By Gus Pearcy
The opening of a new park and expanding two existing properties are on tap for the next five years at the Hendricks County Parks and Recreation Department. The department, which runs McCloud Nature Park, the far western portion of the Vandalia Trail and a new park between Avon and Plainfield, is redefining the Comprehensive Master Plan for 2021-2025. The plan is necessary to apply for state and federal funding or grants.
Opening and continued development of W.S. Gibbs Memorial Park sits atop the list. The park is the department’s latest property in the southwest corner of Avon. Assistant superintendent Eric Ivie said plans including opening the park will open next year.
The park is on Gibbs Road between county roads 200 S and 350 S and has been on the parks department’s plans since 2010. The addition will be important for many reasons.
“For us to have a park that is centrally-located, both geographically and in relation to the population of Hendricks County, I think, is going to be real important for us,” Ivie said. “It’s also going to allow us to offer more recreation type activities. There are going to be a lot of features of the park that we’re not quite ready to release to the public, but they’re going to be pretty darn neat.”
Gibbs park will be more focused on recreation with plans for the department’s first playground.
Plans also include expanding the Vandalia Trail between Amo and Clayton. Ivie said the ultimate goal is to stretch the trail across the entire county as part of the National Road Heritage Trail. The former path of the interurban tracks is deemed a visionary trail by the State of Indiana.
“The vision is that it will be a trail that runs nonstop from Terre Haute all the way to Richmond,” Ivie said. “Our goal now is to expand eastward from Amo, eventually through Clayton and Cartersburg, and connect to Plainfield’s portion of the Vandalia Trail, and their portion runs all the way to the Hendricks-Marion County line.”
If that happens, Hendricks County will be one of the first counties to get that accomplished in Indiana, Ivie said, adding that land between Amo and Clayton has been purchased but more acquisition is needed.
McCloud, the system’s first and best-known park, will see some improvements, too. The plan calls for renovating a cottage on the property and investigating purchasing more land for the passive park.
A recent survey of 2,500 county residents helped open the department’s eyes, Ivie said. The rate of response ran 22%, which means the confidence level — compared to sampling every resident — was better than 91%. The response was supportive from the people who had gone to one of the parks, Ivie said.
“The No. 1 attraction at McCloud is the trails,” he said. “People are attracted to things that are at the park.”
People want to go to the parks on their own time and schedule and explore, rather than going for a specific event, he said.
“We did set single-month attendance records in April and May,” he added. “When everybody was coming out of the initial quarantine, they went to the parks. It was a great place to go and get some space, still get some fresh air and get out of the house.”