This year, Seymour residents are going to be hearing a lot about parks and recreation.
That’s because the Seymour Parks and Recreation Department is beginning the process of developing a parks master plan to guide projects and programming for the next five years.
The last plan expired in 2015, so there has been a five-year gap, said Parks Director Stacy Findley.
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An updated plan is needed so the department can qualify for state and federal grants, she said.
On Monday, the parks board met with Eric Frey, executive director of Administrative Resources association in Columbus, to learn about the lengthy parks plan process and to provide feedback on the department’s strengths and opportunities.
President Gary Colglazier said he wasn’t aware the city’s existing parks master plan was outdated.
Board members agreed they would like to see Seymour’s parks be safe, fun places for all people to go with a variety of activities and programs offered.
Besides putting the city in a better position for grant money, the master plan also is a way for the community to decide what it wants in the parks.
“You get community consensus on what you need to do so that you don’t get as much pushback when you want to do big projects,” Frey said. “You really want to get the community engaged.”
From now until May, ARa and the parks department will be taking a parks inventory and identifying existing issues. Major areas of focus will include accessibility, the Shields Park Pool and the need for more green spaces and parks facilities.
“The goal is for everyone to be within a mile of a park,” Findley said.
To accomplish that, the department is going to have to look at acquiring property for future parks development.
The board also discussed possible future upgrades to the city pool, including the addition of a splash pad area and a new kiddie pool with more features similar to the Brownstown Pool.
Other projects discussed included an indoor recreational facility, additional basketball and volleyball courts, upgrades to Westside Park, more shelter houses, public art, new and repaired sidewalks, more trails and a sensory park with nature and conservation programming.
Beginning in May, the city will be asking people to fill out a survey either online or by picking up a paper copy that will be made available at various locations. That survey will be translated in Spanish, Chuj and other languages and will solicit input on parks needs, possible projects and prioritization of those projects.
Frey said it’s important for Latinos and low-income families to participate because they are often underrepresented, Frey said.
In July and August, there will be two or three public meetings at different locations in the community to capture the voice of residents, he said. During the meetings, people will be able to express ideas, comments and concerns. The meetings are meant to be a conversation on all aspects of parks and recreation in Seymour.
Board member Matt Levine said often when he thinks about the parks, he forgets about the recreation part.
“There’s more to it than just sports,” he said.
Findley said the plan will help the department establish its identity along with a strong mission, vision and goals.
After the public meetings, the plan will be written and a draft will be submitted to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Outdoor Recreation no later than Jan. 15, 2021. After the city adopts the plan, a final version must be submitted to the state by April 15, 2021.
Colglazier said one goal he would like to see accomplished is building a better shop and storage area for the parks maintenance staff. Currently, some equipment is stored outside at Gaiser Park.
Thanks to the annual Cars and Guitars fundraiser, the department has been able to install playground equipment at Shields, Gaiser and Kessler parks, he said. But now, accessible flooring is needed to put around all of the playgrounds.
He said the biggest obstacle to getting projects completed is funding.
“We’ve had the master plan before and still haven’t got any government money from the DNR because we don’t have enough green space,” he said. “That was always the excuse before.”
Also attending the meeting and providing feedback was Ryon Wheeler, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour. He said all groups, including parks and recreation, the redevelopment commission and the school corporation, have to do a better job of working together.
“We can’t be so compartmentalized if we want to continue to move the city forward,” he said. “We’ve got to get these things lined up.”
Wheeler said he is attending more public meetings and speaking up to learn more and be part of the process because he wants there to be more things in the community for his kids and for other kids who attend the club.
“We’ve got to serve our families,” he said.
He’s tired of hearing excuses that Seymour isn’t big enough to have more parks and recreational facilities or that it’s not how things have been done in the past.
“We can do it. We’ve got the land. We can make things happen,” he said. “Just because we did it that way doesn’t mean we have to do it that way in the future.”
Money is available for projects, whether it’s government or private funding, he added.
“When you show people you do well with your money, they’re willing to trust the city more,” he said. “I think you’ll see more people wanting to get behind these things because the next generation wants to live here.”
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Seymour five-year parks master plan timeline
March-May;Inventory/identification of existing issues
July-August;Additional data gathering and analysis
August-September;Development of plan
Jan. 15, 2021;Draft of plan due the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Outdoor Recreation
April 15, 2021;Final plan due to the state