Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

April 9, 2013

County pushes ahead on Gibbs Park master plan

By Wade Coggeshall

— The Hendricks County Parks and Recreation Board is favoring a combination of the concepts prepared by Rundell Ernstberger Associates for the W.S. Gibbs Memorial Park master plan.

Three conceptual designs created by the landscape architects may be viewed online at reasite.com/live-sites/w-s-gibbs-memorial-park. Public comments have been received both there and on the parks department's Facebook page.

"They're kind of all over the board as far as specific amenities and activities in the park, saying we like this and not that," said Phil Arden of Rundell Ernstberger. "They're not necessarily commenting on one concept."

It's not unusual for such renderings to be chosen piecemeal.

"If there are things within each that can be melded together, I think that's what we're looking for," Arden said.

County Parks Director William Roche noted to his board they've received little in the way of feedback that could be construed as negative. They should interpret that as a vote of confidence.

"You will hear it when people don't like something," Roche said. "When they do like it, normally they back off because they expect you to do it anyway. By and large I think the public is supportive (of these concepts)."

Of the three designs, board member Dennis Gibbs likened the first to a theme park, the second to an event park, and the third to activities. He chose the second as his favorite.

"That's something we don't really have in Hendricks County," Gibbs said. "It has the dynamics to draw people from outside the county. I'm in favor of that."

The board ultimately asked Arden for a revised concept that combines the northwest corner of the original second one and the southwest corner of the third. They also prefer having parking close to a farm/community garden in the park, as well as a road going through the middle for improved access.

Numerous amenities and activities have been proposed for the 140-acre parcel, which is on Gibbs Road south of County Road 200 South in the southwest portion of Washington Township. A splash pad has not proven to be popular among planners since other county parks already have one. Others would like to see a disc golf course.

Some board members expressed concern over the utilities that would be needed for some of the proposed features, while others fretted too many amenities might ruin the natural feel of the park. Roche noted W.S. Gibbs is essentially farmland that's ripe for development, and it will be cultivated in phases over many years.

"It's important to have different offerings for different people," he said, adding 140 acres seems much more massive when you're in the middle of it.

"It can still feel like a natural park depending on how it's designed. This has always been thought of as a medium-activity park."

The process for the park's design is currently in the draft master plan development phase. Citizens can still offer comments online. A public meeting on a review of the draft master plan is expected to be scheduled sometime in May.