INSPIRED BY HISTORY: With a nod to the region’s railway heritage, the city opens a new park in the city center – The Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD – Greenfield’s new Depot Street Park is now open to the public, and construction is nearing completion after months of construction delays.

The park is located along the Pennsy Trail and next to the historic Greenfield Grain Elevator. It’s one of the projects funded by Indiana’s Stellar Communities program in the health and heritage region, which includes Greenfield. Communities selected for the program can receive up to $ 15 in grants over a five-year period.

“The park will be open after Thursday (December 9), but we hope it will be fully finished before Christmas,” said Greenfield Planning Director Joan Fitzwater.

Depot Street Park includes an amphitheater where musical performances and other events can be staged, as well as picnic tables and public artwork paying homage to the city’s history as a rail destination.

“We actually have railways built into the whole design,” Fitzwater said.

It will also feature a statue of local artist Will Vawter, connecting it to the future Riley Literary Trail that is expected to run through the park.

The park may not be heavily used during the winter, but a grand opening is scheduled for June 18, 2022, when the summer concert series to be held in the park, “Live at the Rails”, kicks off. .

“The park has been under construction all summer,” Fitzwater said. “It’s about three months beyond the scheduled time because we had issues with some underground utilities and electric utilities that were sort of in conflict with each other. “

Due to work on the park, local business owners have also taken over and renovated the grain elevator to open a new restaurant, which Fitzwater says is the first real grain elevator renovation in the state. from Indiana. Libby’s Ice Cream has also opened a new location near the park.

“This is really proof that municipal investments stimulate private investment and can be of great benefit,” said Fitzwater.

Many of the design elements of Depot Street Park are inspired by the site’s history as a rail depot.

“We have a lot of railroad tracks that run through the park, we have a series of panels that are the gears, the art of metal panels, we have picnic tables that roll over the tracks,” Fitzwater said. “It was a lot of fun designing the equipment and making sure we pay attention to the historical heritage of the site.

The construction of the park also led to the renovation of Depot Street, the last brick street in Greenfield. The city will use bricks taken from State Street in its own reconstruction this year to help repair Depot Street. The city will also be auctioning them off to help fund concerts at Depot Street Park.

Greenfield City Council has already agreed to fund the first two years of concerts at the park’s amphitheater. Fitzwater said the city is consulting Tony Seiler, owner of the Greenfield Music Center, on concert programming.

The final cost of the Depot Street Park project was approximately $ 2.04 million, an increase of 4.1% over the initial bid awarded due to the need for additional sewer work and increased cost of materials.

The Health and Heritage Stellar region is made up of Hancock County, the Town of Greenfield, and the Towns of Fortville and Shirley. The Hancock County Community Foundation also participated in the development of the plans for the project. The Stellar team has also worked on projects with Greenfield Main Street and other nonprofits.

Fitzwater said spending $ 15 million was more difficult than expected.

“It’s really a lot of planning and a lot of effort,” she said.

So far, stellar efforts have included funding the Talitha Koum Women’s Recovery House to hire additional staff and increase program capacity, equalize local dollars to ease the cost of construction projects, and film videos to promote businesses. communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds also helped create Lizabuth Ann’s Kitchen, the new event space in Greenfield attached to the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home and Museum.

Other ongoing Stellar projects include an inclusive play area near Greenfield Central High School, a space for children with disabilities, which is nearing completion.

“We got this idea by contacting the community and asking them what they needed and what they lacked, and we were a little blown away by the number of people who said there was no room. for children with disabilities in this community, ”Fitzwater said. noted.

Stellar is also helping to finance the construction of the Brandywine Trail in Greenfield and the new Heritage Trail in Shirley.

Shirley Secretary-Treasurer Teresa Hester said Stellar was a great program to work with for the small town. Her new trail will allow pedestrians to travel a path that encompasses Shirley’s historic location, such as her own old railroad depot and the Jane Ross Reeves Octagon House. It ends at the city’s Shirley Park.

“We wanted to add an extra softball field and redo the tennis courts, but that couldn’t happen because of the price and the way the offers came in, but we need the drainage and everything, so it could be a future project, ”Hester said.

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