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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Master plan: Bargersville should hire parks employee, add programming – Daily Journal

The Bargersville Parks Advisory Board was presented the new five-year parks master plan and voted to recommend the town council adopt it.
EMILY KETTERER | DAILY JOURNAL
Bargersville is moving forward with the first steps to adopt a new master parks plan, which includes creating a formal parks department for the town.
The Bargersville Parks Advisory Board unanimously approved to recommend the town council pass the town’s revised master parks plan Monday.
For the better part of 2021, the town and data analytics company Zec Eight Insights gathered information from residents at the farmers market, in an online survey and at public meetings over Zoom. Many residents and locals in surrounding cities in the county gave input for the plan, with the online survey alone gathering nearly 500 responses.
The new master plan outlines the vision and an tactics for the town to follow to develop its parks and recreation amenities over the next five years.
During the board meeting Monday evening, Austin Hochstetler of Zec Eight Insights, presented findings from the survey and the four overarching goals to ramp up Bargerville’s parks system.
For the needs assessment survey process, residents were asked what events, facilities and methods of communication they would prefer to see from Bargersville parks and recreation. Participants had indicated interest in special events, adult fitness and wellness programs, programs with pets, nature programs and youth summer camps, Hochstetler told the board.
The necessary goals in the plan include first formalizing a parks department, emphasizing collaboration and partnerships with businesses and local organizations, focusing on land aquisition and park land development and enhancing the Bargersville brand.
Bargersville’s lack of a dedicated parks department presents a weakness, Hochstetler said. He recommended in the plan that the town hire a parks and maintenance director as a first step to oversee all parks related endeavors. He also recommended the advisory board be given governing power, in order to make decisions without approval from the town council.
Hiring a new employee to handle the department would also take the burden off of the town manager and the parks board, who could then focus on other operations, he said.
“It’s the go-to person dedicated everyday to thinking about parks and recreation and how we function this within our town,” Hochstetler said.
Jeff Beck was one of two residents who attended the meeting to speak during the public hearing. He was previously on the parks advisory board for six years, and said he left “disgusted” with the town’s lack of interest in its parks.
But now he was happy to see the town’s plans to hire a parks director and move forward with a new plan.
“They’ve went heads above everything we did before,” Beck said.
Another key goal Hochstetler talked about was establishing partnerships with local businesses and organizations, such as Aspire Johnson County, the county chamber, the Johnson County Public Library or local schools to collaborate on events and services offered.
With that, he also suggested the town collaborate with local realtors to provide information about the local parks and recreation to new residents.
Land acquisition is also important, he said. The town should establish a philosophy and criteria for acquiring and purchasing land for parks, the plan recommends. The plan suggests utilizing funding sources from a local food and beverage tax or tax increment financing (TIF).
Hochstetler additionally recommended Bargersville revamp its branding and determine a niche to attract residents to its parks. The town should focus on creating a recreation amenity that sets it apart from others in the county.
“What is the attraction to Bargersville?” Hochstetler said. “Are we just putting in the average playground, or are we putting in maybe a destination playground that has more nature play?”
He noted that finishing Kephart Park, a park located west of Morningside subdivision on County Road 144, is a big for Bargersville parks. The park construction is underway and will cost about $9 million to complete over the next several years.
Construction on the park is set to begin this year. The $4-5 million project will include two shelter houses with grills, restrooms, eight pickleball courts, a recreational area, a splash pad and Morningside Path, a path to connect the park to the Morningside subdivision.
The Bargersville Town Council will consider the parks master plan at its next meeting on May 31.
Nobody covers Johnson County and the surrounding areas like the Daily Journal.
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