Restore Avilla dedicates new pocket park
By Emeline Rodenas | KPC Media - The News Sun
It was a year in the making, but Avilla residents will now have the option of strolling through another park when they spend time downtown.
Restore Avilla, a revitalization group dedicated to the restoration of downtown Avilla, held a new park dedication for Heritage Park on Saturday.
The organization, Restore Avilla, was founded by members who split off from the Avilla Chamber of Commerce and created their own main-street certified organization. Current board president Todd Carteaux was a part of the pocket park project. Carteaux and other members of the board knew the project was possible, but knew they would have to enlist the help of others to make it a success.
“I knew we needed to do something. We started it over a year ago,” Carteaux said.
Finding a spot was the easy part. The area, which was unused and in bad shape, sits not far from the St. James Restaurant in downtown Avilla, next to the former Magpie Pizza Shop. The property was owned by Larry Goldsmith, formerly of Avilla, who now lives in Florida full-time. Goldsmith donated the land to the board for the project.
Funding was the next obstacle to overcome. According to Carteaux, since Main Street projects get funds through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, that was one option. Grants were another, but those had a longer time period.
“Planning for grants takes so long so, the board put their heads together and found other solutions. We enlisted donations from the community. Area businesses came together. We sold capstones for $500 a piece,” Carteaux said.
In the end, the total cost of the project was $40,000, but would have cost $70,000-80,000 if they would have had to pay for the labor and materials, Carteaux said.
And the best part, he said, was that the entire project was built without using a single tax dollar.
“The project had a two-way match, which helped with raising funds. The total cost of the project was $40,000, but would have been much higher, around $70,000, without local business owners donating their time and materials,” Carteaux said.
Donors included: Larry Goldsmith, the Straessle Family, the Yarian Family, Josh Lash, Community State Bank, Parkview Physicians Group — Avilla, Wirco, Farmers Mutual Insurance Company, John Ley Monument Sales, Avilla Liquors, The Bleeke’s, Avilla Motor Works, Core Biological, Diversified Pattern and Engineering Company, McLaughlin Services, Onxx-Russ James, Samson Exhaust, St. James Restaurant, Tipton Law and Victor Reinz Valve Seals.
“We took a space that was unused, an eye sore and we turned it into a space that was usable by old and young alike. Concrete walkway, chairs, table, areas you can sit. It’s just a space that the whole town can use, a gathering spot if you will,” Carteaux said.
The hope is that it’s now a spot that will get more interaction downtown and help increase foot traffic.
The town even had a contest to see what names people came up with and had people vote. Whoever won the contest would get the name they gave put on the park name.
“One of the big reasons the project came into fruition is the fact that Jeff Straslee, a landscaping business owner and resident of Avilla, said he would do all the work for free, just cost of material only. He designed the park, drew a couple designs, then he went ahead and put the time in to make the park happen,” Carteaux said.
The design concept plan included fencing and a knee-wall to help maintain the boundaries between the housing properties behind the park and the sidewalk in the front. There is a small fountain, several benches, a walkway, some shrubbery and a few trees for beauty and shade included. Electrical outlets, a gate, water spigot and other items were installed to help with maintenance, future events and other necessities were being added to the plan.
Josh Lash, who assisted with the project, was excited to see the work finally done and in the future, plans on renovating the building next door, which has been vacant for six or seven years.
A plaque with the names of the donors who helped contributed to the project is also located in the park. The large stone that sits on display in the center of the park will eventually have a fountain in it, which will be turned on when the weather gets warm in the spring.
For more information, visit Restore Avilla’s Facebook page, facebook.com/RestoreAvilla/.