September 18, 2013

KITCHELL: Selling parks maybe not a great idea


---- — It’s been discussed before, with some sound reasoning.

Why not get rid of some of the city parks Logansport has and focus on a few of the larger ones?

For starters however, some “parks” maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department aren’t really what most people think of as a park at all. Let’s take Memorial Park at the west edge of the Market Street bridge for instance. It’s not a place where children can enjoy a playground or a family can have a picnic. It’s the type of property that really should be under the auspices of the Public Works Department, the combined forces of the former Street Department and Cemetery Department. Memorial Park honors the war dead, and if it’s eliminated, at least its intent should be reflected somewhere else in the community.

Then there’s the issue of places such as Heritage Park downtown. Through the efforts of Heritage Preservation Gala held at the Cass County Memorial Center for several years, that park was established. If it’s sold, that’s a little less green space for downtown if it’s demolished. And what about the fountain in the middle? It’s over a century old and was completely redone about a decade ago. Should something that’s been in the community that long suddenly become available on eBay if the park is sold?

Burkhart Park was added during the Vernon administration. It, too, is not a park in the traditional sense, but it’s located at one of the focal point intersections of the community. It was part of an agreement with Burkhart Advertising.

Dunwoody Park is a quiet, little-used park on the Eel River just a couple of blocks from Riverside Park. It could use more amenities, but it also could be the location of a once-discussed “bark park,” a place to walk dogs or let canines run any time of the year.

The Ben Long Center has been the target of sales before. It was made possible with a gift to the city and the availability of the former Washington Elementary School gym. At some point, it may have to be replaced, but it is the only indoor basketball court the city owns and maintains and one of a handful of recreation facilities the city has west of Third Street. On the west side, it’s the only facility other than a park used by the Cherub League at the west end of the city.

City parks officials always have a wealth of issues to deal with from fixing a pool to building a trail system, and they usually don’t have a wealth of money to spend on what they are trying to accomplish. But the issue of selling city parks goes beyond putting up a for sale sign and closing a deal. It’s really a matter of giving up city control of prime locations that are at least dedicated to green space. On Biddle’s Island, that may not matter to the rest of the city, but it may matter to people there.

In the parks master plan process every five years, there’s a formula applied for the amount of green space, baseball fields, soccer fields, baseball parks and facilities for cities of every size. It’s time to dust off those formulas and determine if Logansport has enough of what it should have, or too much property to maintain.

With the addition of Huston Park, the city has more responsibility, but it has a responsibility to manage what has been dedicated and maintained to the park system, in most cases, for several decades.

It’s important to note that property owners who live next to parks, whether the parks are frequently used or not, often did so for a reason — it’s a pleasant place to be.

In some cases, real estate transactions include the words “buyer beware.” In selling parks, the operative phrase is “seller beware.” Selling parks is not necessarily a great idea.

Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at