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Pickleball courts, new park suggested at Fort Wayne Parks public input meeting

More than 15 people suggested ideas on how to improve Fort Wayne parks during a public input meeting Thursday night at the Riverlodge Pavilion in Shoaff Park. The Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department sought the input as part of developing a new five-year master plan. (By Kevin Kilbane of The News-Sentinel)

Pickleball players made their wishes known and people suggested opening a new park and other ideas during a meeting Thursday night to get public input for the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department’s upcoming five-year master plan.

Seventeen residents attended the meeting held at 5:30 p.m. at Riverlodge Pavilion in Shoaff Park, 6401 St. Joe Road.

Their suggestions included:

* Buy the now-closed Park Forest Swim Club, 5433 Hewitt Lane in northeast Fort Wayne, and turn the approximately 5.5-acre property into a city park. The request came from a man who said he represented both the Oakhurst Park and Bullerman Park Forest neighborhood associations.

* Start Go Fund Me online fundraising pages for each park to encourage donations to pay for needed small items of $500 or less, such as benches and picnic tables.

* Build an outdoor pickleball complex with at least 12 to 16 pickleball courts, at least some of which would have lights for night play.

* Develop a consistent programming schedule at McMillen Park Community Center, 3901 Abbott Street, so pickleball players know what hours and days they can use the center’s indoor pickleball courts.

* Install pickleball courts and a walking trail loop at Buckner Park, 6114 Bass Road in southwest Fort Wayne.

* Expand the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and improve adjacent Shoaff Lake, both of which are in Franke Park off Sherman Boulevard.

* Keep park restrooms open year-round. McDaniel said the parks department closes them because their water lines could freeze during winter.

* Include space for recreational sports in the downtown riverfront development plans.

* Build better trails up the hill in Reservoir Park, 2300 S. Clinton St.

* Provide more opportunities for outdoor ice skating in winter, especially for hockey.

* Remove and control honeysuckle and other invasive plant species along the rivers.

NEXT STEPS

The parks department, which is working with local firms Earth Source and Grinsfelder Associates to develop its five-year master plan, must submit a draft of the plan by Jan. 15 to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Outdoor Recreation, said Steve McDaniel, parks deputy director of asset management. The final version of the plan must be submitted by April 15.

Because they all base their plans on the same local demographic data, the city parks department, Allen County Parks Department and New Haven-Adams Township Parks and Recreation Department all are cooperating on the submission of their five-year master plans, McDaniel said.

Developing and filing a master plan is required for some applications for grants and funding, especially from the federal government, he said.

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