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Renovations proposed for old garden site

Friday, September 8, 2006

If you can get past the faded walls, dirty floors, and piles of plastic flower pots that make up the former Clearwaters Garden Center in Greencastle, you just might find a place for families to gather for picnics on warm summer days or a grassy lawn where a father and son can toss a baseball back and forth.

Members of the Greencastle Park Board were envisioning that very thing when they agreed to purchase the small lot located in the southwest corner of Greencastle's Robe-Ann Park.

Park board members toured the property, for the first time, Wednesday night and found a building that is clearly in need of some major cleaning and perhaps could use a little bit of renovation.

The main part of the building is a bright, airy space with adequate windows and doors, which park officials feel makes it an ideal place for people to have receptions or other group activities -- similar to the small building at Jaycee Park.

"It would have its benefits as an indoor shelter," Greencastle Parks and Recreation Director Rod Weinschenk said during the tour.

But there are aspects of the building that park board members didn't like.

One of the rooms had apparently been added on at a later time. The floor is not in good shape and the overall structure is showing its age.

Next to it is a much smaller space with an unfinished floor and gaps in the walls leading to the outside.

Behind the main building are a number of rickety wood-framed greenhouses that were used during the property's former life as a garden center.

Weinschenk said he is thinking about hosting the next city auction there and selling off any of the remaining items that the public may be interested in purchasing. Other items include an old semitrailer propped up on blocks in one corner of the property.

While touring the site, it was suggested that a portion of the property could be turned into a parking lot both for the building and the skate park that occupies the land just to the east of the property.

Board members appeared supportive of the idea of reconfiguring the entrance to the skate park to be accessed from the west versus its current orientation to the east.

However nothing has been decided for sure at this point.

During the park board's meeting after the tour, Weinschenk said he would investigate the costs of demolishing the building compared to updating it to be used by the parks department. He said he hoped to have more information by the October park board meeting.

Board member Tim Trigg said he would like to know what it would cost to make the building useable again, while John Hennette expressed a desire to see the site cleaned up first.

"It's hard to sort of visualize it without all the junk," he said.

Meanwhile, board members will have to wait a little long before they can order a soil test of the site to make sure there are no contaminants resulting from the property's former use as a gas station.

Weinschenk said the board would have to wait until the next Brownfield grant cycle before knowing if money would be available to pay for the soil tests.

City Engineer Glen Morrow said, during a recent City Council meeting, that the cleanup could be costly.

In other business, the board:

-- Learned that the parks department has received several applications for the assistant parks superintendent position. Board members agreed Wednesday to form a personnel committee to begin interviewing candidates for the job.

-- Learned that the Albin Pond trail link of People Pathways has been moved up on the Indiana Dept. of Transportation's to-do list and a project manager from the Crawfordsville office has been assigned to the project.

Weinschenk said he hopes the city can begin buying land for the trail along Albin Pond Road by December. He said he hopes construction can begin by the fall of 2007.

The Greencastle Park Board meets at 7 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at city hall.

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