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St. Joseph County Parks holds public meeting in hopes to improve parks

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – What do you want from your local parks? That question was put residents in Saint Joseph County Thursday evening as the county works on a new 5-year master plan.

Organizers say this is the best way and the best opportunity to get public input on programs and facilities for the St. Joseph County Parks’ 5-year master plan. South Bend resident John Marquarde says he’s “concerned about the future of the parks and would love to see a variety of things expanded here. It’s such a great resource the county has and it’s underutilized in a lot of respects.” Residents like Marquarde want to see upgrades at the parks in St. Joseph County, which is why he and other neighbors attended.

Many of the ideas are making their way to the county parks thanks to both this session and residents like Marquarde that filled out the online survey. The St. Joseph County Parks is hoping even more people take part. Evie Kirkwood, the Director of St. Joseph County Parks, says they have “gotten great feedback already. Folks are interested in things that are a kin to trails, bike pedestrian pathways.” Those suggestions include:

  • Programming for adults ages 50 and up
  • Programming for kids and toddlers
  • Keep the parks open longer

Public participants filled out Post-It notes to express their opinions on the different parks around the county. But one of the barriers continues to be funding. “One of the biggest challenges we face here is funding the parks of this county. It’s a key thing, I think, for St. Joe County to have quality parks. It attracts people to live here, to work here, and it’s also a resource for all the visitors we have here,” said Marquarde, “I mean, we have Notre Dame here, hundreds of thousands of visitors a year for that, so it’s something we need to make sure we keep investing and building over the years.”

County Park officials will gather ideas from both meetings like the one that took place on Thursday evening and online surveys. Officials will look into which ideas are the most realistic with current funding, and will then put the five year plan together. You can fill out the survey here.

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