A 15-acre parcel that was decimated by floodwaters three times in 14 years is now home to Franklin’s Youngs Creek Park.
Three mayors of Franklin dealt with devastating downtown floods from 2008 to 2017. After the 2017 flood, city officials took action to make the parcel into something that can stand up to nature and improve quality of life, said Steve Barnett, mayor.
“After that flood in 2017, it was the right time to start a conversation with the city council, the RDC (redevelopment commission) and the five property owners,” Barnett said. “We knew we wanted to transform this area, which was an old industrial site and we wanted to transform it into a vibrant space for people to enjoy for a lifetime.”
The $9 million park was designed with large greenspaces to absorb floodwaters and amenities that are built to withstand flooding. Those amenities include an amphitheater with a 5,000-seat capacity lawn, an inclusive playground, pickleball courts, trails, plazas built to accommodate food trucks and farmer’s market vendors, and the city’s first splash pad.
The park is also an economic development tool that is hoped to attract tourists, new businesses and new residents, Barnett said.
“The DriveHubler.com Amphitheater and Youngs Creek Park are milestones in preserving our small-town feel that we continue to build on on this journey to excellence,” he said.
The grand opening ceremony on Friday morning featured remarks from city officials and sponsors of the park. It also featured the first official performance at the amphitheater –a trumpet rendition of the national anthem by Steve Brown, Franklin Rotary Club president.
Countless city employees, sponsors and people who believed in the project helped get it across the finish line after five years of work, Barnett said.
“This elevates Franklin’s quality of life to the next level,” Barnett said. “A project of this size takes a lot of planning, collaboration, meetings — it takes time to get to where we got to today, five years later. Quality of life and collaboration is what makes this city the best place to live, work and play.”
The city officials and the contractor, Fishers-based Myers Construction Management, were working on the park until late last night to prepare for the event, said Chip Orner, Franklin’s parks and recreation director.
There are still a few final touches to go, but the park is fully ready to use. Some of the punch list items still needing to go up are fencing at the playground, concrete patching and other fine detail work most won’t even notice is missing, he said.
Sponsors raised $649,870 for programming at the park, which has enabled the city to make all of the concerts set for this year free, Orner said. Some of the sponsors were Indiana American Water, Mutual Savings Bank, The Branigin Foundation, The William E. and Barbara Paris Family and others.
The Spray Park at Youngs Creek Park was made possible by a donation from the American Water Foundation. The splash pad was quietly opened a few days ago, but the ribbon was cut this morning.
Not only does the spray park provide fun, it also gives back to the environment by recycling water through the irrigation system in the park and sharing facts about water conservation on educational signs, said Matthew Prine, president of Indiana American Water.
“We look forward to this space where children and families can enjoy and have fun while learning about the valuable role that it plays in protecting our environment and our water right here in Franklin,” Prine said.
The DriveHubler.com Amphitheater is named for the major sponsorship by the car dealership chain that has called Franklin home since 1982. The sponsorship was a given, as the company wanted to give back to the community that helped fuel its success, said Kenny Young, general manager for Bradley Hubler Chevrolet.
“Over the past 40 years we’ve seen changes to this community – all of them to change this small town in a beautiful place we all call home now. With that the Hubler Group has grown … to 14 different locations in Central Indiana,” Young said. “We couldn’t have done that without this community’s help.”
Several amenities also bear the names of community members who devoted their time and money to giving back to the city.
Fred Paris, who was mayor during the 2008 flood, said the Paris Station Trailhead Bridge is a proper way to remember his parent’s legacy. The bridge over Youngs Creek connects the park to an existing section of trail in Greenlawn Cemetery.
William E. and Barbara Paris gave back to the community in many ways, far beyond their contributions as owners of Paris Super Service and as the developers of Paris Estates, he said. Paris Estates sits on the land that used to be the family’s farm.
“We were able to tell our mom about our plan just a few short months ago before her passing. She said ‘that would be nice,’” Paris said. “The trailhead connecting this park to the Greenlawn Cemetery was the original location of the Franklin-Martinsville Railroad and now it serves as our trailhead. It once passed our gas station and when we were kids it passed by our house where we lived near Paris Estates. We spent a lot of time watching that train go back and forth and playing in the creek next to it. Now it has a new life serving as a trailhead to this beautiful facility.”
One plaza is named for the Branigin Foundation, which bears the name of Elba L. and Gene Portteus Branigin.
“This will provide ways to enjoy Franklin in ways we have yet to experience. As I look and see three new-graduated kindergartens in the front row … I’m envious of all of them and the years they’re going to have to enjoy this place,” said Dustin Huddleston, a Branigan Foundation representative. “The Branigin Foundation is excited to be part of this for years to come.”
A surprise naming was for Marty and Carolyn Williams, who founded Discover Downtown Franklin and have been instrumental in growing the Franklin Farmers Market. City officials kept the naming a secret from family members and unveiled the news today, Barnett said. The city’s volunteer of the year award is also named after the couple.
Their daughter, Stacey Ogden, and other Williams family members were moved to tears by the surprise.
“It is wonderful to see that so many of you knew my dad and loved my mom,” Ogden said. “Thank you to all of the community members and volunteers who made this wonderful day possible. It is an honor to know how much my parents are really appreciated by this wonderful community.”
Both the Branigin and Williams plazas will be home to the farmer’s market and vendor areas for local festivals and the city’s concert series.
The grand opening ceremonies were part of a two-day event to celebrate the park.
IF YOU GO
The celebration of Youngs Creek Park’s opening weekend continues:
The grand opening continues into the evening.
Food trucks open at 4:30 p.m. and close at 10 p.m.
The opening act, Gavin Curry, will play from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and the main act, Blue River Band will take the stage at 7 p.m.
Festival Country Luau is hosting a tropical luau-theme event to kick-off the festival season.
Food trucks are open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The opening act, Indyca, plays 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and the main act, Parrots of the Caribbean takes the stage at 7 p.m.
Source: Franklin Parks and Recreation