Parks department prepares for changes, new school calendar

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Construction work is being done to Shelter No. 2 at Forest Park. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

Construction work is being done to Shelter No. 2 at Forest Park. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

Residents should mark March 23 down on their calendar. While programs run year-round, that date is special to the Noblesville Parks Dept.

“The Easter Egg Hunt unofficially kicks off out outdoor events,” Parks Director Don Seal said.

This year will be one filled with changes for the department. One of the biggest challenges facing the parks department is the school calendar change and what various organizations are doing to work with students during breaks.

“We’re trying to prepare for the balanced calendar and how we fit in during the two-week breaks in the fall and spring. The two-week break at Christmas is pretty standard,” he said. “We’re all scrambling – us, the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, AYS. What can we do with activities that are enhancing the school year?”

The school calendar change is also impacting the summer programming and staff. Seal said instead of offering eight weeks of programming, this summer the parks department would only offer six.

“Which in turn impacts staffing,” he said. “So we have to get creative.”

There are also physical changes coming to Forest Park. Construction is currently going on to replace shelters No. 2 and No. 4. Seal said a grant was helping to pay for half of one shelter, which needed to be replaced. The other shelter was removed when The Lodge was built years ago. Reservations for the shelters are in high demand and the two will be completed before the rush begins for the space.

“We have very few by May. Very few weekends we don’t have all five shelters booked,” Seal said. “This will help a lot getting the other one back.”

Other changes include Fox Prairie Golf Course getting 60 new golf carts and a new maintenance barn. The city-owned course is also getting more requests to host outings and fundraisers. Assistant director Brandon Bennett said the exposure would hopefully turn an event guest into a regular player after visiting.

Seal said last summer’s drought and heat did not affect the parks department except in attendance at a few outdoor events – including the summer concert series and gold course (which saw record highs during the unseasonably warm winter.) Thanks to the numerous trees in Forest Park, the shade helped from deterring guests.

“We’re in pretty good shape,” he said. “We weathered it pretty well. The September weather was wet and things came back. The golf courses are in great shape because they were irrigated.”

Finally, Seal said the parks department also was working with economic development and the planning departments on Midland Trail, which will link Noblesville to Westfield and the Monon Trail.

“It’s a big project for the whole city,” he said. “I think they’ll get to the point where they’ll get some black (asphalt) down this year.”

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