DTSB parks and trails in line for $11 million worth of improvements

Today, the City of South Bend is building “Smart Streets.” Tomorrow, the focus will shift to “wise walkways.”

“We’re working on re-imagining the riverfront and the associated parks,” said South Bend Director of Parks and Recreation Aaron Perri.

Plans call for spending $11 million on improvements to downtown parks and recreational trails with the work set to take place next year.

“The exciting part is it seems we have quite a few resources to pour into this plan already, we just don’t have the design plan yet,” Perri said.

Some of the money will come from the park bond the city sold last year. Perri has also applied for a $5 million grant from the Regional Cities Initiative. Finally, the Pokagon band agreed to donate $2.25 million for Howard Park improvements when the tribe reached a gaming agreement with the city.

The list of 2017 park improvement projects will include building a new ice rink at Howard Park, but the devil is in the details. “It’s just important that we're not just making quick decisions on projects that last generations,” Perri said. “So when we look at a master design plan for the park, it may tell us if only you were to move the ice skating rink 15 feet this way, it would allow for a grand entrance into the park off Jefferson, just hypothetically speaking.”

Development deals have been signed to bring some $80 million worth of new housing to the riverfront in the near future.

Just as the streets are being overhauled to better accommodate a rush of new residents, changes will be made to downtown parks and trails.

“You might see 100 new units on the Transpo site, so how does that impact what are their views of the trail, and how do they use the trail, how do they access the trail?” Perri asked.

The city redevelopment commission today hired a Detroit based consultant to come up with answers to those questions in time for construction to take place in 2017.

“The hope is that we re-imagine the entire system of parks and riverfront trails, that when we're done with this, it can be something people point to and be really proud of something that really surprises and delights residents and visitors in the community,” said Perri.

The first public input gathering session has been set for September 8th at the Century Center.