Parks director discusses five-year master plan, grants

Looking at the Seymour Parks and Recreation Department’s five-year master plan, there are a lot of green check marks.

Since the process started in 2020 when Stacy Findley became the city’s parks director, a lot has been accomplished.

While that’s good, Findley said that means it’s time to start adding to the master plan for the upcoming years.

Check marks are next to finishing the skate park, building pickleball courts, establishing a fundraiser for the parks, developing new programming opportunities, constructing two new ball diamonds, removing playground equipment and buying new equipment, installing handicap-accessible playground equipment and upgrading recreation facilities, basketball courts and accessibility.

The department hoped to accomplish all of those things between 2020 and 2022, and it did.

“As we go through our strategic plan for a master plan, basically, we’re going to have to revisit our five-year master plan because we will have accomplished the bulk of our goals,” Findley told the department’s board during a recent meeting.

“The master plan is supposed to be a working document. As we get things accomplished, we’re going to add new things,” she said. “I think it’s a good thing that we’ve accomplished all that we have, but we have to continue to grow as a department and make new goals.”

With pickleball, Findley said she recently applied for an AARP grant to add one more court at Gaiser Park.

The new parks fundraiser, Putting for Parks golf tournament, has brought in about $15,000 a year, Findley said.

As for programming, she said it has gone from eight when she started to 93 now.

The new ball diamonds have been installed at the Freeman Field Recreational Complex, while new playground equipment will be installed at the city’s parks thanks to an Indiana Department of Health grant, and accessible playground equipment continues to be added at Gaiser Park thanks to the parks department partnering with The Arc of Jackson County.

Upgrades were made to basketball courts and accessibility and new sidewalks were installed at Gaiser Park, and new basketball courts were completed at Shields Park, too. Findley said next, new goals will be put up at Westside Park.

A goal that was set for this year recently was accomplished with the acquisition of land on both sides of the Burkart Boulevard south bypass that will be turned into a nature park.

Findley said the plan is to start planting trees in May. A line of trees will be planted between the property and the next homeowner to provide a barrier for them.

“We have a concept design within the next probably five years where we’ll be developing that new parcel of land,” she said.

“This wouldn’t be a playground-type park. This would be more like natural crushed stone, trees, just a nature space,” she said. “It can be classified as like a wetland, so we would, I think, want to lean into the natural environment versus trying to combat the flooding there. Any time we can take a space and preserve it, get some wildlife and some plants, I think it’s a good thing.”

In the master plan, a goal for 2023 and 2024 is to develop the multiple-use trails and bike and walking paths, known in the city as Crossroads Community Trails.

“This is one that also goes back to bringing in money for our trails,” Findley said. “Our trails committee is constantly (coming up with) tons of ideas, so we need funding behind it.”

This development would include accessing one side of U.S. 50 or Tipton Street to the next.

“(U.S.) 50 is also used for transportation, and I think parks can be part of that solution, especially with grant writing and that kind of stuff,” Findley said.

The final point in the current master plan is signature amenities for larger parks, such as a splash pad or an aquatic feature.

A splash pad currently is in the works at Westside Park, and Findley and the parks board have discussed redoing the kiddie pool and updating the competitive pool at Shields Park Pool. She said a bond may be required to get that accomplished.

During the recent meeting, Findley also highlighted other grants she has applied for this year.

One is for $4,000 from the Indiana Arts Commission to paint an outdoor mural on the back of the Seymour Community Center. Findley said Seymour High School art teacher Laurie Martin would paint it. In the past, she painted a mural on the restroom and equipment building at Shields Park.

“Organic plant material would be her topic,” Findley said. “A long time ago, there was a leak in the roof of the community center, and so the back of the community center is all stained, and there are some rust spots. We could have just done a mural on the bottom portion, but the building is so stained up from having water leaks. (The mural would) just make the back of that building look better.”

A Seymour Main Street grant would allow for the placement of an enlarged historic photo of downtown Seymour owned by Polly Schneck on a wall in the main room of the community center.

“She’s going to be turning, I think, 96 in May, and we would find out in April if we received the grant, so I’m hoping that it would all work out,” Findley said. “She’s very excited about the possibility of her picture being blown up inside the community center. Fingers crossed this all works out.”

A Scotts Turf Builder grant would be for bases, a pitcher’s mound and upgrades to the sod at the large ball diamond at Shields Park, and an Indiana American Water grant would be for a detention pond at the Freeman Field Recreational Complex.

“I started my career in parks in project and resource development, so grant writing is a favorite part of my job that I have,” Findley said.

“Since we have completed our five-year master plan and we know what our goals are, it has been a lot easier for me to go after funding once we established those goals,” she said. “I am super excited. I think we’ve done a great job so far, I think we have a great team of people, I think we have a very compassionate board and so I think this is big time for us.”