Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

May 17, 2013

County to host final public meeting on proposed park

By Wade Coggeshall

— Hendricks County Parks & Recreation now has one draft master plan for its newest public park. And residents have one opportunity left to offer input before officials make it final.

The last public meeting on the proposed W.S. Gibbs Memorial Park starts at 6:30 p.m. May 21 in rooms four and five at the Hendricks County Government Center, 355 S. Washington St., Danville. Representatives from the landscape architect firm Rundell Ernstberger Associates will be on hand with visuals of the draft master plan to answer questions and receive input.

County Parks Director William Roche says they’ve heard from some 200 people through both public meetings and social media.

“Everything we’ve heard has been relatively consistent, and it’s all been very positive,” he said. “I assume that would be the same for this meeting.”

At this point, planners want feedback on how they’ve brought everything together for the park, specifically balancing natural elements with desired amenities.

“This is the last step before we start putting all the nuts and bolts together,” Roche said. “We’ve listened and compiled all this information. Now we’re just giving it back to the public to see if there’s anything else.”

Previously, Rundell Ernstberger drafted three master plan proposals for the public and the Hendricks County Parks and Recreation Board to consider. Ultimately a mix of the second and third choices was favored, which Rundell Ernstberger has now combined.

It includes numerous natural attractions like community and formal gardens, wetlands, prairie plantings, and a fruit and nut orchard. There are just as many added amenities, including a community center and events lawn, a farmstead, boardwalk, adventure and ropes course, art and nature path, and a disc golf course.

“We’ve done our best to make the best use of the property — the most responsible use of the natural resources, while incorporating all of the amenities people hope to have, or at least told us they needed,” Roche said.

The 140-acre W.S. Gibbs Memorial Park will be in the southwest corner of Washington Township on Gibbs Road, south of County Road 200 South. Some who live near there have expressed concern on how many people the park will attract.

Roche notes that all of the park’s boundaries, except for the one along Gibbs Road, are surrounded by trees. And that one is where features like the community garden and orchard are expected to be.

“We’ve done our best to insulate neighbors from anything happening in the park,” Roche said, adding that more than 50 of its acres are set for reforestation.

“There’s a big push to make this (park) very natural,” he said. “It looks like there are a lot of amenities, but in reality there’s a lot of nature too.”

Barring any substantial revisions, Roche expects the next steps in Gibbs’ development to include creating a funding plan, conducting a feasibility analysis, and determining what phase one would encompass. That should be complete by late summer, followed by devising a strategy to make it happen.

However, he considers the possibility of breaking ground on the park by next year to be “overly ambitious.”

“We’re certainly a few years off,” Roche said. “We’ve got to work with our partners at the elected level also to discuss any staffing needs this park will bring in phase one. We’ll have a whole plan together — not just for phasing but operations and revenue generation. It’s going to take some time.”

Still, he’s pleased that the most common question he gets is when the park is going to open.

“That means there’s a certain level of excitement,” Roche said.

The draft master plan for W.S. Gibbs Memorial Park may be viewed online at reasite.com/w-s-gibbs.