An open-air, permanent concrete stage and green space are envisioned for the old feed mill site in the heart of the county seat.
It’s going to take $60,000 to make it happen. This week, the Brownstown Town Council approved the transfer of two unused funds at the Community Foundation of Jackson County — Brownstown Park Improvement Project ($4,214) and Building Better Communities Contract ($2,158) — to put toward this project.
That money will be put into a newly established Brownstown Heritage Park Fund, which was set up for people to make donations. The tentatively named Heritage Park would be a part of the town’s park system.
The town also is applying for an Office of Community and Rural Affairs grant, hoping to get the minimum of $20,000. The deadline to apply is around the beginning of May.
Council President John Nolting said some contributions have been made for the project and others have been promised.
“That’s the reason I really wanted to go through the Community Foundation because they are so well-known within the county, and I think people are more willing to put money into something like that,” Nolting said. “Plus, it’s a 501(c)(3), so they can get things deducted,” he said referring to the status of contributions with nonprofits.
Early last year, the town purchased the former feed mill property for $45,000. It took two weeks to demolish the 0.45-acre site at 121 E. Walnut St. on the north side of the courthouse square.
A $155,000 federal grant helped pay for the purchase and the $64,562 cost to demolish the two feed mill buildings and a silo. The property can’t be sold, so the town sought feedback from the community for potential uses of the site.
A committee was formed, and it decided to construct the stage and green space. Nolting said the idea for a stage came from the Columbus City Band, which does an annual show on the courthouse lawn.
“It has been there before where they had to stop the program because of the wind and rain and so forth, and they said they would love to have a roof over the top of their heads,” he said.
Town officials thought the area also could be used during the annual Jackson County Watermelon Festival. The town purchased an outdoor theater system last year, and the area also could be suitable for community movie night.
“We’re hoping through the Brownstown Fund for the Arts we’re going to have planned programs there probably from spring to fall,” Nolting said.
Clerk-Treasurer Dave Willey said there won’t be any charges to use the facility, but people might have the opportunity to reserve the space.
Brownstown Electric Supply Co. has donated electricity and light poles for the park.
Owner Carl Shake said his company is donating the supplies, and he has local contractors volunteering to do the labor.
Shake said he likes the idea of the park because it will have multiple purposes and will be a good place for people to gather with family, hear a concert or see a movie.
“I just think it’s something that will draw people to the town of Brownstown for activities,” he said. “Every little town struggles right now, and anything we can do to get some activity going, we’ll do it.”
Schneider Nursery will do landscaping of the area. Margie Strange of the Seymour business, which sits halfway to Brownstown along U.S. 50, said she is excited to have a hand in creating the green space.
“We will try to use as many natural types of material we can use for the hardscape that come from Jackson County,” she said. “We want to keep it within Jackson County and accentuate what we have here in our county.”
Schneider Nursery also has been involved with the multiuse trail project that goes from the Jackson County Park to the Jackson County Fairgrounds, along with landscaping in front of the Jackson County History Center.
Now with the park coming downtown, Strange said, all of those areas will be connected.
“Hopefully, it will be an area where residents and visitors will feel comfortable going, not only for the stage presentations but maybe for picnic areas,” she said.
“I’m excited about it because I think there’s so much interest in green space right now and using green space wisely,” she added. “Our backyards have become another room. … They are really, truly rooms in themselves, and that’s what we might try to create there, too.”
Even though the multiuse trail is established, Strange said, work continues there with people donating a variety of native trees and flowers and also plaques in memory of someone to be placed along the path.
At the history center, there are memorial bricks and a variety of plants among the landscaping.
Strange said the downtown park enhancing the area might prompt businesses to set up shop in the two empty lots next to the site.
“We’ve got a beautiful courthouse and grounds, and I think we’re just trying to enhance the beauty of the outdoor space in the area here in the county seat of Jackson County,” she said.
Once work begins on the green space, people will have an opportunity to volunteer their time to help. When it’s done, volunteers also will be needed to help maintain the area.
“All of this can happen if we have community support and also community involvement,” Strange said. “Maybe people don’t have the money to chip in for a donation, but they have a Saturday they can come and work. I think through donations but also through community work and volunteering services, we can make this happen.”
To contribute to the Brownstown Heritage Park Fund, visit the Community Foundation of Jackson County, 107 Community Drive, Seymour, or call 812-523-4483.
Checks also can be mailed to the foundation at P.O. Box 1231, Seymour, IN 47274. Checks should be made payable to “Community Foundation of Jackson County” with “Brownstown Heritage Park Fund” written in the memo.
Anyone interested in volunteering labor once work begins on the park can call Brownstown Town Hall at 812-358-5500.