2019 was ‘excellent’ year for Jasper parksDecember 16, 2019
By ALLEN LAMAN
JASPER — From finally wrapping up initial work on the Parklands of Jasper to decommissioning several seldom-used parks, the past year has been an eventful year for the Jasper Park & Recreation Department.
Odds and ends sitework was finished at the Parklands this fall. Since opening, Jasper Park Department Director Ken Buck has seen the 75-acre nature park — located in the center of the city near Jasper High School — join the ranks of other heavily-trafficked facilities, including the Jasper Riverwalk, Schroeder Soccer Complex, Youth Sports Complex and Arnold F. Habig Community Center.
“Those are probably our five biggest user areas that we have,” Buck said.
The Spirit of Jasper passenger train also thrived in 2019. About 30 trips were taken over the course of the year, with 91.8% of total seats filling up on those rides. About 85% of those who rode the train reside outside of Dubois County, bolstering local tourism.
“That’s kind of a good statistic, too, that shows that we are bringing people in,” Buck said. “They’re using our facilities, or buying gas or going to motels or eating in the restaurants and things like that.”
Riders come from “all over Illinois,” Louisville, and Indianapolis, he added. The Youth Sports Complex also brought outsiders to Jasper. Eight weekends worth of tournaments were hosted at the 11-field site between April and July.
More than 300 pieces of furniture were sold at the Jasper City Mill — “probably more than ever,” Buck said. Those included rockers, swings and benches. The mill’s wheel was also renovated, and the nearby deck that is weathering is slated to be addressed in 2020.
“The mill’s been doing real good,” Buck said. “It’s been more of a welcome center, as you want to call it. It does very well.”
Maintenance updates and new features came to the 63-year-old Jasper Municipal Swimming Pool, which had a good 2019 season, Buck said. The Older Americans Center — located in the Arnold F. Habig Community Center on St. Charles Street — also experienced growth and success this year, largely thanks to new exercise programs and offerings.
After a wet start to the season at the Buffalo Trace Golf Course, the city-owned and maintained facility pulled in about $13,000 more in revenue in 2019 than it did in 2018. The first phase of renovations to the course’s back nine holes has already begun. Those changes will take place over the next three winters and are aimed at speeding up play and making the course easier to manage. Work will include clearing trees and addressing drainage issues.
In November, the Jasper Park Board approved plans to decommission three seldom-used parks. They included Uebelhor Park, Northwest Suburban Park and State Police Park.
As they leave the system, Buck said more resources will be dedicated to the higher-used facilities to improve their amenities. A new playground piece, for example, has been installed at the Schroeder Soccer Complex. It features slides, twisters and a shade structure and is designed to be used by children who are about 3 years old.
At the Jaycee Park, the department hopes to install playground equipment in the summer or fall that would be used by older kids. Buck described it as potentially having decks, climbing apparatuses and slides. The current structure in place at the park is about three decades old.
Other parks the park board discussed decommissioning could be addressed in the future. Those include 34th Street Park, Seng Park and Hochgesang Park.
The biggest challenge the department faced in 2019 was the weather. From the golf courses to the swimming pool, rainy days always spell trouble.
“I think everybody knows that,” Buck said. “Every farmer knows that the inclement weather was just horrible for us this year. We couldn’t get in to do a lot of things until the end of June. It’s hard to fix up all the park properties when it gets to that time when it’s raining every day or every other day.”
He later added: “When the weather’s good, we thrive. When it’s not, the people don’t come out, obviously.”
Minor improvements will continue to be made at all the parks facilities in the future. But when Buck looks back on the year as a whole, he is happy with what the department accomplished.
“2019, I think, was excellent,” he said. “We had a great year.”
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