Eye on the future: Zionsville Lions Club embarks on master planning journey


Since 1940, the Zionsville Lions Park has been a community asset for the town, providing a gathering place, playgrounds, baseball fields and walking paths between historic downtown and Eagle Creek.

Now, the club is looking for assistance from the public to capitalize on what’s good about the park as it looks to develop additional land between the park and Elm Street Green.

Ryan Cambridge is president of Zionsville-based planning and design firm FRMWRK. The firm is assisting the club by facilitating a master planning process. The goal is to create a long-range development plan for Lions Park.

Cambridge said creating the plan will involve several layers of a needs assessment, which included an open house at the Lions Clubhouse in April, 1-on-1 interviews with stakeholders, focus groups and an online survey for the public that is ongoing through the month of June.

“This is not a scientific process,” Cambridge said. “It can be prone to bias, because anybody can show up to a workshop or take the survey. So, what we try to do is ask similar questions from as many different vantage points and as many different techniques as possible. You don’t have to be a Zionsville resident. Anybody from anywhere who loves the park and cares about its future can provide feedback that will help guide us in terms of making decisions about what is in the best interest of the park.”

The Zionsville Lions Club acquired 4 acres of property previously owned by the Henkaline family on the north boundary of the park for $150,000 in 2023. The Lions are now looking for the right way to utilize that space while making sure the current space is being used to its full potential.

Dozens of members of the public attended the open house April 30 to participate in the assessment, marking displays with notes and suggestions on what is good about the park and what areas need improvement.

“It’s a big part of our daily life and routine, so we wanted to come over because we’re so invested,” said Joe Ehlers, a three-year resident of Zionsville who attended the open house with his family. He said he and his family enjoy the activities at the park the most and look for opportunities to take part in events whenever they can, including making suggestions at the open house.

The master plan will rank suggestions like those left by Ehlers and others at the open house and develop those suggestions into priorities for the park’s future development.

“The resulting product will be a long-range vision for what the park should be in 20 to 50 years, but also an action plan,” Cambridge said.

Cambridge also noted that the Lions Park is unique in that it is not a taxpayer-funded park. Maintenance and upgrades are performed by the Lions Club, which relies on fundraising and volunteers.

“A lot of times what you see in parks, especially older parks, is that they develop ad hoc over time,” Cambridge said. “The hope is that this plan will allow the Lions Club to be very strategic and opportunistic over the long range, so they will be able to say that what we’re doing (now) is moving the park incrementally closer to the big-picture vision for the park as a whole.”

Besides public input, FRMWRK will also obtain topography and land surveys for the new parcel and update utility information.

Once the public survey closes, Cambridge said the goal is to have a rough draft of the master plan ready to present to the Lions by fall. The next step after that will be to focus on funding and implementation strategies.

The community survey is anonymous and includes questions about park amenities and areas that could use improvement.

The community survey can be accessed at LionsParkMP.org or surveymonkey.com/r/LionsParkMP.

About the Zionsville Lions Park

The Zionsville Lions Club was established in 1930 with 24 founding members.

In 1940, the club founded Zionsville Lions Park, which was originally called Zionsville Memorial Park. The park was developed on eight acres of land and included a baseball diamond and a playground.

Over the years, the park has developed as a gathering place for the community, from “Victory Gardens” held during World War II to the development of the Zionsville Little League, which played its first game at the park in 1952.

Lions Park has been the venue for many of Zionsville’s key celebrations, including the 1952 Zionsville Centennial Celebration, which has evolved into the annual Fall Festival.

Over the years, the Lions have acquired additional land, expanding the park from the original 8 acres to 28 acres today.

The park is managed by Zionsville Lions Club membership of more than 180 active members and is operated via volunteerism, sponsorships and donations.

Learn more about the park and the club by visiting zionsvillelions.com.