South Bend, Ind. The South Bend Park and Recreation Master Plan revealed a $27 million list of major capital improvements to the city’s parks – a number generated from months of collecting data, research and surveys from residents.
The city of just 105,000 residents has a park system that attracts 1 million visitors a year.
The recommendation provides cost estimates for “dream list” of improvements to the city’s parks, which officials say are in dire need of renovations.
“The first park is nine years older than the end of the Civil War,” said Matthew Moyers of South Bend Parks and Recreation. “So that's an old system.”
The oldest facility, Howard Park, ranks near the top of the list for improvements with costs estimates of $4.5 million for the park and another $4 million to renovate the community center.
“A lot of these parks a lot of the developments are coming to the end of their natural life and it take some investment,” Moyers said.
Another top priority is Pinhook Park, once a bustling beach and swimming spot. The beach opened in 1964 and closed in 1989 after 25 years of operation.
The master plan calls for a $7 million overhaul of the park to bring it up to snuff.
“Pinhook Park used to be a major gathering place for a lot people on the north side of town,” said Vince Barletto, Vice President of the Keller Park Neighborhood Assoc. “Now, as you can see, it’s really 40 acres of mowing grass.”
But a return to “destination” status for Pinhook will be little more than a dream without the funding to back it up. The report recommends $27 million in major capital improvements evenly balanced across the six city council districts. Mayor Buttigieg has pledged to support a park bond of only $2.5 million.
South Bend Common Council Members like Tim Scott say that bond needs to be adjusted.
“Some council members, myself included, were not impressed with the park bond structure,” Scott said. “I think that's something that we need to have that conversation and look at.”
Other ways to fill the gap include grants, donations and public/private partnerships.
The South Bend Park Board will meet Monday to discuss and adopt its master plan.