Westfield City Council approves creation of parks department board


From Raymond Worth in the west to Simon Moon in the east, Westfield’s 11 parks feature everything from playgrounds and trails to serene places to spend an afternoon. Now, management of those areas will fall to a newly created Department of Parks and Recreation, under the management of a new Board of Parks and Recreation.

The Westfield City Council unanimously approved the creation of the new department during its Jan. 29 meeting.

Until now, the city has operated its parks as part of the public works department, under the direction of Parks and Recreation Supervisor Chris McConnell. Earlier in January, McConnell told the council that the new department and board will help the city in an effort to capture additional funding for parks and recreation opportunities. Those funds are generally not available to municipalities without a specific parks department, McConnell said. Such funding opportunities include federal land and conservation grants and funding from the Indiana Next Level Fund for trails and conservation projects.

Department staffing is also expected to grow.

“We’ve been operating with the same staff for about the past six years, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to meet the needs of a growing community,” McConnell told the council on Jan. 8. “If we’re really going to look at raising the level to the expectation of the community, we’re going to have to at some point in time look at adding more staff.”

Besides 400 acres of parks, the Parks Department will oversee the city’s trail system and other greenspaces, including 14 miles of trails, and assist Westfield Welcome with events at Grand Junction Plaza. Park staff is also responsible for 200 acres of road right-of-way as well as maintenance of landscaping and hardscaping inside roundabouts.

Creating the department also provides additional oversight and transparency, McConnell said.

Councilmembers said creation of the new board was long overdue.

“I do look forward to having a more robust park system throughout the entire city, and I think this is the right first step to do that,” said councilmember Patrick Tamm, who represents District 4.

The Parks and Recreation Board will be made up of four members appointed by the mayor, and no more than two members shall be of the same political party.

Those initially appointed will include one member for a term of one year; one member for a term of two years; one member for a term of three years; and one member for a term of four years.

An additional member will include one ex-officio member who is appointed by the Westfield-Washington School District.

The board’s duties will include performing all acts necessary to acquire and develop sites and facilities, and to conduct such programs as are generally understood to be park and recreation functions.

Mayor Scott Willis is expected to make those appointments early in the city’s second quarter.

Grand Park is not included within the organization of the new Department of Parks and Recreation. The 400-acre park complex is owned and managed by the city of Westfield. However, the site is soon expected to be managed by Grand Park Sports & Entertainment, a public-private partnership between the city, Keystone Group, Indy Sports & Entertainment, Indy Eleven, and Bullpen Ventures. The city and Grand Park Sports & Entertainment currently have a memorandum of understanding regarding the site management.