Prioritizing parks improvements

City residents are being invited to help shape the future of the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department as it looks to develop a master plan for the next five years.

This is not the first such effort.

Nearly $6 million in capital improvement project spending was outlined for the 2007-2011 master plan. Some of the biggest projects were:

Lighting at the Clifty Park fast-pitch complex, $280,000.

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Commons chiller and cooling tower replacement, $250,000.

Playground renovation at The Commons, $200,000

People Trail development, $125,000

Five years later, the master plan called for $23,224,500 in capital improvement projects in 2012-2017, with more than half — $12.7 million — targeted for renovations at the Hamilton Center Ice Arena. Smaller projects included:

Tower elevator and utility work at Mill Race Park, $600,000.

Playground and surfacing at Lincoln Park, $350,000

Play structure and surfacing at Harrison Ridge Park, $280,000

Restroom replacement at Lincoln Park, $250,000

Playground and surfacing at Oakbrook Park, $250,000

While parks officials say many projects that were outlined in the department’s past and current master plans were completed, not all of the projects came to fruition. For example, the lighting at the Clifty Park fast-pitch complex has not yet been done, said Mark Jones, parks and recreation director.

But his department will be drafting yet another master plan for the next five years, and — like before — wants help from the public in prioritizing what’s most important to them.


An online survey, which is underway, will allow participants to provide feedback that will help determine priorities on facilities, programs and services offered to the community, Jones said. Paper copies of the survey also are available and can be submitted through Jan. 6.Facility needs and priorities, the quality of recreation and sports programs offered by the parks and recreation department and whether an individual favors or opposes certain improvements taking place are among the questions being asked. Comments can also be provided on any improvements for parks and recreational facilities that individuals feel may be necessary.

The feedback from citizens will allow parks and recreation staff members a better direction on what it needs to focus on, Jones said.

The city is working on its master plan with Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf, a design and planning firm based in Indianapolis. The completed master plan also will allow the department to pursue federal grants from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Jones said.

Jones said residents will be informed about the survey as part of information contained in their December utility bills. More than 300 responses have been received so far, he said.

“We’ve been very successful in following what our citizens want, and we’re here for the community,” Jones said.

Results of the survey will not only determine priorities, but will also guide the department in determining what improvements can be made as well, he said.

Vikki Murphy, director of sports programs, said the survey is also being used as a tool to determine what trends may be popular among the public, pointing to pickleball — started in 2014 — as one example.

“We listen to our community and our overall users,” Murphy said. “Parks is all about family.”

Jones said he is looking forward to the final product of the master plan — which is expected to be completed in the spring — and where it eventually takes the department.

What some think

Aaron Robb-Krupa, who grew up in Columbus before relocating to suburban Houston, said she feels the Columbus parks system is in good shape, but had a few ideas regarding possible additions.Robb-Krupa was visiting Donner Park with her husband Jim and their two children when they were in town visiting family for Thanksgiving.

Robb-Krupa suggested that the city should consider adding ziplines, a popular activity in her city and many others.

“I think that would go swimmingly here,” she said. “It’s good for ages 4 to teenagers to enjoy.”

The addition of a splash pad also would be an added benefit for children in the area, Robb-Krupa said.

Columbus resident Jeff Baker said he would like to see a performing arts center and a new, high-quality dog park added.

The city already has a dog park located in Clifty Woods at the corner of Marr Road and Hollowell Drive, but Baker said he would like to see one with water spouts and other amenities for dogs.

“It’s an asset where places have done it,” Baker said. “The community deserves a first-class dog park.”

Joe Kahlenbeck, owner of Columbus Cycling and Fitness, said he would like to see more improvements along the People Trail, increasing recreational opportunities for people in the area.

“That has been a good asset to the community,” Kahlenbeck said. “Anything bicycle-related is healthy.”

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To provide feedback on the upcoming Columbus parks and recreation master plan, visit surveymonkey/r/ColumbusParksPlan. The survey will be open until Jan. 6.

Paper copies of the survey can be picked up from and returned to the parks department offices at Donner Center, 739 22nd St.