Park proposal raises concerns: Safety, location, cost among residents’ issues over downtown plan

Several Seymour residents showed up to a meeting Monday to question why officials want to spend more than $2 million to create a new downtown park when the city’s skate park hasn’t been finished.

Others brought up concerns with safety because of the downtown park’s proposed location off U.S. 50 north of the Blish Mill silos between two active rail lines and asked how the park will be kept free of drug activity.

The Seymour Redevelopment Commission took comments from people during a public hearing at city hall. Some spoke in favor of the park, saying it would help make a much nicer gateway into the downtown and draw more people to the area.

Afterward, the board approved a declaratory resolution to amend the city’s economic development plan and area to allow tax increment financing revenue to fund the park.

The new park is estimated to cost between $2.2 and $3.5 million.

Commissioners also reviewed a bid from GM Development to build the park. The Indianapolis company specializes in municipal development in Indiana, having completed some 40 projects around the state.

Greg Martz with GM Development said there are three main options for design based on how much the city wants to spend.

“But there is a range here and we have flexibility,” he said.

Martz said there are two banks willing to loan the money to build the park and the city will be responsible for paying back that amount to GM.

Seymour’s financial advisers at Reedy Financial will review the loan terms and make a recommendation and city attorney Rodney Farrow will review other legal documents pertaining to the project before presenting them to commissioners.

Another public hearing and special meeting will be at 4 p.m. June 5 at city hall for commissioners to vote on whether or not to accept the bid and move forward with the project.

Resident Chuck Thomes said his main concern is with traffic congestion on U.S. 50 and how it will be impacted with vehicles slowing down to enter the park and from vehicles leaving.

“That area is boxed in and proposes quite a problem,” he said. “The area needs to be reconfigured or repurposed for something else.”

With the location being surrounded by railroad tracks, Thomes said there also is the potential for a derailment in the park.

“There are just a lot of safety issues I think need to be discussed,” he said.

Tom Goecker, chairman of Seymour Main Street, said the proposed park fits in with the organizations’ long-term plans.

“It will provide a much nicer entrance into our downtown and we have a lot of ideas on how we can use that space,” he said.

Julia Aker, director of the Jackson County Public Library, said the new park will create additional parking downtown for events, freeing up parking at the library, especially on Saturdays.

Tonya Couch, director of Jackson County United Way, said the park would be welcoming and inspire more people to visit downtown.

Those speaking against the park said they aren’t opposed to the city building another park but would like to see the city help pay the $90,000 needed to finish the Schurman and Grubb Memorial Skate Park.

Parent Katie Finch said the money needed for the skate park is way less than the millions needed for the new park.

“We just want to finish the skate park,” she told commissioners. “We need something for the teens so they can stay out of trouble and can have fun and not be destructive.”

April Pagel, a parent and owner of a local daycare, said there are a lot of people including business owners who have supported the park financially in the past and would like to see the skate park finished.

“It has helped some of these teens with self-discipline and self-motivation,” she said. “They protect the park and have made it their place.”

Wyatt Johnston is one of those teens who spends a lot of time at the skate park.

“We would like to be able to finish the dream of this project,” Johnston said. “Despite the stereotypes of skaters, we are not bad and are not causing trouble. We are a community and we support each other. We believe the funds for this new park should be redirected to the skate park.”

Commissioner Mike Jordan said the TIF funds can not be used for the skate park unless the TIF district is amended again to include Shields Park.

He suggested the parents and teens get in contact with the parks board to see about opportunities for additional funding.

The first phase of the skate park, costing $120,000, was completed in 2013 and the second phase, which was more than $30,000 opened in 2015.

The final phase will add features such as a three-quarter bowl, stair sets, handrails and a curved ledge for skaters to practice their tricks.

When the third phase is complete, the skate park will be nearly 9,000 square feet in size and will have cost more than $250,000 total. The park has been funded through donations from businesses, organizations and individuals, along with money from the city’s parks department and grants.

Located in Shields Park, the skate park is named after Todd Schurman and Zach Grubb, two local teens who were killed in spring 2010 after the bike they were riding was hit by a vehicle. Both were skateboarding enthusiasts who had helped with fundraising efforts to build the park before they died.

If you go

What: Public hearing and special meeting on a proposed downtown park project to decide whether or not to accept a bid from GM Development of Indianapolis and move forward with the project.

Where: Seymour City Hall

When: 4 p.m., June 5

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.