Brownstown Park Council discusses funding opportunities for park improvements

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By Zach Spicer | The Tribune

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BROWNSTOWN – The list of upgrades needed in Brownstown Park is a bit long with several big prizes.

Because the Brownstown Park Board has a limited budget, the help of the city’s grants writer, Shannon McLeod, of Priority Project Resources of Greensburg, was sought.

At a recent town hall board meeting, she shared some options.

The main focus is on concrete work and plumbing issues at the pool and replacing the play function, which board chairman Brian Wheeler says could easily combine to cost $150,000.

The game feature has been around since the mid-1990s and is in very bad shape, he said.

“We’re constantly putting band-aids on that too,” Wheeler said. “We come up against pipes that are not working properly. …the concrete is not level

in places. We have valves that are not working properly. We encounter these problems.

Because of the cost and maintenance of swimming pools, McLeod said several communities across the state have gotten rid of them and installed a swimming pool and wading pool because these run essentially maintenance-free for 15 to 20 years.

“An option to keep on the table with the existing gaming feature, yes, that’s fine, but a splash pad serves this age group just as well,” she said.

Pool manager Jamie Temple said the play function was the pool’s main attraction.

“Our gaming feature brings in people from Seymour and Bedford. They come to us because there is no closed pool like that with a play function and no entrance,” she said. “We’re attracting a lot from out of county and out of town.”

McLeod suggested hiring a consultant to compare pool repair costs versus switching to a lap pool and wading pool and also doing a community survey to see what residents want.

Second on the park council’s list of priorities is the replacement of the play area just north of the pool. At the end of 2019, some of the slides were removed for safety reasons, and plywood was placed over the openings so no one would fall through them.

Today, the plywood remains over these openings except when people remove them and they need to be replaced.

McLeod said many communities are moving to natural feature playgrounds with rocks and boulders, and they have rubber flooring instead of mulch or gravel.

“They’re super cool,” she said. “They’re going to put more rocks and dirt around it, so it’s kind of like a gymnasium in the jungle but with artistic elements.”

Another necessary park project is to add a pipe to a ravine and fill it in to create more usable space. Between this ravine and a renovated parking lot at the nearby high school, there are drainage issues in the park that need to be addressed. This impacts several features of the park, including the enclosed refuge.

McLeod said the Office of Community and Rural Affairs may have grant opportunities that only require a 10% local match, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has a Wildlife Conservation Fund grant program. land and water, but it requires a counterpart of 50%.

“Historically the park councils just had funds to keep the thing going, but that’s when you need to start fundraising because it’s a lot easier to raise money from your citizens for a park project than asking your citizens to donate for a sewer project,” she said. “Kids stuff, people love it. It’s good, tricky, sensual, makes you feel good.

Matching money can also be raised through donations of materials, labor or land, she said.

“My advice to you is if you’re going to go for a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, go for it,” McLeod said. “You do what you want to do – the whole list – and we build a fundraising campaign around that. My goal would be to raise $250,000 to get that grant amount and make half a million improvements here. It seems like a big hurdle, but it might not be.

Another approach is for the board to find local sources or donors “to do exactly what needs to be done to make it work”.

“If you take the time to do it, I guess you’re doing it right,” McLeod said. “I only advise going piecemeal when there is absolutely no other source of income available. I hate piecemeal projects because it’s just a temporary fix and then in five years we’re going to ask again to temporarily fix something. When we go for a federal fund, I want to do it, and I want to do it right.

The deadline to apply for the Land and Water Conservation Fund grant is June 1, while the deadline to apply for the Community Foundation fall grant cycle is July 31. The grants will be announced later in the year.

McLeod asked if the park board wanted to apply this year or wait until next year to allow more time to thoroughly review the park’s needs and do a full-scale fundraising campaign.

“I really think you need to put together the Community Foundation application whether or not we apply for it (Land and Conservation Fund grant) because then that could be seed money for that application next year. “, she said.

She also said she could ask the Brownstown City Council to help with the matching funds needed by the park board.

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