During its Aug. 16 meeting, the Zionsville Town Council continued discussions to pursue initial steps toward securing a future park while denying funds to begin the process of building a community center. The latter decision drew criticism from Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron.
Council members moved to continue discussions on a $150,000 additional appropriation to fund master planning and conceptual planning at Carpenter Nature Preserve, which was formerly Wolf Run Golf Club. The funds would be used to determine if the town would be able to realize the mayor’s goal of transforming the nature preserve into a public park.
Zionsville residents Jim and Nancy Carpenter bought the former golf club and developed it into a nature preserve. In an informal agreement, the Carpenters purchased the land in February for $5.5 million and intend to one day sell it to the town at a discounted price — approximately $4 million, the couple said in June — so that the town can repurpose it as a public park. The councilors decided to wait until the next meeting to vote on the additional appropriation so that all of the councilors could tour the property prior to voting.
“The hope is to begin this project this fall, wrapping up next spring to have documents beginning to advertise and publicize the future park that’s going to be online as we ask for donations and appropriations in the future for those projects,” Zionsville Supt. of Parks and Recreation Jarod Logsdon said during the meeting.
Councilors voiced skepticism about another large project, an indoor community center, to the chagrin of Styron, who posted a four-page statement on social media Aug. 26 criticizing the council’s decision. The council voted to deny a $125,000 additional appropriation that would have allowed the town to begin a conceptual plan for the project and analyze where such a facility would “make sense and understand what that footprint would look like,” Logsdon said.
The town’s master plan identified a need for indoor recreation facilities, Logsdon told the council before their vote.
“One of the common complaints is (that) we have an amazing park system, but as the snow starts falling, our recreational activities become limited, and a large portion of our community goes to other communities for those services,” Logsdon said.
Two possible locations were on 12 acres at Azionaqua Swim Club and land on County Road 875 next to Heritage Trail Park. Logsdon said the additional appropriation would have allowed the town to determine the price of an indoor community center and other expenses.
Councilor Brad Burk said the community will have a community center when the Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library opens its Whitestown Branch, which will include meeting and indoor space. Construction on the new 23,000-square-foot branch is expected to begin in October, and it could open as soon as the fourth quarter of 2022.
“My concern on polling the community on what they want, they already have (it),” Burk said. “They just don’t know it’s there yet.”
Town Council President Josh Garrett said he doesn’t support funding an indoor community center because of the potential price.
“I have not had anyone come to me and say they want a community center,” Garrett said. “I have no desire to spend money on a community center, and I don’t have any desire to spend money on planning for a community center. It’ll be a no for me every time this comes up.”
Styron issued a statement Aug. 26, voicing her displeasure with the council’s vote.
“As the fiscal body of the Town of Zionsville, I understand Council’s desire to be fiscally responsible with all spending,” Styron stated. “That is why we have requested this planning process. The process would ensure we are building a community center that not only has the amenities and programs our residents desire, but that aligns fiscally with what our town needs.”
To read Styron’s full statement, visit the Town of Zionsville’s Facebook page.
Garrett said Styron did not contact the council before the vote to express her opinions before the meeting, although Styron’s administration has been in talks with Azionaqua officials regarding a potential facility dating back as far as November 2020, when the town issued a press release announcing that Zionsville and Azionaqua Swim Club had entered an agreement in which the town and Azionaqua were actively exploring additional recreational opportunities for residents.
“With additional funding cycles, there are always opportunities to revisit this,” Logsdon said after the meeting.