Building Amenities: Zionsville Expands its Parks and Trails
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Courtesy of the Town of Zionsville
According to a survey that was made available to the general public from November 6 to December 31, 2017, Zionsville residents place a high level of importance on parks in the community. According to the Town of Zionsville Five Year Parks Master Plan published by the Zionsville Parks & Recreation Board in January 2018, the majority of respondents rate the physical condition of parks as excellent or good.
Extending the Zionsville Rail Trail (formerly Big 4 Rail Trail) received the highest responses for priority projects for the parks system. Continued trail development and connections between parks and neighborhoods was second in responses, and respondents were strongly in support of funding new parks systems with a variety of funds from grants to donations to the existing budget and a municipal bond.
With that knowledge, the Town and the Zionsville Parks Department are already moving forward with plans to add to the total park acreage and trail mileage as well as building a brand new nature center, adding to the list of the amenities accessible to residents and employees who live, work and within the town.
Recently announced, the development of Overley-Worman Park will be the newest park addition to the Zionsville Parks System. This 53-acre site was donated to the Parks Board as the residential subdivision is developed adjacent to the park. The site is located adjacent to the Big 4 Rail Trail corridor and will include land donated to continue the rail trail south of the 100-foot bridge over Eagle Creek to Zionsville Road.
Access to the site is possible through non-motor vehicles by way of the Big 4 Rail Trail. Motor vehicle access will be granted through the developing Vonterra subdivision. The developer of the subdivision is also providing a minimal parking area for park users as a part of the development.
“We [the Town] are going to finish out the Rail Trail and connect it to the bike path on Zionsville Road,” said Mayor Tim Haak. “Possible activities for the park will include Disc golf, a playground feature and trails that will include trails for mountain bikes.”
Director of Communications and Community Relations Amanda Vela mentioned the new park is part of the overall improvements designed to connect South Main Street to Main Street.
“This [Overley-Worman Park], in addition to the Zionsville Road project, is making the whole area more bike- and pedestrian-friendly with the pathway being added to the west side of Zionsville Road,” Vela explained. “It’s all part of connecting South Main Street to Main Street and making it more pedestrian/biker-friendly.”
Haak added, “We’re also doing the pedestrian improvements on Zionsville Road Bridge as well. The pathway will be at least 8 feet and made for pedestrian and bike traffic. Bids are due soon, and we are looking at later summer/fall at a project start date.”
The aforementioned survey responses showed that residents want more trails. Extending the Big 4 Rail Trail, more trails and a dog park were the top three requests, according to Vela.
“Overley-Worman and the Big 4 are a primary focus,” Haak said. “In addition to those projects, we are excited about building a new nature center. We’d like to start next year on that. We’re going to do some bonding later this year or early next year, so that we can begin next year.”
The new nature center will be built upon the former Rail Trail Gardens property, approximately 25 acres of land.
“We’re going to incorporate the greenhouse, and there will be connectivity onto the Rail Trail,” Haak shared. “The Parks Department will be moving with the nature center. The Police Department, which has been sharing the building with Parks, will have the whole facility of which they are in need of that space. We are working the site layout right now. Moving the nature center will give the center more space for its programs and more accessibility to the public.”
At its current location, the Zion Nature Center is limited to its hours of operation and available programming during the school year due to it being located on the grounds of Eagle Elementary. At its new location, parking and limited hours will not be an issue. Haak also sees the advantage of having the Parks Department at the same location.
“The new location will open up a whole other area to our Parks Department, and a whole other area of town can experience our Parks Department,” he said. “We’ve got all of the existing parks in the Village, but we are very lean out in the more rural area.”
Haak mentioned that he would like to see community events like “Bike with a Cop” expanded in the future and feels that the new nature center would be an ideal location.
“I can see the nature center being a hub for these kinds of events,” he said. “People will be able to easily park and organize their events there.”
Matt Dickey, director of the Zionsville Parks Department, weighed in on the parks and trails expansion plans. With a population of under 27,000 people, 19 existing parks and 420 acres of parks (and growing), Dickey emphasized that parks and trails are not just a valuable amenity to residents but are also a contributing factor to the Town’s economic development.
“The total acreage does not include the Holliday Nature Park property that is coming to us via a life estate,” Dickey pointed out. “That [park] will be an addition to the total acreage, and that current figure does not include the extension of the Rail Trail southward or northward and the acreage of Overley-Worman Park. Those projects will be in addition to the existing acreage. Not only do residents enjoy these amenities, but parks have been proven to have an economic impact beyond the housing market to the corporate level. Corporate headquarters look for amenities for their employees to keep them healthy and happy. Parks and trails are a big attraction to businesses.”