In anticipation of the upcoming opening of The Jasper Parklands, the Jasper Park and Recreation Board held their regular meeting at the pavilion and then toured the property.
With the heavy rain the evening prior to the tour, the still active construction site was somewhat muddy but community and park board members were able to see some of the highlights that will be available to the public after July’s grand opening.
The city will host a dedication ceremony on Saturday, July 7, at 10:30 a.m. at the Pavilion. The official grand opening to the public will be the same day at 1 p.m. The entrance to the park is located on 15th Street across from the National Guard Armory.
Prior to the tour, board president Roger Seger reiterated several times that the public would need to be patient as the park and recreation department allowed the park designed to be a natural playground to shape organically. “Things aren’t perfect out here yet so just bear with us for a little while,” he said. “We are going to open up July 7th and not everything is going to be perfect.”
Seger pointed out that with the Indiana native wildflowers and grasses featured in the park, it will take a couple years for them to fill out. The vast majority of the 75-acre park will be filled with these native grasses, flowers and trees while 25 acres has been specifically set aside as a natural area in accordance with a grant from the Bicentennial Nature Trust and Indiana Heritage Trust.
The park features about two miles of paved 10-foot wide walking/running/biking trail with outlying crushed gravel paths leading to the many features.
The paved path includes access to four exercise stations, the Kiwanis music playground (which features several large outdoor musical instruments for kids and adults), a multi-level timber construction fort in the woods of the donated 25-acres, a splash pad near the pavilion and a rock playground.
Seger pointed out that he was enthralled the amount of money that had been donated by private businesses and families. “We got over $2 million in donations and didn’t have to make one phone call,” he said. “That’s really neat.”
Seger added that phase two includes a couple projects he is interested in seeing completed. Those include a natural outdoor amphitheater and a lookout tower that could be placed at the highest point in the park. “It would go up in the air 150 to 200 feet,” he said. “Basically, you’ll be able to oversee the entire City of Jasper.”
With phase one nearly complete though, the park will have plenty of amenities for the public to enjoy as a recreational and relaxing natural park in the center of the city.
“It’s going to be the nicest park we have in the City of Jasper,” Parks and Recreation Director Ken Buck said. ‘Even in the state of Indiana.”
During the meeting, the park board took a moment to dedicate the main pond adjacent to the pavilion as Otis Pond in honor of Mike “Otis” Oeding. Oeding was the former assistant park director and spent many hours working on The Parklands after it was purchased by the City of Jasper in 2014. His dedication to the new park as well as his love for fishing — this pond has two fishing piers and is the only one where fishing will be allowed — made the dedication an appropriate recognition of Oeding’s service.