This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Park Board plans

On Monday night I decided to attend a Park Board meeting, something new for me. The meetings are held the first Monday of every month in the park building in Iroquois Park. The meeting space is quite luxurious as you can see in the photo below.

Here is where things get a bit complicated. The meeting was not just a Park Board meeting, but also a Park Corporation meeting (or to be precise, a meeting of the Rensselaer Community Recreational Development Corporation). The parks are all city owned and the park personnel are employees of the city. The Park Board is charged with overseeing the activities in the parks. It has six members, four chosen by the City Council, the park superintendent, and one member from the School Board. The Park Corporation is not a government entity but a not-for-profit organization that is designed to give the parks some financing separate from the city. It has a board of nine members, the six members of the Park Board plus three additional members. Any decisions that involve financing or budgeting are done by the Park Corporation. The result is a strange set of minutes that looks like two meetings took place, but actually only one meeting took place and some of what happened was done by the Park Board and some by the Park Corporation. If you are confused, you are not alone. After the meeting several of the people spent at least five minutes trying to explain it to me and I am not sure I completely understand it yet.

The meeting started with the reappointment of three members to the Park Corporation Board, Thomas Effinger, Connie Kingman, and Stace Pickering. They serve one year terms so must be reappointed each year; the members of the Park Board serve four year terms. After some routine business, the meeting moved on to a discussion of Staddon Field. Most of the land in the old Monnett School/Staddon Field area is owned by the School Corporation; only the northernmost part, basically the parcel that the school itself was on, is owned by the City. The City and the School Board have been negotiating the transfer of the five acres of the land, including the Staddon Field land, from the School Board to the City, but they remain far apart. As I understand it, and this is only my interpretation, the School Board ended up paying far more than expected for the demolition of the Monnett when asbestos was found during the demolition process. They wanted the city to help foot the bill but the city declined. Now some members of the school board (four are appointed by County Commissioners the township trustees representing townships in the school district to represent the rural areas and three by the City Council to represent the City) are trying to recoup some of that cost by suggesting that the City pay more than the City thinks is reasonable. You should not be surprised that various areas of local government do not always cooperate--different groups have different views of what is in the public interest.

The discussion occurred because although it seems likely that the Park Board will be able to use Staddon Field this summer, it is not a certainty, and also because planning for the future of the parks is put on hold until the situation is resolved. There was mention that the Rex Blacker Foundation had offered to purchase the Monnett land but was dismissed because by law the land must be sold to another government entity or a non-profit. (Rex Blacker left a sizable amount of money in the form of a trust to help a number of causes, some local and at least one not local. The city parks are one of those causes. The trust is controlled by its trustees.)

A discussion of an ice skating area followed. It is too late this year to do anything and the experience last year was not good because of vandalism. However, maybe something can be done for next year.

The Parks or the Park Corporation Board is hiring an intern and an interview with the prospective intern took place next. He was interested in fund raising and in working on programs of dog park, disk golf, and flag football.

In new business a member expressed concern about snow on the pedestrian bridges and the park sidewalks. A long discussion followed about whether they should buy something to deal with the snow and ice. A motion passed to check prices and make a decision with a phone vote.

After adjournment, I got to see the plans that were discussed at the November meeting. The Monnett-Staddon Field area would be made into three soccer fields.
It appears that the existing park headquarters would be removed from Iroquois Park and most of it would be made into two dog parks, one for small dogs and one for larger dogs.
 Not much is planned for Bicentennial Park except it would be linked to the trail along Sparling Avenue
 A lot would be changed in Brookside. Most of the grassy areas would become part of a Frisbee golf range and the old football field that is now a soccer field would cut into two Little League ball fields.
What do you think about the plans?

Addendum: Rensselaer and Kendall Culp were on CBS news in a story on propane prices. Link via Bubs.


Anonymous said...

Blog on city parks very interesting. Explain Frisbee golf and how much talent is needed to participate.

Anonymous said...

As long as people use the parking lots at Staddon Park and not parking on the street as it is a hazard and a major inconvenience.
I think the redesign a good idea, but why is one of the soccer fields turned? you should ask yourselves why is it turned? what does the community gain from it being turned? and how is it being turned affecting the other design factors on the site?
I would recommend the current designer to go back, do site analysis, and review the overall plan.


a visitor with a Architecture background

Anonymous said...

I see an issue with the little league fields in the middle of the track at Brookside Park. what happen when at 5pm people get off work and want to run on the track and at the same time there's a game?

Anonymous said...

Frisbee golf (disc golf) can find rules and info at, its a very fun game and enjoyable for all ages and skill level, there is actually already a private course in Rensselaer its out north of town

Anonymous said...

I am so excited about the Frisbee golf!!!!!:)

Anonymous said...

How about u go walk your ass across the road and walk in the cematery.

Anonymous said...

The 7 Township Trustees in the Rensselaer Scool Corporation boundaries appoint the 4 school board members, not the Commissioners.

Anonymous said...

A brief Google search on soccer field sizes led to this address:

I was curious about the U## designations on the plan.

Anonymous said...

Will there be any grassy areas left at Brookside? This park is used for many family activities such as reunions and other celebrations. The best part of the park for these events is the open grassy areas for family activity and of course the pavilions.

Anonymous said...

CEMETERY, and while it's a good point how about not saying a**?

Anonymous said...

I believe the issue with the School and the City over Staddon Field is more complicated than portrayed in this post. While demo costs are expensive (6 figures), the School Corporation owns the property and has yet to strike a deal on what its value should be. The asbestos situation at Monnett has little bearing on the land issue. I find it interesting the amount of money whether it is from the Parks or the Foundation, that was used to purchase the house directly to the south of the Administration Building rather than purchase Staddon from RCSC. I'm all for Parks development! Thank you for sharing your findings Rensselaer Adventures!