Discussion about the downtown riverfront park took up a good portion of the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department's board of park commissioners meeting Thursday in Citizens Square. But park board members also approved projects ranging from a major expansion and remodeling at Salomon Farm Park to a makeover for a statue of early Fort Wayne leader Col. David Foster.
Park board action included:
* Approved a contract with low-bidder Schenkel Construction of Fort Wayne for $566,040 to expand the existing Environmental Learning Center by 5,000 square feet at Salomon Farm Park off Dupont Road. The expanded area will be designed to look just like the existing building, which contains about 3,500 square feet, said Steve McDaniel, the parks department's deputy director of asset management.
Parks officials hope Schenkel can get the exterior shell of the expansion completed by the start of winter so interior work can be completed during winter months, McDaniel said. The goal is to have the new area ready for use by spring.
The expanded learning center will allow the parks department to serve about 780 children next summer in the Farmin' Fun Day Camp at the park, board members learned. The parks department had about 150 children this summer on waiting lists to attend the camp, Parks Director Al Moll said.
The expansion also will feature the addition of a large teaching kitchen, which can be used for a variety of youth and adult programs, said Kellie Adkins, parks department manager of outdoor recreation. Examples of possible new programs include farm-to-fork cooking classes, culinary workshops and honey extraction for people interested in beekeeping.
The Environmental Learning Center expansion also would make it more accommodating for rentals for wedding receptions or other events, the park board learned.
* The parks department also plans an extensive remodeling of the former Salomon family homestead on the park grounds, returning it how it looked about 1930, said Steve Schuhmacher, superintendent of grounds and improvements. The park board approved an architectural services contract for $32,000 with Hoch Associates of Fort Wayne to design the remodeling work.
The parks department wants the house to both serve as a historic display and to be functional for private rental for meetings or other gatherings, Schuhmacher said.
* Approved a contract with low-bidder Schenkel Construction for $331,000 to replace the existing sidewalk around the edge of the pond at Reservoir Park and the sidewalks in the park that link neighborhood public sidewalks to the sidewalks around the pond.
The parks department had planned to build a new pavilion in the park, but that idea has been put on hold in favor of installing new lighting and building a parking lot off Creighton Avenue with a service drive to the youth center in the park, McDaniel told board members. The parks department also plans to clear scrub trees and bushes from the park's hill.
* Approved contracts with Schenkel Construction and Hamilton Hunter Builders in Fort Wayne for a combined total of $446,142 to install a new restroom building and open-air picnic shelter in Shoaff Park between an angled parking area and the playground and splash pad. In addition to men's and women's restrooms, the building will have a family restroom.
* Approved a contract with Shade Trees Unlimited in Columbia City for $284,665 to buy and plant 1,454 trees from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 in local parks and along Fort Wayne streets. The trees will include 32 different species, with 550 going along city streets and others going in 12 parks, said Derek Veit, the parks department's superintendent of urban forestry.
The total includes trees planted by volunteers during the Great Tree Canopy Comeback event Oct. 21, which will put trees in Waynedale, Waynedale Gardens, Buckner and Memorial parks, Veit said.
Matching funds from residents who want a street tree planted at their address and a grant of more than $116,000 from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources will help fund the tree purchases and planting.
* Approved a contract with Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio in Forest Park, Ill., for $54,500 to restore the bronze statue of Fort Wayne parks founder Col. David Foster, which is located in the east side of Swinney Park. The statue has turned green except for black corrosion in Foster's eyes and on his shoulders and pants.
When restored, the sculpture will be brown in color, the board learned.
Memorial Park update
This spring, the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department's board of park commissioners appointed a task force to study Memorial Park and to make recommendations on possible improvements.
That action came after strong public opposition — largely by U.S. military veterans — led Indiana Tech to drop a proposal to build a new women's softball stadium, track-and-field complex, and athletics training and office building in the park.
Task force members gathered to meet each other in July and met last week at the Memorial Park pavilion, Garry Morr, deputy director of finance and support services, told park board members when asked Thursday for a progress report.
The task force will meet in September to discuss the statues and monuments in the park, including the landscaping around them and whether any of the statues or monuments should be moved to a new location in the park, Morr said. To help the task force, the parks department's landscape architect and superintendent of urban forestry already have assessed the trees and landscaping in the park.
Morr also said a task force member representing a local U.S. veterans group, Gary Perkey of the Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club, said his group wants to pay for replanting the 125 trees reportedly installed originally in the park's memorial grove in memory of Allen County men and women who died during U.S. military service in World War I.
Perkey said his group hopes to raise about $35,000 to complete the project, Morr said.