Erin Jamison-Koenig, Communications Director
In 2020 when the world shut down, the City of Charlestown took the opportunity to work on a five-year Parks Master Plan. Charlestown is a community of just under 9,000 on the Ohio River in southeast Indiana. With 46 acres, several playgrounds, sport fields and courts, and a splashpad, the Parks Department wasn’t lacking, but the city capitalized on a quieter time to see what could be improved upon.
Working with a consultant, public input was sought through steering committee meetings, stakeholder interviews, and a public survey. After they were told to expect around 100 responses to the survey, the 15-question survey received over 500 responses. The level of survey engagement and key take aways invigorated the staff to start moving on the plan.
After completing the Master Plan in 2021, Charlestown is putting it into action this year with several projects and programs.
The city heard the call for increased programing, especially non-traditional activities. Utilizing one of the parks’ unique assets, the Parks and Recreation Department will be hosting a Skate Day on March 25 at the Charlestown Skate Park. Road Dog Skate Camp will be coming into town to teach children ages 6-14 to skateboard.
“One of the things that we learned during the process is that we have a whole spectrum of interests in the city,” said Charlestown Mayor Treva Hodges. “Everything from art to traditional sports like basketball, baseball, football. But also, some of these nontraditional things like skateboarding and disc golf.”
Later this year, the centrally located Greenway Park is being renovated into an inclusive playground with designs that allow everyone to feel welcome. The equipment has been ordered and is set to include a ramp to the play deck and slides, inclusive swing sets, sensory panels, and a rubber safety surface throughout.
Funding for the project is being split between a Quality of Place – Pathways to Progress grant from the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana and the city’s budget. Marissa Knoebel, the Director of Parks and Recreation, is hoping to have a complete playground by fall and is looking forward to seeing everyone playing together in one place.
A key takeaway from the Master Plan was the desire for a bigger park system and a goal to expand the outdoor opportunities and trails. Sharon Kleinert heard the city needed land for a new park and she offered the city the opportunity they could not resist. Charlestown received a 70-acre donation from Kleinert in the southern part of the city, which will become Shadow Lake Park. While it is still in the early stages of development, the city will maintain the greenspace with native plants and land features for everyone to enjoy.
Throughout the process citizens and stakeholders advocated for an increase in public art. Last summer, picnic tables were painted by local artists and were used at events all throughout the city. Artists, young and old, submitted applications for their artwork to be featured and those accepted painted the tables during a Saturday on the Square Pop-Up Market. When handed a small stipend for her work, a young artist was thrilled to have her first paying job in her own community. Knoebel is hopeful the program will return again this year for a refresh of the community’s tables.
So what’s the next project to tackle from the Master Plan? Knoebel has her sights toward a Civic Complex that will be the place to go for community events and daily recreation in Charlestown.