New Batesville parks master plan in works

Will Fehlinger | The Herald-TribuneThis idle building in Liberty Park will be the site of an ice cream and refreshments shop run by New Horizons Rehabilitation and its clients. Sweets at Liberty Park could debut in spring 2020.

The creation of the city's next five-year parks master plan was ignited at the March 20 Batesville Parks and Recreation Board meeting.

Trena Carter, Administrative Resources association, Columbus, municipal programs manager, who advises city panels, passed out a timeline of activities that will end with a finalized 2020 plan being submitted by April 15, 2020, to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Outdoor Recreation for approval.

The first couple months are for information gathering. From now through June 30, an online survey is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BatesvillePark. Both city residents and nonresidents may provide input. According to the survey's introduction, "This plan is an important step in guiding the development of the city into the future and could open up funding opportunities for the park system. The importance of having a master plan is not limited to enhancing funding opportunities. In creating a master plan, we can formulate a formal framework for future action. The information compiled from this survey will be used to develop this plan."

In July and August, after compiling and analyzing the data, there will be two or three public meetings to further gauge the community's future needs. Summer BPRB meetings will serve as additional forums prior to meeting the DNR's requirements.

Before Jan. 15, 2020, a master plan draft will be produced – parks and recreation priorities, action schedule, supporting documents/maps, etc. – and adopted by formal resolution. DNR division officials will review and request revisions. After final approval, the plan will be made available to the public.

As a starting point, Carter reviewed with the board action items from the previous plan in order to get progress updates. These included: American With Disabilities Act improvements/compliance, trailways projects, water and shelter at Brum Woods, northside park (Six Pine Ranch Road) development, new equipment at Liberty Park, Batesville Memorial Pool upgrades, and improvements to The Plex baseball and softball fields and Bill Gillespie Soccer Park.

ADA compliance is an ongoing concern, with several improvements completed and some still outstanding. Carter said ARa has a park ADA assessment tool that suggests contacting an organization that works with persons with disabilities, who in turn could more easily help assess barriers within the parks system.

The trail project, which contains up to four phases, began with a new trail around the Plex, as Parks Commissioner Mike Baumer pointed out. The next phase – in collaboration with the Indiana Department of Transportation – is to connect to Southeastern Indiana YMCA, a step that may still be three years out.

There is a water fountain at Brum Woods, but Baumer balked at a shelter unless the survey demands it.

Northside park planning began in 2015, according to Clerk-Treasurer Paul Gates. "We just opened (construction) bids, which both came in pretty high," he said. "That could make a difference on whether we continue now or extend."

New Liberty Park equipment includes pickleball courts and the installation of a playground designed specifically for ages 2-5. An octoball (or GaGa ball) pit is set to replace the former sand volleyball court, perhaps some time this year, according to Baumer.

Pool upgrades are always occurring, as manager Jane Tekulve and Gates attested. The latter mentioned that a new liner was not in the five-year plan, but is budgeted for and should be installed later this year unless work is delayed.

In regards to ball and soccer fields, any updates are now funded and completed by the various leagues that play there, following the city's approval. It was suggested to remove this portion, while seeking a correlating long-term plan from the fields' patrons.

Other completed items were roof repairs on the pool's locker room building, LED lighting at Liberty Park and directional signs pointing drivers to the parks.

Carter requested a DNR inventory form be filled out for each park property and that each board member list their top five priorities for the city's parks. A re-blacktopping of the basketball courts, additional parking at Brum Woods and repaving of Liberty Park streets are a few of the larger potential projects.

"We never have money, it seems like, to do things ... but looking at all these things we've accomplished and the partnerships that make it a reality is pretty exciting," said Vice President Tim Hunter.

To start the meeting, New Horizons Rehabilitation CEO Marie Dausch returned to update the board on a project first proposed in January. The vacant Liberty Park building closest to the Park Avenue entrance will be converted into a soft-serve ice cream stop, to be manned primarily by NHR clients.

"It will be called Sweets at Liberty Park," she said, passing out packets containing renderings of the remodeled building. "You can go inside and order refreshments. There will be a small sitting area and restroom." Baumer added there will be an overhang in front for shaded outdoor seating.

Dausch has a working list of preparations, none more important than funding. She said she has pages listing various grant possibilities. A business plan will be finalized once contractors are lined up; a Ripley County Health Department inspection will be a later step. The CEO has found an LED dispenser that delivers pre-measured amounts of ice cream or juice for the workers.

"The nice thing is, if we can get parts of the project funded, it would be a good winter project for (construction) workers," Baumer added. "If we have a new roof and it's dry, guys could come in and work."

Dausch said there are a lot of parts, but a working goal is opening the shop in 2020.

Parks workers have been busy resodding Liberty Field in anticipation of baseball season, Baumer reported. There was a second meeting of the new Friends of Brum Woods recently, he said, and about a dozen people showed. He announced the first work day will be Saturday, April 27, from 9 a.m.-noon (May 4 rain date). Volunteer groups and individuals are welcome.

Before the meeting ended, President Dr. Ed Negovetich raised an issue that may assist greatly with pool improvements.

"I remember exploring funds that were collected some time back for a three-phase indoor natatorium," he said. "I've been told there may be a lump sum, I believe near six digits, sitting with the Ripley County Community Foundation that was earmarked for the second phase."

He added the funds could only be used toward aquatics. "If that pool's never going to be built, we need to try to tap those funds for Memorial Pool upgrades."

Gates said he'd check with the foundation. The board may need to officially ask for the funds.

Will Fehlinger can be contacted at sports@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 112.