JEFFERSONVILLE — Scott Hawkins, the city councilman for Jeffersonville’s sixth district, has been campaigning for a park in his part of the city since he was elected two years ago. He could finally get his wish — and on an even larger scale than he originally hoped.
Hawkins and Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore are like-minded. Moore wants to build a 115-acre park on River Ridge Commerce Center land, accessible from Old Salem and New Chapel roads. It would be the first park for the city north of Interstate 265 and its biggest yet.
Moore’s vision for the project, named Chapel Lake Park, includes plenty of green space, crossed with hiking trails and shaded by trees. A shelter house-picnic area would overlook a shining,10-acre lake, dug from land where there are currently only streams. A playground, parking and bathrooms are also working ideas. Everything would contribute to the “nice, family atmosphere” that Moore would like to cultivate.
The park, which would abut Crystal Springs subdivision, would be more than twice the size of the city’s current largest park, Richard L. Vissing Park, which is 45 acres. That would satisfy the Jeffersonville Parks Department’s master plan, which was adopted two years ago and called for a larger park than those the city had been building, said Jeffersonville Parks Authority President Bill Burns.
But the park is only a dream at the moment. Moore would need River Ridge to give Jeffersonville the land, hopefully in the form of a gift.
River Ridge Executive Director Jerry Acy said the land Moore desires does have some “challenges” associated with it that would limit other possible uses for the property.
Moore has only talked to Acy once, and he has yet to talk to the River Ridge Development Authority Board of Directors, but the commerce center director is receptive to the park concept.
“We’re certainly interested in exploring, you know, every initiative that we can that would be a benefit to River Ridge and the surrounding communities,” Acy said.
Another goal of the parks department’s master plan was to bring a park to the “east end” of the city. The sixth district of Jeffersonville was annexed from the county around 10 years ago and because of that, doesn’t have as many amenities as other parts of the city, including a park, but also sidewalks and streetlights.
“I think it’s real important that the city concentrates on some quality-of-life issues for the east end of the city and the citizens who all live out there,” Moore said.
In addition to the park, the city is also working on sidewalk improvements to the area. One project that will be completed this year will run up New Chapel Road and connect the Crystal Springs and Steeplechase subdivisions. The new sidewalk would also lead directly to the park.
Since the city announced its new park vision last week, Hawkins' constituents are already letting their thoughts be known.
“The feedback I have gotten has been overwhelmingly positive, and I’ve gotten quite a bit of it,” he said.
But the project is still in a conceptual stage, according to Moore.
“There are some hurdles we’ve got to overcome,” he said.
The city has to receive the land from River Ridge, of course, but it will also have to deal with stream and wetland mitigation through the Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Moore has already asked Redwing Ecological Services for help with that aspect of the park.
Project costs are also a factor. Moore estimated that, while the project would normally cost $5 million, it could be done for $2 million if the city keeps the work in-house and has the land donated. But even that cost would require more money for the parks system, Burns said. The department’s requested 2018 budget was only $2.7 million. Jeffersonville's City Council and Redevelopment Commission could grant the department more money, Burns said. If they do, the project could “satisfy [the parks department] for several years.”
Moore is optimistic about seeing the park through to completion. He thinks it could be built within the next two years. Hawkins, too, believes that the project could be finished quickly.
“We’re pretty excited to get the ball rolling — get it moving,” he said.