Grant funding going toward playground equipment, splash pad

The city of Seymour and Healthy Jackson County recently received a grant designed to help people become physically active and spend more time outdoors.

Stacy Findley, director of the Seymour Parks and Recreation Department, addressed a memorandum of understanding between the city and Schneck Medical Center regarding the nearly $1 million grant during Thursday’s board of public works and safety meeting at city hall.

Schneck will be serving as the fiscal agency for the grant, which will be used to update playground equipment at Gaiser, Kasting and Westside parks and the Freeman Field Recreational Complex. A splash pad also will be installed at Westside Park.

In 2022, the parks and rec department collaborated with Healthy Jackson County to apply for the Indiana Department of Health’s Health Issues and Challenges Grant as an opportunity for growth of the parks to address the need for space for physical activities.

“Like many communities, Jackson County faces health obstacles, and the IDOH grant was seen as a resource that could help our community fight childhood obesity, eliminate food insecurities and provide prevention screenings and education,” Findley said. “Unfortunately, Jackson County has a high rate of obesity, specifically childhood obesity.”

Findley said accessible flooring will allow both children and adults with mobility issues a safe place to enjoy the parks.

With this grant, Kessler and Shields parks will still have mulch, but Findley said one of her goals is to eventually remove mulch altogether due to its high expense and its unsafeness. Mulch also is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Through this grant, The Arc of Jackson County also was awarded funding for a musical sensory playground and an accessible We Go Round merry-go-round for Gaiser Park, Findley said.

With the memorandum, Schneck and the city will have a written agreement that expresses the convergence of both parties indicating the common actions of this project, she said.

Schneck is responsible for providing the funding from the grant that was received to Healthy Jackson County for the playground equipment and splash pad. The hospital also will be responsible for providing receipts with proof of transactions after the funds have been administered.

The city is responsible for submitting all receipts showing the amount of purchase for these items, submitting reports of necessary requirements, providing proof of financial documents in the event of an audit and actively participating in the Healthy Jackson County Coalition.

The memorandum took effect Friday and will continue through Dec. 31, 2026. It may be canceled any time by any party with a 30-day written notice. No notice is required if funding is discontinued through the Health Issues and Challenges Grant.

Findley said the additional funding will provide an amazing space at Westside Park sooner than the city would have been able.

“The Westside Park neighborhood has been waiting a very long time for updated playground equipment and a restroom,” Findley said.

The restroom and shelter house recently were made possible by Jerrell Hubbard and the building trades classes at Seymour High School.

Additional on-street parking also will be part of the overall Westside Park project but is not included in the recent grant.

Findley said this year will be a busy one for her department, as she hopes to install all updated playground equipment in November and December, weather permitting, and the memorandum is approved. The board is scheduled to discuss the memorandum during its March meeting for potential approval, and the city council also has to approve the memorandum.

The splash pad will likely be installed in early 2024, as Findley said it is a specialized area of expertise.

“The Healthy Jackson County Coalition is a great asset, allowing different organizations and entities to collaborate to provide our community the best resources possible,” she said. “The IDOH grant is an example of the impact can make when we work together, and it has been a pleasure to be part of it.”