected loss of revenue from property taxes. Mayor Dick Pasco, who was a city councilman then, was one of three members who voted against the city borrowing money for a water park.

Still, the pool – approaching four decades old – is in need of an overhaul, Kuker said. She said she’d love to see a water park in the city, but ultimately public officials may still not support the idea.

“What the community would support may be a traditional pool with features we don’t have, like a splash pad, maybe one water slide,” she said.

Since nothing has been done to the pool since the time of the last public survey and master plan, Kuker expects the public will voice the same concerns about a new pool or water park again.

Jill Carr, vice president of the park board, agreed.

“From what we’ve heard from community members is, now they go outside of our community to the other parks that have more of a water-park feel,” Carr said. “We’re losing business to other communities that already have (water parks).”

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources requires parks departments to have an updated master plan in order to apply for certain grants. The previous plan expired in December. Kuker hopes to have a new plan in place this year.

The parks department hired Clark Ketchum, a private contractor, who will be paid $5,000 plus travel expenses from Michigan to put the master plan together. That’s a fraction of the cost of the previous plan. Kuker said a firm was hired five years ago at roughly $25,000.

Ketchum already is familiar with Greenfield parks: He was parks director for several years until retiring  in 2004.

Public surveys should be returned no later than March 15. In April, a meeting will be held for public feedback on the master plan.

While no changes have been made to Riley Pool, several items identified in the previous master plan have been accomplished.

Park space in general was considered lacking five years ago, but since then Beckenholdt Park was built. The city also has plans for a new nature park from donated land known as Thornwood Preserve southeast of the city.

Walking and biking trails were also considered lacking five years ago, Kuker said, but since then trails in Beckenholdt Park and Riley Park were added. Connections were also made from the Pennsy Trail to the city’s west-side neighborhoods and Riley Park on the east side of town.

Ultimately, the department wanted to construct a new trail to connect the Pennsy Trail, Riley Park and  Brandywine Park together. But they ran into a kink when homeowners near Brandywine Park didn’t want the trail.

“It’ll be interesting to see if people feel we need more trail systems,” Carr said.

While the parks department has until next January to submit a new master plan to the DNR, Kuker said officials hope to have it completed by the end of the summer or first of fall.

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