Residents voice support for Hochgesang Park


JASPER — To the Gates family, Hochgesang Park is more than just a park. It’s their park.

Armed with a petition marked with 48 signatures from nearby residents, a group of residents took to the lectern in front of the Jasper Park Board at Jasper City Hall on Tuesday to speak for a place that can’t.

“Everybody I talked to, they said the same thing,” Carrie Gates said. “They feel like that park’s been a part of their lives since they moved here in that subdivision. Everybody feels a kinship towards it in a way.”

Hochgesang Park — which is located on St. James Avenue on the southeast side of Jasper — is one of a handful of city-park-department-maintained locations that were brought up in decommissioning discussions in 2019. Carrie, her husband, Ben, and their two children would be devastated to lose it.

Jasper Park Board President Roger Seger explained that the board has currently paused its discussions regarding the closing of more parks, but those discussions will pick up again later this year.

“It’s good to see people care,” Seger said of the neighbors who voiced their support for the park at Tuesday’s meeting.

Added Park Department Director Ken Buck: “I’m keeping an open mind. If people are using it ... I’m not gonna say one way or another, but I think we’ve sure gotta listen to the people.”

Carrie thanked the department for all the work the department does in maintaining the facilities across the city. The Gates just don’t want to lose their park.

In November, the park board moved to cease city maintenance and upkeep at Uebelhor Park, Northwest Suburban Park and State Police Park. Uebelhor Park has already been shut down, while city operations will officially cease at Northwest Suburban Park and the State Police Park by April 1.

The park board decided in June to look into decommissioning several parks to save department resources.

Park board member Dana Schnarr — who led an analysis of the parks to determine the lesser-used locations — asked the attendees questions about their understanding of Hochgesang Park’s usage.

The Gates visit many parks in the summer with their children, and they said in a separate interview that they feel Hochgesang Park is used just as much as the others. Ben told Schnarr that the park is used daily by his family and others.

Another resident who lives across the street from the park told board members that Hochgesang Park serves a different purpose than places like the Parklands of Jasper or Jasper Riverwalk.

It’s a place that kids can ride their bikes to, play at for a while and go home, he said. Some families come from farther away. Ben said MasterBand employees visit it for lunch, and family photos are taken at the site.

“Parks really do make life better,” Carrie told the board. “Like I said, we’re going from park to park all the time, and ours is just as busy as any other one in town.”

The Jasper Park Board also:

• Elected officers for 2020. The slate remained the same as in 2019: Roger Seger will serve as president, Dana Schnarr will serve as vice president and Kent Otto will be the secretary.

• Heard an Older Americans Center report from Carrie Dick. The center’s attendance was up almost 3,200 people in 2019 from 2018. The center’s van was up almost 380 riders from 2018 — making 2019 its best year since 2014.

• Approved applying for an $2,500 Operation Round Up grant from Dubois REC. The funds would help pay for a new treadmill at the Older Americans Center.

• Heard a golf course update from John Bertges. Buffalo Trace pulled in $7,964.36 in December, up $1,802.54 from December 2018. Bertges said work has been done on summer programming, and maintenance crews are removing trees on the back nine of Buffalo Trace.

• Saw a picture of a new playground structure that has been installed at the Schroeder Soccer Complex. It includes slides, a swing, a spinning piece and more.

• Approved seeking quotes on a set of portable bleachers. They will be about 30 feet long, and contain about 10 rows.

• Approved the seeking of fertilizer quotes for a handful of parks facilities.

• Rejected bids for a parks storage building at Buffalo Trace Golf Course. The bids came in significantly higher than expected at the board’s December meeting.

More on