Whiteland officials seeking applicants for new parks board

A Whiteland official hopes the creation of a new parks board will improve and add to the town’s existing offerings.

The town announced the creation of a parks board in a May 9 social media post. The four-person board will act as the legislative governing board, similar to the town council but for park amenities, according to officials.

Whiteland has experienced an influx of homes being built over the last few years and has received potential land donations to be used for parks, said Carmen Young, director of administration.

They’ve received approximately 13 acres donated from D.R. Horton at its development Saddlebrook Farms South. At their north development, there is an expected 40 acres to be donated, Young said.

“What the goal of a parks board would be is to help establish policies and goals and objectives of what kind of amenities and what kind of programming would make sense for this land to be a future park instead of it just being additional grass to mow,” Young said.

These donations are in addition to the town’s already existing parks and playgrounds.

Currently, there is a small dog park at the corner of Centerline and Whiteland roads. The biggest complaint Young hears about the park is that is small, so she wants to make the dog park “more of a commercial development and not just a fence with a couple obstacles for the dogs, to make it actually beneficial for property owners,” she said.

There is also a playground near the Whiteland Fire Department that was installed by D.R. Horton and donated to the town. and school playgrounds.

“We want to create amenities for our residents, the residents that have been here for years, our new residents and then even as an economic development tool to attract new residents,” Young said. “It’s really critical when we have site developers reach out to us on the warehouses or the industrial buildings, they ask about our public amenities, they ask about our parks. To be able to say, ‘Yes we have this great park’ or ‘We have these great parks,’ I think really would help with our economic development just as the town continues to grow.”

The main reason for creating a parks board is to make the town eligible for certain types of funding, such as grants through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, she said. Town officials wanted to start the board last year but the tornado put a lot of their projects on hold, Young said.

Officials started working towards a park master plan last year and are also creating a new overall comprehensive plan.

“In our current comprehensive plan, we talk about parks and recreation being of neighborhood parks … we talk about public parks … and then we also, in our previous comp. plan, talked about a sports or athletic complex,” Young said. “So kind of revisiting those ideas, see if they still make sense not only for our comprehensive plan but also for our park master plan.”

The park master plan will gather public input and determine what current residents want to see, she said.

“You hear all the time other communities say ‘We want to create our community so people will live work and play in their community,’ but my biggest thing is to have the amenities but then I want amenities that people are actually going to use,” Young said.

Funding will be the biggest hang-up, so Young has already started looking at funding mechanisms to operate the parks department or build through grants, she said.

Many of the responsibilities for park board member responsibilities are established through state statute, Young said. The board’s job is “to establish and implement policies and objectives for the implementation of parks and recreation,” and members aren’t the ones necessarily doing the day-to-day work. Ideally, she said she wants to create different committees that help with community engagement.

Young has received over 20 applications for the board so far. To apply, applicants must submit their name, address, political affiliation and any questions to Young at [email protected].

Applicants are required to list their political affiliation because no more than two members of the same political party can be on the board unless a town doesn’t have someone from a different political party apply, per Indiana law. They must also answer a list of questions, she said.

The town council will ultimately choose who joins the board.