By Zach Spicer | The Tribune
BROWNSTOWN — The list of improvements needed at Brownstown Park is a little lengthy with several big price tags.
Since the Brownstown Park Board has a limited budget, the assistance of the town’s grant writer, Shannon McLeod with Priority Project Resources of Greensburg, was sought out.
During a recent board meeting at the town hall, she shared some options.
The primary focus is concrete work and plumbing issues at the pool and replacing the play feature, which board President Brian Wheeler said could easily combine to cost $150,000.
The play feature has been there since the mid-1990s and is in very bad shape, he said.
“We’re consistently putting Band-Aids on that, too,” Wheeler said. “We are running into the drains that are not functioning correctly. … Concrete is unlevel
in spots. We do have valves that are not working correctly. We’re running into those issues.”
Due to the cost and maintenance of pools, McLeod said several communities around the state have gotten rid of them and put in a lap pool and a splash pad because those basically run maintenance-free for 15 to 20 years.
“An option to keep on the table with the existing play feature, yeah, it’s nice, but a splash pad serves that age group just as well,” she said.
Pool Manager Jamie Temple said the play feature is the main attraction at the pool.
“Our play feature brings in Seymour and Bedford people. They come to us because there’s not a pool close like that with a play feature and zero entry,” she said. “We draw in a lot from out of county and out of town.”
McLeod suggested hiring a consultant to compare the pool repair costs vs. switching to a lap pool and a splash pad and also doing a community survey to see what residents want.
Second on the park board’s priority list is replacing the playground set just north of the pool. In late 2019, some of the slides were removed for safety concerns, and plywood was put over the openings so no one would fall through them.
Today, plywood remains over those openings, except for when people remove them and they have to be replaced.
McLeod said a lot of communities are switching to natural element playgrounds with rocks and boulders, and they have rubber flooring instead of mulch or gravel.
“They are super cool,” she said. “They are going to more putting boulders in and earth around it, so it’s kind of like a jungle gym but with art elements.”
Another project needed at the park is adding pipe to a ravine and filling it in to make more usable space. Between that ravine and a renovated parking lot at the nearby high school, there are drainage issues at the park that need to be addressed. That’s impacting several park features, including the enclosed shelter house.
McLeod said the Office of Community and Rural Affairs may have some grant opportunities that only require a 10% local match, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant program, but it requires a 50% match.
“Park boards historically, you just have funds to keep the thing in operation, but that’s when you have to start doing a capital campaign because it’s a lot easier to raise money from your citizens for a park project than it is to ask your citizens to donate for a sewer project,” she said. “Things for kids, people love that. It’s good, touchy, feely, make you feel good type of thing.”
Match money also can be raised through donated 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, you go for it,” McLeod said. “You do what you want to do — the whole list — and we build a capital campaign around that. My goal would be to raise $250,000 to get that amount of grant and put a half-million worth of improvements in 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 just what you’ve got to do to make it work.”
“If you’re going to take the time to do it, I would assume you do it right,” McLeod said. “I only advise piecemealing when there is absolutely no other revenue source available. I hate piecemeal projects because it’s just a temporary fix, and then in five years, we’re going to be asking again to just 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’s fall grant cycle is July 31. Funding awards will be announced later in the year.
McLeod asked if the park board wanted to apply this year or wait until next year to give more time to comprehensively look at the park needs and do a large-scale capital campaign.
“I definitely think you need to put the Community Foundation request together whether or not we do this (Land and Conservation Fund grant) request because then that could be seed money for this request next year,” she said.
She also said she could ask the Brownstown Town Council to assist with the matching funds needed by the park board.