Seldom-used parks on the chopping block

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
Kyler Lyon, 14, of Evansville, left, Tyler Beamon, 16, and Aden Cornejo, 14, both of Jasper, chat at a picnic table at Northwest Suburban Park in Jasper on Wednesday.

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — Though summer officially begins Friday, kids have been out of school and hopping around the grounds of Jasper’s public parks for nearly a month.

Some of those facilities might not be around forever, however. A few could be decommissioned in the near future.

At last week’s Jasper Park Board meeting, board member Dana Schnarr led a presentation detailing highly-visited parks in need of necessary upgrades, and others that are used so sparingly that the department could be better off parting ways with them.

“We’re looking at them, and we have a handful — five, six parks — that just have really, super old equipment, that are kind of borderline not safe,” Schnarr said in a Wednesday phone interview. “Our people spend a lot of time mowing and maintaining those properties, and they just aren’t well-utilized. So, if people aren’t using them, and we’re spending all of our time maintaining them, you kind of sit back and think, ‘Why are we doing that?’ Our resources could better be used at parks that people do use all the time.”

Some of those seldom-used and dated parks include the 34th Street Park, the Northwest Suburban Park and the State Police Park, all on the city’s north side; Seng Park to the south; Uebelhor Park to the east; and Hochgesang Park to the southwest.

“At those older properties, the playground equipment, it’s very minimal and really dated,” Schnarr said. “And again, it’s not utilized.”

Baseball field home plate at Uebelhor Park in Jasper on Wednesday.

Schnarr said the department’s goal is to get a feel for how the public feels about decommissioning some of those parks. Ideally, a selection of them would be shuttered or returned to the care of the properties’ original owners, but not all of the spaces mentioned above would close.

The conversation is happening now because the park department will soon begin the process of assembling its 2020 budget. All of the city’s parks are outfitted with aging equipment, and the department is aiming to spend its dollars wisely, Schnarr said.

“Kind of trying to figure out where we want to put our money,” Schnarr said. “Where maybe our money’s not best spent. Just want to kind of be the good stewards of all our resources that we have. Our people, and our money.”

High traffic facilities include Bohnert Park, The Parklands of Jasper, Beaver Lake, Buffalo Trace Golf Course and the Jaycee Park, Schnarr said. None of them are in need of any big upgrades outside of regular maintenance, except for Jaycee Park, which hosts equipment that is “getting close to being beyond repair,” she said.

She recommended to the board that department dollars go there, as well as the William Schroeder Soccer Complex, which brings in an estimated 3,000 people on fall weekends and continues to grow. More playground equipment is needed at that site.

The park board plans on publishing an online survey to gather public input, and the conversation regarding which parks will be decommissioned and which ones will be improved will continue at its next board meeting. That meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 9, in the council chambers at city hall, 610 Main St.




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