By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY —
The New Albany Parks Department is pressing along nicely through four months of operation, Mayor Jeff Gahan said this week.
Parks facilities have been a focal point of the administration since New Albany split from Floyd County in order to operate its own recreational system.
“I think we have a lot excitement surrounding the parks and this transition,” he said.
The New Albany City Council and Redevelopment Commission approved Gahan’s plan to add an outdoor aquatic center, multiuse park and an overhaul of Binford Park this year. Gahan touted the projects as not only a way to improve the parks system, but also to redevelop vacant areas in residential neighborhoods.
The aquatic center will be constructed at the former Camille Wright pool site, and the old Hoosier Panel property off Silver Street likely will be converted into a park with an indoor gymnasium, an outdoor field for football and soccer and possibly a skate park.
The council will have to approve the final design plan before construction starts, and the city has yet to purchase the Hoosier Panel property.
However, Gahan anticipates the plans for the aquatic center and Binford Park will be presented to the council within the next six weeks.
The council already has approved the financing for the projects, which will come in the form of a bond likely worth at least $17.6 million.
“Everything is moving along right on schedule,” said David Duggins, director of economic development and redevelopment for the city.
As planned, the aquatic center would open in 2015. Gahan said the projects are just part of what the new municipal parks department could accomplish.
“I think we have a unique opportunity now to really capitalize on the new structure that has been formed with the New Albany City Parks” Department, Gahan said.
UPGRADING EXISTING FACILITIES
In addition to installing new soccer fields at Binford Park, Gahan said the city parks board will look to improve the recreational facilities New Albany already possesses.
“The specific charge of the new parks board in the coming months will be developing those investments and those capital improvements, and deciding how they’ll be prioritized,” Gahan said of projects for existing parks.
The parks board has toured the existing parks and recreational facilities to take inventory. Gahan said the board will likely have some firm plans on how to improve the municipal parks within 60 days.
PARKS IN FULL SWING
However, activities and programs go on, as softball has started at Anderson Park and the Kathy Wilkerson Recreation Center is set to host a plethora of children’s events and classes this summer.
Kathy Wilkerson is serving as the interim director of the parks department until a permanent hire is made.
“The city parks are on track and everything is running wonderfully,” she said this week.
Though she has been offered the permanent position, Wilkerson wants to go back to managing programs for seniors and kids as she has for more than four decades.
Among the summer events, the parks department is offering its City Teen-n-Training Program, which requires a six-week commitment from local teenagers. Teenagers in the program learn about how to become recreation leaders, and assist with summer events hosted by the parks department.
There’s also youth enrichment programming that will run from June 3 to July 24 at the Kathy Wilkerson Center, which is funded by the New Albany Redevelopment Summer Lunch Program.
Read Monday’s edition of the News and Tribune for an update on the Floyd County Parks Department.
• There will be several programs and activities for kids, teenagers and seniors this summer at the Kathy Wilkerson Center. For more information, call 812-949-PARK.