A major goal of the Brownstown Park Board is to draw people to the town park.
Board members continue to work through a five-year plan and check items off of the list.
To accomplish those goals, it takes one big thing: Money.
Board President Brian Wheeler recently talked to the Brownstown Town Council to see if it would be feasible for the town to provide a match for a grant that could make a big impact on the park.
The Jackson County Visitor Center Impact Grant offers 1:1 funding match assistance to not-for-profit groups, city, town or county organizations, tourism-related businesses or an organizational combination thereof for new projects or enhancements designed to have a direct impact on Jackson County and tourism, according to jacksoncountyin.com.
Successful projects will provide recreational, cultural, educational and/or entertainment-based attractions, amusements or events that enhance the quality of the experience of the visitors to Jackson County and in turn the quality of life for county residents.
The Brownstown Park Board was successful in obtaining a Spring Developmental Grant ($12,200) and a Fall Developmental Grant ($15,775) from the visitor center in 2020, so it’s considering going for the Impact Grant for the first time in 2021.
The developmental grants each had a total of $20,000 to divvy out to different entities, while the Impact Grant is for $100,000 and has one recipient.
Up to 25% of the local match may be in the form of in-kind or nonfinancial contributions, which may include but are not limited to the value of labor, services or land acquisition, and 75% would come out of the town or park budget.
“Knowing our park budget isn’t huge, there’s not much room there to use for the $75,000 match,” Wheeler said.
The deadline to apply for the grant is March 31. Wheeler said grant applications require a lot of time to put together, so that’s why he’s asking now.
“Be thinking about that in the next few months and let me know if that’s something that’s feasible,” he told the council. “I don’t want to apply for a grant knowing that we can’t match it. I don’t want to strain the town in any way.”
The park board has used its 2020 grant funding to make improvements to the softball field at the park.
The first round of funding was used to remove the fencing and press box, move light poles and put down new brick dust. Work completed on the field also helped with drainage.
The second round is being used for new fencing, covered dugouts, a new scoreboard, additional brick dust and poles and netting for the backstop.
“You’ll start seeing some extra traffic down there in the next few weeks,” Wheeler said, noting that includes surveying, marking and a final walkthrough with the fencing contractor.
The Impact Grant funding could go toward improvements at the pool and the playground, which both draw people within the town and beyond.
The park needs a new pool play feature and new playground equipment. Both are more than 20 years old, and new ones would cost around $100,000 apiece.
Councilwoman Sharon Koch pointed out the playground feature currently having no slides because they were removed for safety reasons.
“It’s not going to last much longer,” Wheeler said. “We did put that in our plan when I submitted last year those big-ticket items for plans in the next five, six years. Definitely that’s something we’re going to have to think about very soon.”
The recipient of the Impact Grant will be announced in May, and the entity has one year to complete the project.
This marks the second year for the Impact Grant. In 2019, the visitor center awarded $100,000 to the Seymour Parks and Recreation Department.
The money was to be used to fund new ball diamonds at Freeman Field Athletic Complex, create pickleball courts and complete the third and final phase of the skatepark.
But after some disagreement on how the grant was written and how the funds should be allocated, the Seymour Board of Public Works and Safety voted to return the entire grant at the recommendation of Mayor Matt Nicholson.
Using money from a capital improvement bond, the parks department has completed the skatepark, and the other two projects should be finished this spring.
After the softball field is completed, Wheeler said the board would like to add some additional security features at the park, including security lights and cameras.
Therefore, the intent is to continue applying for grants, including from the visitor center, to help fund the improvements.