Residents ready for green space development in Westfield

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More than 75 residents filled Westfield City Hall Feb. 7 to participate in an informational session on the future of the city-owned Newby Property at 2510 E. 171st St., next to the City Services building and Simon Moon Park.

The development will go hand-in-hand with planned upgrades at Simon Moon, where expansion is slated to begin in March.

Phase I of that project includes turning the old wastewater detention lagoons, which have been cleaned and closed, into a recreation lake for fishing and nonmotorized boating. The first phase will also add trails, a boardwalk and a bridge, as well as increase the size of the parking lot and re-engineer the sledding hill.

In Phase II, the city plans to add an education pavilion, a dock and boat launch and complete playground upgrades.

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The 25-acre Newby property was acquired by the city in 2023 and is slated to become a park facility which will complement upgrades at Simon Moon Park coming this spring. (Image provided by the City of Westfield)

Development of the Newby property is designed to complement those upgrades at Simon Moon Park. The 25-acre parcel was originally operated as a farmstand by Richard Newby, who passed away in 2021. In March 2023, the city acquired the property at auction for $710,000, with money from the Infrastructure Fund.

In the past 11 months, staff has engaged in initial planning for the site, which has resulted in two high level concept plans.

“These look like they are finished designs, but they are far from it,” said Jeff Mader of Mader Design, the firm working with the city on planning for the new park. “They are here to spur ideas. Things are still very fluid, and there is a lot of opportunity to mix and match, throw them away, start over, there are a lot of opportunities to make changes to anything.”

One of the two initial concept plans was a family adventure park, which could include a low and high-rope course, disc golf, picnic shelters and trails.

The second concept plan was an agripark, which could include community gardens, pollinator gardens, trails, shelters, and boardwalks. An agripark could also produce options to partner with farm industry or school district organizations, as well as provide residents with a chance to harvest their own vegetables.

Both concepts showed a connection to the Midland Trace Trail, but there are development challenges, including areas in the floodplain and floodway along Cool Creek, mature woods, invasive plants, limited pedestrian access, and an existing cell tower that cannot be moved.

During a question-and-answer session, residents made suggestions for the site, including a pickleball court, areas for children, and areas for seniors. Several people noted that they liked the agripark idea as a nod to the former property owner, as well as to Westfield’s agricultural roots.

Neighbors said they are excited to see additional green space developed in Westfield, especially as the city continues to grow.

“I’m a conservation buff, what attracts me is hearing about native grasses and green spaces, and just to enjoy nature,” said Josh Bliecher, who has lived in Westfield for three years and is excited about the agripark concept.

Carla Peck has been in Westfield for about a year, attracted to the area for its vast offerings for outdoor recreation.

“I bike ride a lot on the Midland Trace, it’s very scenic, so I wanted to see what was being proposed,” Peck said. “I’m a big fan of the parks, and I love biking.”

Peck said that she had some concerns about the steep access from Midland Trace into the property, but also liked the idea that an agripark could help the city address local food insecurity by allowing people to participate in community farming.

City officials said a dog park was not appropriate for the site, due to staffing and requirements needed to build and maintain that use.

Public input will help form those final plans, which will return to the public for additional feedback before going to the city council for approval, a process expected to take several more months.

The bulk of construction will be paid for via park impact fees that are assessed on new residences constructed in Westfield.

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