More parks in Hamilton County? Leaders to meet population growth

With more people expected to move into Hamilton County over the next decade, local leaders face an ironic conundrum.

These same new residents who are gobbling up land for new homes to live in, are also demanding more space to play.

Specifically, parks.

The challenge for the county and the cities is to find, preserve and develop the dwindling resource that parks are if they are to provide the standard of living that residents expect for their tax dollars.

That means constantly catching up and looking for a deficit in parks the same way local governments must keep adding police and fire stations to serve the growing population.

The Hamilton County government said it had only 23% of the park considered adequate for its population by the Department of Natural Resources. Fisher leaders said they need 179 acres over the next two decades. Noblesville reports that it is 264 acres short. Westfield will need 392 acres of parkland over the next five years.

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“As our community continues to grow, it is essential that we add open spaces and parks as our residents expect,” said Michael Klitzing, director of Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation.

Here are the top land acquisitions in recent years for municipal and county park departments

Bear Creek Park, Carmel

Located at the southwest corner of 146th Street and Shelborne Road, the new 27-acre park was acquired in 2020. The park’s master plan calls for primarily ecological use, with boardwalks and trails through grasslands, meadows and wetlands. Other areas would be reserved for recreation or picnics. A main building would be used for summer camps and education. The park will take three to five years to build.

White River Park, Fishermen

A park is planned on the White River near 96th Street in Fishers

The park at 96th Street and Allisonville Road will be next to the river and will extend north to 106th Street. Preliminary plans for its 98 acres include trails, a canoe launch, quarry ponds, an adventure course, a clubhouse, a bike and ropes course, a tree house, views of the river and a grove of hammocks. A developer, CRG Residential, of Carmel, plans to build 380 apartments, 66 townhouses and 35,000 square feet of commercial space on the property, away from the floodplain.

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Burr Oak Bend, Hamilton County

Hamilton County Parks has acquired 130 acres on the White River in Noblesville

The Central Indiana Land Trust donated Burr Oak Bend County on the banks of the river at 20800 Riverwood Ave. The 130 acres were acquired after an infamous fish kill in 1999 in which 4 million fish were poisoned by a toxic industrial spill. the land would be managed for “passive recreations” such as photography and hiking. A trail will extend 150 feet from the river bank but there will be no shelters or playgrounds and parking spaces will be limited.

Thomas Marcuccili Natural Park, Carmel

The 63-acre property southwest of 146th Street and River Road was donated by Falcon Nest II, JC A planning process that includes public meetings will take between nine and 12 months to determine how it can be best used. The park is named after Thomas Marcuccili, co-founder of Indiana-based Star Bank. At one time the park was a low lying wetland but was drained for agricultural purposes. The park will have native vegetation with trails, boardwalks and signs explaining the history of the area. The site is not suitable for a program building or a playground.

HC Farms Property, Hamilton County

The county purchased 107 acres near the intersection of 216th Street and Hinkle Road. The park service will restore the wetlands and the stream corridor, expand the meadow and the plane trees. Trails will cross the property. Foxes and deer live on the property, along with a wide variety of plants, insects and animals. A timetable has not been determined.

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Finch Creek Park, Noblesville

Klipsch-Card Sports Facilities will debut a $15 million field at Finch Creek Park.

The park at 16200 Boden Road opened in 2020. The City and Parks Board acquired 183 acres in 2008 and an additional 20 acres in 2010. The first phase costs $10 million and began in 2018. The park now has several sports fields and facilities, as well as a natural component. Park facilities include pickleball and basketball courts, destination, playgrounds, wading pool, shelter, and restrooms.

Geist park and waterfront, fishermen

An illustration of the Geist Waterfront Park project, scheduled to open in 2024

Fishermen used eminent estate proceedings to purchase 70 acres near 109th Street and Olio Road in 2018 to develop as a beach and nature preserve, as well as a place for recreation. The first phase of the $27 million park – the beach – is expected to be open by 2023. The section will include a kayak launch, fishing pier, boardwalk with cafe, cabanas, outdoor seating, bathrooms, three playgrounds, lawn and parking. The second section of the park will be 35 acres of nature trails, wetlands, woods and picnic shelters. It will not be completed until 2040. The beach will be the only free public access point to the Geist Reservoir. Other entry points are paid boat lunches.

Call IndyStar reporter John Tuohy at 317-444-6418. Email [email protected] and follow Twitter and Facebook.

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