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City plans new parks projects

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As soon as next year, you’ll be able to walk on a footpath leading into Freedom Park, watch your children clamber up new playground equipment and set your dog loose in a new dog park in Greenwood.

The city is planning to build more than 2,000 feet of trail along Averitt Road leading into Freedom Park and 330 feet of trail along Main Street. The parks and recreations department also is planning to add new playground equipment to Craig Park.

City officials don’t know yet how much the projects will run and are getting cost estimates for the land for the trails, fences for two new dog parks, and the purchase and installation of the playground equipment.

The department will likely pay for the wish list items through private partnerships, similar to the donations that companies and residents made in 2013 for City Center Park’s splash pad, cigarette tax money and fees developers pay the city for parks, parks and recreation department director Rob Taggart said.

The parks and recreation department’s budget has shrunk during the past few years due to property tax caps, which have reduced the funding for its capital projects. Officials recently increased the Greenwood Community Center membership fees to pay for operational costs and are looking elsewhere for money for park improvements.

Last year, the city opened City Center Park where the city’s pool used to be and built a splash pad. The park also features a playground that is wheelchair-accessible. The city paid for the splash pad and park equipment with taxpayer money and donations from residents and businesses. Next year, the city plans to open an aquatic center with a pool, lazy river and water slides at Freedom Park, and Taggart is researching what other features that park will have, including a dog park and more trails. The city is using property taxes collected in a tax-increment financing district to pay for the aquatic center.

The trail and playground equipment will likely come first.

The new playground equipment should be installed near the park shelter in front of the community center this summer. The trails and dog parks will likely be built in 2015, but he would like to have the trail projects done sooner if possible, Taggart said.

At Main Street, there’s a muddy gap in the sidewalk that connects to the trail along Emerson Avenue and is not safe for bicyclists and runners, Taggart said. The city would need to buy the land and pave it to fill in the gap.

The Freedom Park trail would start near the entrance to the Greenwood Community School Corp. bus garage, where a sidewalk ends, and extend into the park entrance, he said. The trail would make walking into the park safer, and he wants the extension done before the new pool opens in 2015, he said.

This year, Taggart also wants to add new, educational playground equipment at Craig Park. The steel structures would be small play pockets that would be a fun way for children to learn about wildlife, such as birds, insects and trees, he said. The equipment isn’t replacing an existing playground but will be a new educational play area that Taggart hopes will bring more renters to the park shelter in front of the community center, he said.

“Each one of those pockets is a learning experience,” he said.

Two new dog parks likely won’t be built until 2015, but they will meet a need for local dog walkers, who keep the Four Paws Dog Park in the University Park subdivision busy, he said. The park has 625 members, who get into the dog park by unlocking a gate with a key fob. Members pay $40 per dog per year, plus a one-time $10 key fee, to use the one-acre dog park.

The new dog parks would be located in Westside Park, west of U.S. 31, and Freedom Park, off Averitt Road. The Westside dog park would be about an acre in size and the Freedom Park location would be more than an acre, Taggart said. The parks would be fully fenced so pets could roam freely, require key fobs for members to enter, and provide drinking water for the pets and stations with garbage cans and bags.

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