Collaborative community shines in Parklands project

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
The Parklands is a 75-acre nature park located in the center of the city near Jasper High School with the main entrance off 15th Street. The park includes a 2-mile walking trail, outdoor fitness stations, adventure playgrounds and three ponds, including one for fishing. For more photos from the park's opening weekend, click here.

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

JASPER — Jasper’s largest park officially opened Saturday.

Five years in the making, The Parklands of Jasper opened to the public with a Saturday morning dedication and Saturday afternoon grand opening.

“This land is a generation gift,” Jasper Mayor Terry Seitz said, “one which will, through the years ahead, represent the best that this community has to offer.”

People of all ages were in the park, enjoying its features, all day and evening, visiting as late as 9 p.m. The park was also busy on Sunday.

The park includes two miles of walking trails that include multipurpose paths, a walking bridge that will be lit at night, 10 pieces of exercise equipment contained in four fitness pods along the path, an adventure play area with climbing rocks and balance beams, a musical playground with mounted instruments, a tree fort, a splash pad with 42 jets and three rock features, a pavilion that has indoor space to seat 160 people for events and a 2,000-square-foot picnic deck, a wetlands area for nature studies, and about 25 acres of woods that will be kept as woods.

The Parklands also has three ponds and two waterfalls. The biggest pond is named Otis Pond and was dedicated Saturday to the late Mike “Otis” Oeding, former park assistant superintendent.

He was passionate about the city parks, nature and outdoor activities. Otis Pond will be the only pond of the three in the park that will be stocked by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources with fish for fishing. Oeding’s wife, Donna Oeding, was on hand to unveil an Otis Pond plaque that is mounted on the pavilion’s deck.

“He would have loved this,” Donna Oeding said about the park. While Otis was not one that would have enjoyed the attention being on him, Oeding said she appreciates the city’s acknowledgement of her husband’s work.

Prior to 2012, the Parklands land was the Jasper Country Club and golf course, and had been for decades. The country club’s board decided in the summer of 2012 to close the facility and golf course. The city announced in 2013 plans to purchase the golf course for $1 million. The Hanselman family, who own the Schnitzelbank Restaurant, bought the country club’s building and remodeled it into Klub Haus 61, which is an event center available for rentals; the family also has the Schnitz Brewery & Pub on the building’s basement floor.

Seitz appointed a citizen advisory team to determine what the land would become; the restrictive deed on the property states that it could not be used as a golf course. The committee determined in 2015 that most of the land would be kept in a natural state as managed meadows, with limited structures.

Cohen Begle of Jasper, 3, played in the water at the splash pad at The Parklands in Jasper on Saturday. Begle visited The Parklands with his grandmother, Becky Hickman of Jasper. Begle is Hickman's only grandchild. "He has my entire attention," Hickman said. For more photos from the park's opening weekend, click here.

In 2016, the city was able to purchase 25 acres of land to the east of the former golf course from the Nordhoff family, Ruby Fern Gramelspacher Revocable Trust and Thomas Eversman Revocable Trust; that land will remain as woods. Construction work on The Parklands started in March 2017.

Although The Parklands of Jasper is now open and a few flowers can be seen along the walking path, the wildflowers and trees that have been planted will take about three years to fully grow, landscaper Pete Andriot of Louisville-based Rundell Ernstberger Associates said. Rundell Ernstberger Associates and Evansville-based engineering firm Hafer Associates worked on the park’s design and Jasper Lumber was the general contractor for the park’s construction.

Park Director Ken Buck said that along with the designers and construction crews, the community as well as park and city staff worked hard and diligently to create The Parklands.

“Everything that has happened has been amazingly wonderful,” he said. “But it’s not what we did. It’s what the community has done.”

Park Board President Roger Seger echoed Seitz and Buck in saying that the work done to bring The Parklands to fruition was a communitywide effort. He said it would not have happened if the various families and companies in the community had not donated money, which was added to city funds and state grants to cover the $7.5 million cost for the project.

“This is the Jasper way of doing things,” Seger said.

“This collaboration with different partners has been extraordinary,” Seitz said. “That, I’ve learned as mayor, is what we do best.”

In the future, a path will be built along 15th Street to connect the park to the city’s multi-use trail at St. Charles Street.

Seger also said the city is looking for donors to help cover the cost for constructing an amphitheater in the hill near the pavilion, and the cost to construct a lookout tower on top of the hill. The tower would be the highest point in Jasper, and visitors would be able to go to the top and look out over the city. Anyone interested in contributing to these projects can contact Seger or Buck through the Jasper Park Department, 812-482-5959.

The Parklands currently has a $175,000 endowment through the Dubois County Community Foundation, which Seitz hopes will increase over time. The park department also has an endowment through the community foundation.

The Parklands is open from dawn to dusk. A list of park rules is posted in the park. Questions about the park’s features or rentals can be directed to the park department.




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