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Expansion Plans

Group is raising funds
to develop John Paul Park

Cincinnati Brass Band to
perform as part of fundraiser

By Tess Worrell
Contributing Writer

(June 2012) – Madison, Ind., boasts a beautiful riverfront park in its Bicentennial Park, where major festivals are held, and an expansive recreational park in Rucker Sports Complex on the hilltop. But plans are under way to establish and upgrade an even older park site in the downtown by expanding John Paul Park, named for the city’s founder.

John Paul Park

File photo by Don Ward

John Paul Park was established
in 1904 in Madison and named
for the city’s founder.

A fundraising campaign continues toward making the plans come to fruition.
“The John Paul Park has meant so much to children over the years,” says Jill Keller, president of the John Paul Park Conservancy. “We hope those who still have good memories of playing at the park will step forward to keep it going for today’s children.”
The Conservancy has big plans for the park. Adding to the already established recreational uses, the Conservancy plans to create an amphitheater for open air events and a nature center for exploring water and meadow life.
“We have the plans; we have the vision; we need the funding,” says Keller.
The Cincinnati Brass Band returns for the annual fundraiser for the John Paul Park on June 23 at 7 p.m. The concert offers a lively range of music and the opportunity to support the park. Admission is free, but donations toward the park development will be collected at intermission. The Conservancy hopes to make significant progress toward raising awareness in the community of all the park will offer and to encourage community members to contribute.
Keller notes the Master Plan calls for park development to take three phases. Phase I – to reinforce the hill. Every time heavy rains fall, the hill erodes a bit more. Critical to saving the park will be reinforcing the hill. More than just a engineering feat, Keller notes the reinforcement will broaden the scope of the park. The plan calls for adding amphitheater seating on the hillside with an amphitheater at the bottom of the hill. The theater will expand the park’s offerings to include art shows, plays and other productions.

Jill Keller

Jill Keller

Phase II – to create a nature center. The park, located along both a creek and meadow, offers the perfect setting for nature walks and more in-depth nature study. Larry DeBuhr, with the Rivers Institute at Hanover College, serves on the planning board and says he looks forward to all the park can contribute to nature study.
“A walking trail with interpretive signs would allow parents and teachers alike to explore trees, insects and water life along the trail,” he said. “Further, creation of a shelter would offer teachers a living laboratory for classroom instruction in nature and ecology.”
He hopes the facilities will meet the Indiana State Curriculum Guidelines to qualify for outdoor instruction making the park a significant addition for classrooms and summer camps alike.
Phase III – to re-landscape the upper portion of the park. At the park’s opening in 1904, the states making up the 13 original colonies each donated a state tree to the park. Only four trees are still living. The Master Plan calls for landscaping the upper portion to recapture the original beauty and history of the park.
Keller gratefully acknowledges the support and encouragement of the City of Madison and notes that the Conservancy and Madison are working closely together to achieve a vision that will take the long-appreciated recreational value of the park and expand it into the arts, history and educational future of Madison. She says the park was once a central part of downtown and community life, but many have lost interest. Keller hopes that the expansion will reignite interest in the park creating a draw for a variety of groups.
“But it all depends on the funding,” says Keller.
Keller has seen some funding flow from families who grew up in the area of Madison surrounding the park. To honor loved ones, families have stepped forward to sponsor elements of the park’s development. One family has offered to purchase the fountain. Others have contributed toward the nature center. Keller said she hopes this trend will continue. Keller would like to see businesses and individuals alike make a commitment to supporting park development. “So many adults have memories of playing soft ball on that field. Decades later they still recall playing. We need them to step forward now and contribute to the future of the park for future children’s memories.”
All donations to the Conservancy are tax deductible, which Keller hopes will encourage more community members to contribute. She knows these are tough times, and many people contribute to causes which feed or house those who are needy. Yet, the park needs attention now, she says.
The Master Plan requires $3.5 million in funding. Work cannot begin until funds are raised. Keller asks those who remember the park’s contribution to Madison’s history and who believe in what it can offer the future to step forward.

• For more information or to contribute, contact the John Paul Park Conservancy, Inc., P.O. Box 338, Madison, IN, 47250.

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