Issues of accessibility to the city's recreational parks and facilities for people with disabilities were raised at Monday night's meeting of the Greencastle Park Board.
Park Board President Leslie Hanson said the board has known for several years that the city's parks were not fully in compliance with standards set forth in the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) but delayed action, in part, due to financial constraints.
The requirements include making sure people in wheelchairs have access to picnic areas and shelter houses, children's play areas and places where sporting events take place.
"It's an issue that comes up every year when we talk about our master plan," Hanson said.
Parks and Recreation Director Rod Weinschenk said the city is not required to make all of its facilities completely handicap accessible, rather a percentage.
Examples include making sure half of the picnic areas in a given area are handicap accessible and half of the seating areas along segments of People Pathways are accessible, meaning a person in a wheelchair can pull alongside a bench and talk with someone sitting on the bench.
Other areas where additions will need to be made include Jaycee Park, which Weinschenk said doesn't meet any of the standards of ADA.
The bleachers at Robe-Ann Park are another example where accessing the area in a wheelchair is difficult, Weinschenk said.
A saving grace for the parks department could come in the way of a grant, through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, titled Access to Recreation Initiative.
The purpose of the grant is to provide $1.5 million in grants to communities to improve recreational facilities for use by people with disabilities. In order to receive the grant, the parks department would have to partner with a community foundation, which in the case of Greencastle is the Putnam County Commun-ity Foundation.
"We'll have to work together on this," Weinschenk said.
It has been suggested that grants be submitted for at least $25,000.
"It's gonna have to be a big project versus something small," Weinschenk said.
An important element of the grant process is the disabled residents themselves. For that reason, Weinschenk hopes to find people in the community who would like to be considered for helping plan for the grant.
This includes talking to disabled residents about what they would like to see in the way of handicap accessible sites at the city parks.
On Monday night, the park board voted in favor of allowing Weinschenk to move forward with these plans. He said he would like to wrap up the planning in time to apply for the grant by the July 1 deadline.
"It's important for us to do this and this grant gives us an opportunity to do that," Hanson added at the end of the meeting.
In other business, the park board:
-- Approved two memorandums of agreement with engineering company Hannum, Wagle and Cline to draw up design plans for a paved driveway, parking lot and trails at Big Walnut Sports Park. The park board is continuing to move forward with plans to assume ownership of a portion of the sports park to develop into a community park. Last year, they received a federal grant to make improvements at the facility to include walk paths, frisbee golf course, restroom facility and paved parking areas. Their decision Monday night is a preliminary step toward eventually making those improvements.
-- Learned that as part of the Safe Routes to School grant recently received by the park board -- for the construction of the portion of the Albin Pond trail of People Pathways between Deer Meadow School and Greencastle High School -- the parks department needs to complete a survey of who will use that path once it is complete. The grant is intended to improve the route children have to get to school, specifically those children who walk or ride their bikes.
-- Learned that the parks department will have to seek new proposals for the design of Phase IV, known as the Campus Link, of People Pathways due to an error in hiring an engineer earlier in the process. The Indiana Dept. of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the project along Ind. 240 -- or Veterans Memorial Highway -- recently handed down the requirement. Weinschenk said it is to make sure every agency that is interested in doing the work has an equal chance to place a bid.
-- Learned that plans for a memorial park on the east side of Greencastle City Hall, to eventually be known as Mary Rogers Field Park, are continuing to move forward. Planners of the project are hoping to create a flower garden and seating area in memory of the late resident of Greencastle.
-- Voted to approve Leslie Hanson as board president; Tim Trigg as vice president and Kara Thomas as secretary. Dr. John Hennette also sits on the board.
The Greencastle Park Board meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at city hall.