By Jillian Kurtz
The Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Dept. held a community input Zoom webinar Dec. 14 seeking public input for its five-year master plan.
Director of Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Chris Stice presided over the meeting and introduced Zec Eight Insights Principal Austin Hochstetler, who led the virtual presentation.
Approximately 30 people attended the meeting.
The parks department partnered with Zec Eight Insights, a consulting firm, to help develop the master plan. Zec Eight Insights aims to “strengthen parks and recreation agencies’ ability to make well-informed operational decisions,” according to its website at zeceightinsights.com.
Using the SWOT, or strength, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, strategy, Zec Eight Insights has analyzed trends in Hamilton County, such as projected population growth as well as studying age demographics. Through its findings, it will customize a master plan to fit the needs of the county.
After the 40-minute presentation, Hochstetler polled the webinar attendees. Questions ranged from one’s average use of county park systems to visions for future developments and what types of resources they’d like to see within the spaces.
An online Survey Monkey poll will soon be available to the public, according to Hochstetler.
Some attendees expressed concern about a specific area of land east of U.S. 31, north of Ind. 38, west of Hinkle Road and south of 216th Street. They asked about the department’s willingness to listen to the needs of the community because they want to make the area a preserve or protected space.
“It is currently zoned Rural Residential, but a developer is putting significant pressure on the City of Westfield to convert it to Industrial,” attendee James Hogan said in the chat. “We are adamant that the land remains Rural Residential and/or be converted to park land. How can HCPR help preserve this land as Agricultural/Rural Residential/Recreational?”
Hochstetler said the purpose of the webinars is to consider and factor in input from the public.
Use and accessibility of White River in Hamilton County was also discussed during the webinar.
“A lot of communities across the country are almost trying to reclaim the water resources they have in their communities,” Hochstetler said. “For such a long time, they were kind of seen as afterthoughts, but now as development spurs, we are asking, ‘How do we take back and leverage our water recreation resources?”
For more about the five-year master plan and future input meetings, visit hamiltoncounty.in.gov/296/Parks-and-Recreation.