Chelsea Schneider, Municipal Innovations Specialist

Upgrades to Wabash’s downtown and riverfront and plans for a new all-inclusive park are part of the city’s strategy to grow its population.

“We are trying to create a quality of life, quality of place,” Wabash Mayor Scott Long said. “Our young people who leave the community go to college and get used to the amenities college towns offer.”

The city has focused on adding trails, diversifying its business offerings and improving the education system. The goal: To attract recent college graduates who grew up in Wabash back to the community.

Another focus has been on adding art elements. Community leaders secured a grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to beautify a city parking lot. The project added signage that’s illuminated with solar lights at night.

“It definitely provides some unique character for your city to be able to utilize those funds to do things like that, which improves the aesthetics of your city, and it’s a good way for the state to partner with a local community,” Long said.

A key focus for Long is constructing an all-inclusive park in Wabash. Several families are spearheading the project to build a playground with equipment that’s accessible to all visitors.

“We wanted to get this all-inclusive playground, not only for kids to play with friends, but for grandparents to be able to interact with their grandchildren, too,” Long said. “It will have different slopes and different designs on it that will benefit all generations and all capabilities.”

Plans also call for a sensory garden to benefit children with autism.

The city currently is fundraising for the project that’s expected to cost around $1.5 million, Long said.

Among other projects:

  • This summer the city is set to open its new Wabash Riverfront Park. Wabash was the first municipality to receive funds through a new state crowdfunding tool, raising $82,000 to connect the Wabash River to the city’s downtown. The project will convert unused public space into a plaza. The space will offer outdoor recreational activities, including a new outfitters store where visitors can rent canoes, kayaks and bicycles. Seating areas near the riverfront also are part of the project.
  • The historic Eagles Theatre in Downtown Wabash is set to undergo renovations later this year. The project will add many amenities to spark interest in young and old alike, Long said.

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