Fort Wayne officials, neighborhoods dedicate new Franklin School Park
By Kevin Kilbane | News - Sentinel
It was partly cloudy, breezy and the temperature was in the low 70s. But that didn't stop about 20 children from dashing through and around the new splashpad Thursday afternoon at Franklin School Park.
"It's super fun!" Lillie Swaim, 7, said.
"It's better than what I thought it would be," her sister, Layanna, 9, added.About 75 people, including city and neighborhood leaders, turned out late Thursday afternoon for the official dedication of the park at St. Marys and Archer avenues, and the turning on of water for the splashpad.
"The feedback I've been getting is the neighbors are really excited to play in the splashpad," said Kay Smith-Shoemaker, president of the North Highlands Neighborhood Association near the park and the Swaim sisters' grandmother. Smith-Shoemaker also is a member of the Franklin Park Group, a citizens group who worked with the city and Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department to create the park.
"It took a blight off this neighborhood," she added, referring to the vacant former Franklin Junior High School building that once stood on the property.
The park project also is part of efforts by the neighborhoods, which reportedly had been identified as on the tipping point of decline, to tip their future in an "awesome" direction, the Rev. Tim Hallman said in remarks during the dedication ceremony. Hallman, who also is a member of the Franklin Park Group, until recently served as the pastor of nearby Anchor Community Church on Third Street and remains involved in the neighborhoods' revitalization efforts.
Parks and neighborhood officials originally planned to dedicate the park and splashpad July 23, but they had to postpone it because the contractor didn't get grass growing around the splashpad in time.
During Wednesday's ceremony, parks Director Al Moll provided updates on other work planned at the park.
This fall, trees will be planted around the east side of the park, Moll said. In early spring, Phase II work will begin in the west side of the park, which includes renovating the existing garage building into a pavilion with a large plaza in front of it and installing a parking lot for 25 to 30 vehicles.Work on the pavilion, which should be completed by fall 2017, will include installing new bathrooms, and the building's garage doors will be replaced by glass garage doors that can be opened up during events, Moll said.
The money to complete Phase II work has been included in the parks department's upcoming bond issue, he said.
The splashpad and park will help create great memories for the children of the neighborhood and encourage them to become the next generation of neighborhood residents and leaders, said John Modezjewski, a North Highlands neighborhood resident and a leader of the Neighborhoods United Group.
"That's what it's all about," Modezjewski said, gazing at the children shrieking with joy as they ran through the water jets in the splashpad.