Plans for new North Vernon park receive public support

The design for turning the old Muscatatuck Country Club and Fords Crossing Golf Course into a park for the North Vernon community met with approval at the first public meeting for the plans.

A special session of the North Vernon City Council was conducted Nov. 7 at Carnegie City Hall building so residents could learn about the project.

The plans were developed by a committee of volunteers commissioned by the city to developing a park from 54 acres of land previously purchased by the city.

As head of the Tripton Park Committee, Bob Ertel began his presentation to council members and about 35 residents with aerial views of the former golf course as it stands now.

“For years, this land has just been idle space with trees,” said Ertel, before he unveiled the committee’s plan for the new Tripton Park.

The plan for Tripton Park includes an information center, public restrooms, play areas, a dog park, a bocce ball court, a pavilion and an amphitheater with seating for several hundred people.

Using graphics and maps of the area, Ertel said the committee’s design also includes plans for a fitness center, pollinator patches along walking trails, a nature learning center, a pond with a fountain and an area complete with free Wi-Fi.

An additional 6 acres of the original golf course will be used for a solar energy field.

Ertel told the audience that there was room for additions to the committee’s design if anyone had ideas about activities or items that should also be considered for the new park.

“I encourage you to walk the trails through the area and see what you come up with. This is not a closed project. There is room for additions as we move forward,” Ertel said.

“We are moving forward with this,” North Vernon District 4 Councilman Brian Hatfield said. “We are taking every opportunity we can to improve our city and make North Vernon a desirable place to live.”

Kathy Ertel, executive director of the Jennings County Economic Development Commission, suggested the possibility of a grant for additional funding, and Ertel requested a motion to approve an allocation for matching funds if the project was awarded a grant.

Clerk-Treasurer Shawn Gerkin said the finances were already in order to begin full-force work on the project because $450,000 had been allocated in the city’s 2018 budget to help with any initial expenses.

Ertel also requested a motion by the council to approve the next step in the process of creating a new city park. The council approved that the committee can begin the process of contacting contractors and architects to get bids on the cost for implementing the plans. After bids are received, the North Vernon City Council will reconvene to vote to approve funding for work to begin on the project.

As the meeting concluded, District 1 Councilman Jack Kelly said, “Tripton Park begins here tonight.”