Heritage Park goes forward despite lack of grant

BROWNSTOWN

The bad news is Brownstown was turned down for an Office of Community and Rural Affairs grant to build the Heritage Park community center.

The good news is nearly $20,000 has been raised for the project.

So the Heritage Park committee, consisting of nine people, has decided to move forward with its fundraising efforts.

Shannon McLeod, the town’s grant consultant, also said she will scramble to put everything together to meet the July 10 deadline for a $400,000 grant, which would cover most of the cost of the park. There also are other grant opportunities for which the town could apply.

“I’m anxious to get started on that thing because we were hoping to have this thing done for the bicentennial next summer,” said John Nolting, president of the Brownstown Town Council and member of the Heritage Park committee.

McLeod agreed to donate her time to do the environmental work, which involves sending pictures of the different angles of the area and letters of intent to 11 state and federal agencies, if the committee would spend $5,000 to have two lots next to the site appraised. The current asking price of the lots is $40,000.

Environmental assessments and appraisals are required for most grants, McLeod said.

She said she was pretty confident she could get letters back from at least eight agencies, but she’s not sure about the others. She said it could be difficult to get a quick turnaround and approval from the state’s historic preservation office since the site is in the downtown historic area.

The proposed park area used to contain a feed mill. In early 2014, the town purchased the 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 federal grant helped pay for the purchase and demolition.

“To tear down the feed mill took us 18 months to get their blessing,” McLeod said, referring to the historic preservation office.

If she isn’t able to get the letters back by the deadline, McLeod said the town could apply for grants from the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources and Main Street Community.

“The problem is that with all of these agencies, you get in line, so if someone else’s project is being reviewed, it’s first come, first serve,” McLeod said.

Architects from DLZ in South Bend came up with a couple of drawings of the park, which includes an open-air, permanent concrete and brick stage and green space.

McLeod suggested taking one of the renderings to some local contractors and asking for cost estimates.

Nolting said the stage is the priority, and then the other things, including pillars, landscaping and sidewalks, could be added when money becomes available. Along with the money the committee has raised, it also has had some materials and labor donated.

McLeod said once the building is constructed, the town could receive grants to cover the cost of other aspects of the park.

“I would go out and try to get donations,” McLeod said. “If you get the money on your own and you can start doing some (work), start doing some.”

If work begins on the area and people see that, Nolting said he hopes it would encourage people to donate to the project.

Mary Sue Spurgeon, a member of the committee, said the park will be a good thing for the community.

“I think one thing that the town is hoping is that it will bring people into town and hopefully encourage development of more business, more trade, whatever it is in the town because we need help right now,” she said. “It’s pretty grim when you look out there.”

At a glance

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.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.