In 2017, Griffith’s Park Board and Parks & Recreation Department began implementing a five-year master plan to make the town's facilities more inviting to community members of all ages.
Now in its fourth year, the ambitious plan based on information gathered from public meetings and community surveys has seen significant upgrades, renovations and new attractions in parks, says Tim Diamond, president of the Griffith Park Board.
Among finished projects are an upgraded playground at Central Park, 698 N. Broad St., playground with a soft surface and Americans with Disabilities Act compliant equipment, Al Markut, superintendent of Griffith Parks & Recreation Department says, making it a major draw for children with disabilities.
A new outdoor fitness area at Panther Park, 319 W. Columbia Ave., parallels the Erie Lackawanna Bike Trail and is the result of funds provided in part by the Legacy Foundation, the Neighborhood Spotlight program and the Griffith Rotary Club. The revamp also has focused on fixing/replacing fencing and lighting and scoreboards and adding storage/concession buildings to all youth sports areas.
“Cheever Park had a few areas in dire need of repair," Diamond says of the facility at 399 N. Elmer St. “The handball wall was falling apart, but was revived by a volunteers, Rich Leber and John Dudlicek. Victor Sanchez and Anthony LaRocca painted and lined the courts. Now the location is a destination spot for handball players around the country. The wall is U.S. Handball Association (USHA) certified and host to tournaments annually.”
Also at Cheever, the tennis courts were repaved and made into four pickleball courts on one side and Futsal/roller hockey with goals on the other side.
Diamond point to an article in The Times from 1970s that spoke about Griffith Parks’ efforts to build a park on the north end of town.
“It took 50 years, but we got it done,” Diamond says of Firefighter’s Park, the town’s newest park adjacent to Fire Station 3 at 1600 N. Indiana St.
With the help of Indiana Department of Natural Resources Land and Conservation Grants, the park's playground was completed last year and the pavilion, restrooms, sidewalk and parking completed this year, Diamond says. "The park has a firehouse/firetruck theme with soft surface and ADA compliant equipment.”
As the final year its master plan approaches, the park board is continuing to look ahead.
“We have a long wish list of ideas to enhance the parks and bike trail,” says Diamond. “As funds and grants materialize, we discuss which project or projects are the best fit for our objectives. And as we enter the final year, we’ll work on the next five year master plan to make sure we meet the DNR deadline, which is mid to late January for the first year of the plan.”
“All of what has been accomplished is the work of volunteers,” says Diamond, himself a volunteer. He also notes that six part-time park employees do an amazing job maintaining the parks and trail, keeping them clean and manicured and repaired. With likely the smallest budget in the county, we fund these capital improvement projects with bonds, grants and donations."
Griffith was recognized by the Legacy Foundation's Neighborhood Spotlight program to build a quality of life plan and a Better Block program, he continues. “This has opened up grant opportunities to help in our park improvements. Griffith Tri Kappa and Griffith Rotary have also been great contributors.”
Diamond says they’re very proud of all the projects completed but points to one with a special pride.
“The Central playground kicked off this master plan, and it has received nothing but praise,” says Diamond. “There is a thank you letter from a parent of a child with spina bifida that I keep on my wall at work. She spoke of a park that her child can finally use.”
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!