Parks board advances Stellar projects


GREENFIELD — One of the city’s first Stellar Communities-related projects is slated for construction this fall.

Greenfield officials plan to build an inclusive playground near Greenfield Central Junior High School and Franklin Street on the city’s west side. Jenna Wertman, associate city planner, said the park will sit next to the parking lot at the Greenfield Baseball Park that’s currently under construction off West McClarnon Drive.

Wertman recently updated the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Board on the city’s initial Stellar projects. The Health and Heritage Region — Greenfield, Fortville and Hancock County — was chosen as one of two Stellar Communities winners for 2019. The region will receive up to $15 million in grants to fast-track quality-of-life projects over five years, split among the three entities.

The city has received public input on the playground and will reach out to others in the community before bidding out the project in April or May, Wertman said. Planners intend to install Americans with Disability Act-approved playground equipment, creating the only inclusive park in the area, she added.

The Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council at Greenfield-Central High School recently was host for a public meeting after school for the city to gather information on what types of equipment to install in the playground, Wertman said. More than 40 students voted for the designs that most interested them.

The playground will be a mix of a smaller structures, Wertman said, including roller bar slides alongside traditional slides and different panels that engage senses throughout the area. She said the park will also have standalone equipment and swing bays equipped for children in wheelchairs.

Wertman said the playground could cost about $250,000 from local funds designated for Stellar.

“We want to create something unique at a price that is approachable to other communities,” Wertman said. “We would love to see inclusive play become the norm, but sometimes the cost of larger inclusive playgrounds can be daunting. The Stellar designation gives us a way to really highlight it at the same time.”

The city also wants to create a park along the historic brick Depot Street downtown using grant funding through Stellar. Rick Roberts, president of the parks board, said the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs wants the city to bid out the Depot Street project this year, sooner than expected.

The Parks department, Roberts and city planners have worked to draft a request for proposal to send out this spring, Wertman said. The city is looking to build a performance area suitable for dance recitals, music and other events that can also act as a focal point for the park and Pennsy Trail, Wertman said.

“We also are broadly seeking ideas for engaging and sensory features for the park that will draw people out to it during the work day even whether to have lunch, relax, or walk along the trail,” Wertman added.

The city could spent Community Development Block Grant funds, through OCRA, to construct the park, about $1.5 million, Wertman said.

As Greenfield moves fast on the five-year Stellar process, Wertman said the city has many opportunities for local sponsors to get involved and donate money to projects, whether that’s adding art or seating.

The parks board also approved the parks department’s five-year master plan last week. Chuck Lehman, a consultant with Lehman & Lehman, said the public offered feedback for the plan about further connecting trails, schools and parks; improving the department’s marketing; adding more soccer fields, splash pads, pickleball fields and park shelters; and finding a solution to improve flooding in Riley Park.