On a sunny day earlier this month, Seymour Parks and Recreation Department Director Stacy Findley made her way around to the city’s parks.
At Westside Park, Seymour High School students were putting up trusses for a new shelter house, and work had begun on a restroom building. Seymour Water Pollution Control was there pouring footers, and Goecker Construction Inc. pulled in with a large truck to help with the project.
“That park is the epitome of community. It embodies everything about it,” Findley said during a recent parks board meeting as she provided updates on projects at the parks. “You have a city team on one side, and then you had the high-schoolers with (teacher) Jerrell Hubbard, Goecker came pulling in their big truck dumping off. It doesn’t get much better than that, a local business helping to support the project.”
The shelter house will be the second one at the park, and it will be 16-by-24 feet just like the current one.
“We talked about we wanted the smaller shelter houses,” Findley said. “That’s a big revenue stream for us is renting out shelter houses. What we’ve found is the community likes smaller shelter houses versus the larger ones that house like 200 people. These will easily fit probably 30 people in them, nothing too huge.”
Findley and the board also discussed the department’s maintenance shop building at Gaiser Park. She said it’s very outdated and has problems with critters, flooding and leaking. The parks staff has been discussing options, seeing if it’s possible to refurbish the building or if it just needs to be torn down and possibly put a pole barn-type building there.
“We’ve been working with some local contractors to find out what are our best options. Also, if it does need to be torn down, we’re going to need some help doing that. We’re going to need those folks for that,” Findley said.
Currently, the department stores a lot of its equipment outdoors near the shop building, and Findley said that’s not good for wear and tear, and they have had some problems with items being stolen.
“We are growing as a department, and we want to make sure that we’re taking care of our outdoor equipment — our mowers, our groomers, our tractors, all of that stuff — the best way we can,” she said.
The department is going to need a new field groomer, and it costs $30,000. Findley said she would hate to see that sitting outside.
“To be able to try to find somewhere where we can house all of our stuff inside would be ideal,” she said.
With the Seymour Fire Department’s Station 2 moving into a new building on West Second Street, that left its old station on West Fifth Street available, and the parks department recently received the keys to that building to begin cleaning so it can be set up as a parks shop.
“The fire station is like a mansion compared to what we have over at Gaiser. We’re really excited about that,” Findley said. “We’ll have two big bays. The nice thing there, we’ll be able to get some lifts so we can start changing some of our own lawn mower oil or car oil in the wintertime when there’s not much to do outside.”
Findley said now, the department has to take equipment somewhere to get that work done, and Program Director Chad Keithley said servicing a mower costs almost three times as much as servicing a car.
“It’s one of those things they would enjoy doing more carpentry, repairing bleachers or park benches, but we don’t really have a space right now, so we’re just exploring our options,” Findley said.
The old fire station building, however, won’t fit all of the department’s equipment.
“It is going to be amazing because we will have more capability to do other things, but as far as to keep all of our equipment indoors, I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Findley said.
As she gets more information on costs and options for the old shop building, Findley said she will share it with the board.
Board member Bethany Rust said she would like to see the space where it’s at be used as green space or for a playground. Keithley said it would be good to get the nearby parking lot resurfaced for easy access to the handicap-accessible playground equipment.
“We have money in our cumulative capital budget for 2023 for paving, so it would make it a lot easier if we could get that out of that space,” Findley said. “I would say Gaiser parking lot hands down, the biggest potholes in our park system.”
At the Freeman Field Recreational Area, Findley said the city council recently awarded American Rescue Plan funding to the department to double the parking from 200 spaces to 400. The installation work will be bid out early next year.
The department also received an Indiana Department of Health grant for new playground equipment, and part of that money will be used at Freeman Field. The old playground equipment, which was installed in the 1990s, will be removed since the new parking lot will be in that area, and the new equipment will be located on the northwest side of the soccer fields.
“Any playground that you have, if you can get 20 years out of it, that’s good. It has lived a good life,” Findley said. “The playground at Freeman has lived a good life.”
Also receiving new playground equipment will be Westside, Gaiser and Kasting parks.
Finally, Findley talked about Kessler Park, but the news wasn’t as positive. She shared photos of playground equipment that had been vandalized, and she said parks staff members were able to use Goo Gone to remove most of the spray painting that had been done.
Findley also said the restrooms at the park have to be locked due to vandalism.
“Definitely that is a park that I think we could benefit from doing some engagement (with neighborhood residents),” she said. “We bought the bouncy house this past year, so this coming summer, we have ideas to do a popup party in the parks, so maybe have one at Kessler just because I feel bad because it’s not getting new playground equipment and vandalism there is really bad.”
Rust agreed with that idea.
“Do something like ‘This is your park,’” she said. “Make them feel like they want to help be the eyes and ears and take care of it because they are not guaranteed to have it.”