By Taylor Wooten for The Daily Journal
Bargersville officials are assessing town needs for the parks master plan that will steer recreation planning for the next five years.
For the better part of 2021, the town and data analytics company Zec Eight Insights gathered information from residents at the farmers market, in an online survey and at public meetings over Zoom. Many gave input for the plan, with the online survey alone gathering input from over 400 residents, said town manager Julie Young.
The master plan committee will meet in January and February to go over information found in the discovery and needs assessment phases and begin developing a vision and an action plan for the next five years. Once complete, the plan will be presented to the town council and parks board later this year for adoption.
At a Zoom forum held in December, Austin Hochstetler of Zec Eight Insights, presented his findings from earlier information gathering activities and polled attendees.
Through resident input, Hochstetler found expanding the park system, improving connectivity within the town and the Interstate 69 corridor, diversifying financial support, and creating a parks and recreation niche for the town should be priorities for the master plan.
The town has already started working on the goal to diversify financial support. Last month the town council voted to increase the recreation impact fee charged to housing developers. The new fee is $1,580 per home or apartment unit developed and is projected to raise $3.3 million by 2030. The new fee takes effect in June.
During the needs assessment phase of the master plan process, farmers market attendees were surveyed on what events, facilities and methods of communication they would prefer to see from Bargersville parks and recreation. Participants indicated interest in special events, adult fitness and wellness programs, programs with pets, nature programs and youth summer camps, Hochstetler said.
Farmers market attendees indicated the most interest in paved trails, natural trails, amphitheaters, outdoor swimming pools and water parks, playgrounds and off-leash dog parks. Hochstetler polled webinar attendees on similar issues at the Zoom forum. Trails, sports fields and amphitheaters were areas of high interest.
Farmers market attendees liked the idea of using a mobile application to communicate about park events and allow them to report problems at town parks, Hochstetler said.
The study also goes over the town’s strengths and weaknesses for future park development.
Among the town’s current strengths are park space in the Old Town area, funding for trail network expansion, an emphasis on parks and connectivity from the town council and potential for population growth, Hochstetle said. The study projects the town will have 15,500 residents by 2030.
Bargersville’s current lack of a dedicated parks department presents a weakness, Hochstetler said. Moving forward, Hochstetler recommends collaborating and partnering with organizations that would fulfill parks and recreation needs or hiring employees to create a parks department.
“There’s not necessarily a dedicated parks and recreation department for Bargersville, so consequently staffing, budgeting and operations can be a bit of a challenge,” Hochstetler said at the meeting.
Another weakness identified by the study is a lack of park lands in the northern and western parts of the town. This could be solved by more land acquisition, Hochstetler said.
Bargersville ranks higher than the national average in number of residents per park but lower in park land acreage and miles of trail relative to population. This means that Bargersville has a good amount of parks but not enough literal greenspace, Hochstetler said. Bargersville also has more miles of trail per 1,000 residents than jurisdictions with similar sizes and budgets.
Finishing Kephart Park, a park located west of Morningside subdivision on County Road 144 is one project in the master plan that is already underway. The park will cost about $9 million to complete over the next several years.
In 2022 the town plans to work on phase two of the park, which adds play spaces and landscaping to the park at a cost about $2.5 million. Morningside Path, a trail to connect Kephart Park to the Morningside subdivision, is also budgeted and is expected to cost $50,000.