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growing Explore • Engage • Connect




Welcome to the conversation.

As a second-generation recreation professional, parks have been an integral part of my life. Like many of our employees, community members, and quite possibly you, I grew up visiting and playing in my local parks — a pursuit that continues to this day. It’s no surprise that my passion for parks and recreation runs deep and led me to a career in the field. As part of the Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation team I have been able to help our community have those same formative experiences I had growing up.

In this edition of Park Conversations, we share stories of inspiring growth. From a plant growing from seed to flower, to a kiddo learning to swim, to a Monon Community Center member meeting a fitness goal — growth is happening all around us at Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation. We encourage you to explore everything we have to offer. And at the end of the day, I hope these stories inspire you to grow. Help us keep this conversation going — share your story with us! Regards,

Michael Klitzing, CPRE Director of Parks and Recreation

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We encourage you to share your stories!

FALL 2019

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Take a chance on yourself and see what a difference change can make for your mind, body and spirit. Believe in yourself— growing is a good thing.

08 THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT FOR CARMEL Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation navigates its growing pains with a strong plan for the future.


Connect with nature and future generations by volunteering.


“The best part of my job is interacting with people and helping young people grow like my mentors have helped me.”


“Our staff truly want all children to be able to explore and be a kid, regardless of ability.”


growing you IS GOOD FOR


Growing up, many of us had a visual reminder of how much we’d changed over a year’s time. As the years go on, we start tracking our growth in different ways. Often writing down where we see ourselves in the future, or where we’d like to be down the road. But no matter how we grow — physically, mentally and emotionally — it’s nearly impossible to define growth because it’s so very different for everyone. What we have found — and what we hope you’ll find as you read these stories — are the common threads among all of us: Strength, determination, focus on health, friendships, community and a feeling of joy on the journey toward change and growth. These two stories illustrate how believing in yourself and taking steps toward something new can make a difference in how you feel every day. No matter your age, growing is good for you!

grave Laura SInestaru ctor Aqua Fitness


Hank Levandowski

SilverSneakers® participant

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From Teacher to Student to Teacher Again It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Laura Seagrave. She moved from the southside of Indianapolis to Westfield, bought a new house, got married, and started a new career: As an aqua fitness instructor at Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation. When she moved, Seagrave didn’t know anyone, but that was about to change. An avid yoga enthusiast, Seagrave began investigating local yoga studios in search of a class to join. She quickly found that a much more affordable and all emcompassing option — a membership at the Monon Community Center — included not only yoga classes but hundreds of other classes. After becoming a member, Seagrave decided to take a yoga class called Stretch N’ Flex. It was taught by Jenny Owens-Cripe. Someone she now calls a friend and mentor who opened the door to the next phase of Seagrave’s health and wellness journey. “Jenny was always so engaging and friendly and was a welcoming face for me in class,” says Seagrave. “She takes time to talk with others before and after class and is a huge support system of encouragement for everyone. I soon found myself engaged in those conversations, too, and learned that Jenny not only taught ‘on land’ yoga classes but she was an aqua fitness instructor as well.” Upon Owens-Cripe’s recommendation, Seagrave found herself taking one of the aqua fitness classes as part of her fitness routine. “It was love at first splash,” laughs Seagrave. “I immediately felt a change in myself. I felt stronger, stood up straighter and felt more energized. There is such a camaraderie of the people in the class and in the water that just makes it such an enjoyable experience. It is more than just the physical improvement that I was seeing. I actually felt uplifted and better overall. I was hooked.”

At one of Owens-Cripe’s aqua classes, she announced an opening for an aqua fitness instructor and encouraged anyone interested to sign up for the certification. Seagrave knew this was a chance to expand her skill set and build on something new. Even though she was retired from teaching in the classroom — something she had done for over 10 years — Seagrave wanted to help someone reach their goals again.


“I gained so much confidence and strength in the water by trying something new and stepping out of my comfort zone that I thought if I can help people feel this same way — it was going to feel amazing,” shares Seagrave.

Translating Exercise to Every Day Life

In summer 2019, Seagrave began teaching aqua fitness classes. She encourages anyone thinking about taking the next step to go for it. “Teaching has always been in my heart and I knew I missed it. This was the chance to showcase my leadership skills in a whole new way,” says Seagrave. “Maybe I can pay it forward and inspire someone else to take a leap of faith for themselves and encourage them to go beyond what they may have thought was possible. Go ahead — dive in,” smiles Seagrave.

Hank Levandowski has always been an active guy. In addition to a fast-paced career, he was an avid sailor and golfer. He and his wife followed family back to Indianapolis in recent years and were in search of a new exercise facility to call home. Once settled, they began noticing the beautiful park system around them which sparked a visit to the Monon Community Center (MCC). What they found was the perfect setting for staying healthy and on the move. “I’ll admit, we were in an exercise rut. We would arrive at the MCC and she would head off to a group fitness class,” says Levandowski. “I would make my way to the Fitness Center to use the machines, free weights, ride the bike or hop on the elliptical. Then we would meet back up and head home.” In 2018, a knee replacement led to the need for a new approach to staying strong and flexible. Levandowski says SilverSneakers® group fitness classes helped him approach fitness in a whole new way after his knee rehab was complete. He’s now a permanent fixture in SilverSneakers® classes and enjoys every minute of it. “There is a SilverSneakers® class for everyone. I started in the Classic class right after rehab and it was the perfect starting point,” shares Levandowski. “I was ready to progress from there and I now attend a SilverSneakers® Boom class that has

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gotten me back to playing golf, hanging with my grandkids and just being able to do things around the house that I used to do. The Boom class boosts overall fitness through muscle conditioning and activity-specific drills to improve strength and function skills. “I’ve found the exercises I’m doing in these classes allow me the flexibility and ability to move better, which translates to a lot of everyday tasks I needed to work on after the knee replacement.” SilverSneakers® instructor Gretchen Lightfoot says the program is a lifeline for folks looking for an adaptable workout for both the mind and body. “As we age, it is important to practice the mind/ body crossover and by staying active on a regular basis, and working out with specific patterns, it helps to keep both healthy and engaged.” Levandowski is quick to point out that it is more than the benefits of a health and fitness class that keep him coming back. “It isn’t just the physical part of the classes that I enjoy. It is the mental workout as you think about the coordination of mind and body that takes place during class. The added benefit of social interaction with other class members is a plus, too. It’s really a way to look at staying healthy from a ‘holistic’ viewpoint,” shares Levandowski. Even in your 70s, he says you can learn something new and encourages everyone to put their fears aside. “Don’t miss an opportunity by not taking advantage of all the MCC has to offer. As your fitness level increases, you will find you are moving faster, stronger and have a better sense of balance every day,” shares Levandowski. Levandowski encourages others to expand their horizons, to grow a little bit. “The benefits of staying active are pretty obvious, but the new friends and smiling faces you’ll meet while getting healthy are ‘silver’ icing on the cake.”

to do: LAURA

Research yoga studios

Get a MCC membership Embrace change

Be strong + confident Expand skill set

Create friendships Give back to my community

Continue to grow!


Find a new exercise facility

Believe in myself Focus on health Build Strength

Enjoy the journey Be an inspiration

Continue expanding my horizons



We all experience growing pains. For Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation (CCPR) it’s continually providing exceptional experiences for an ever-growing community. The population of the City of Carmel and Clay Township has grown nearly 40 percent since 2007 and nearly 275 percent since CCPR was founded in 1991. Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation was formed through an agreement between the City of Carmel and Clay Township. Now, more than 25 years later the organization oversees and maintains more than 530 acres of land, home to parks, playgrounds, trails and facilities. CCPR is in the business of making memories, creating experiences and enriching lives. CCPR shepherds its growth opportunities with a forward focus and a belief that the best parks system is one in which everyone is invested in. Whether that’s community members volunteering at the parks, the park board planning for the future, or the City of Carmel and Clay Township coming together to recognize opportunity for growth and need for reimagination. Over the years, both the City of Carmel and Clay Township have played a large part in the evolution of CCPR. In spring 2019, Clay Township launched its Impact Program to greatly improve the community with a focus on parks and public safety. The impact on the parks system includes a $20 million investment in enhancing and reimagining CCPR’s existing parks, playgrounds, greenways and facilities.

“Working with Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation on this project has been a very exciting process,” says Doug Callahan, Clay Township Trustee. “We know that the funds we’re putting back into the parks through our Impact Program will positively impact the community for years to come.” Over the course of the next few years, six parks will be impacted through the Clay Township Impact Program investment. Updates include added restroom facilities — which will allow for more programming out at the parks — as well as improved access to the White River, erosion control, playground and splash pad updates and more. Investing in these parks now means memories for years to come. “We’re approaching a window of time when we need to make reinvestments in our parks,” says Michael Klitzing, director for CCPR. “Through open communication with our elected and city officials, and keeping everyone involved with planning, we’re able to share our vision and how to best use resources to invest in the parks, and ensure they stay at the level our community expects and deserves.”


• Updates: Playground, splash pad • Design Phase Begins: 2019 • Construction Begins: 2020 • Budget: $4.6m


• Updates: Playground, restroom, shelter, trails, fishing pier • Design Phase Begins: 2019 • Construction Begins: 2020 • Budget: $3.5m


• Updates: Playground, trails, restroom, parking lot • Design Phase Begins: 2020 • Construction Begins: 2021 • Budget: $3.0m

LAWRENCE W. INLOW PARK • Updates: Splash pad, restroom • Design Phase Begins: 2020 • Construction Begins: 2021 • Budget: $2.5m


• Updates: Playground, restroom, trails, parking lot • Design Phase Begins: 2019 • Construction Begins: 2020 • Budget: $2.0m


The Nuts + Bolts

In order to grow a parks system, you need practical plans. Here are two of the main components that drive CCPR’s decisions and keep the focus on the future.

Master Plan — looking forward to 2020-2024: CCPR’s first priority is determining how to best serve an ever-changing and growing community. Every five years the department develops a new parks and recreation master plan, which is a comprehensive look at the future of CCPR over the course of the next five years. Each master plan incorporates input from elected officials, community leaders, stakeholders, community organizations, the public and more. Each group contributes feedback, which allows CCPR to create a snapshot in time of the wants and needs of the community. The purpose of the master plan is to understand the community’s vision and goals for its parks system and outline how to implement those objectives.

Life-Cycle Asset Management Plan: A Life-Cycle Asset Management Plan is an assessment of the department’s parks, facilities and amenities. Outside experts, like engineers and architects, visited each park and facility and provided feedback on areas of focus. The final plan includes information about when features were built, remaining life-expectancy as well as trends and safety standards. Based on those factors and expert feedback an assessment was made for how long features and land can sustain in a high-quality manner before CCPR needs to reinvest by updating or upgrading.

• Updates: Bank stabilization, bridge, trails • Design Phase Begins: 2019 • Construction Begins: 2020 • Budget: $1.9m




Volunteering is a way to connect with nature and future generations

For University High School senior Grace Rozembajgier, a day of service in collaboration with Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation (CCPR) was more than just a volunteer experience. It was a chance to give back and learn at the same time. That experience, growth through knowledge, found its way into her May commencement address within a long list of things her “hands” had accomplished over her years in high school. “Our hands served our community by removing hundreds of vines of invasive honeysuckle one morning in October,” shared Rozembajgier. While the day of volunteer service included work, it also created awareness that the juxtaposition of the high school’s land and the park’s land allowed for opportunities to develop a larger swath of habitat — truly learning through doing. At one time, CCPR’s volunteer base was focused on the support of event-based programming but a shift toward a hands-on, educational experience for volunteers like Grace is beginning to lay the foundation for a new type of volunteer experience. An experience that is interactive, initiative driven, and strives to beautify the park system, makes a bigger impact on nature now and in the future, and grows and strengthens CCPR’s partnership role in the community. More than hiking trails, playgrounds and splash pads, parks today are focused on sustainability,

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land management, green initiatives, and generational experiences. All driving forces behind a new focus on volunteers as crucial partners as CCPR goes about managing more than 530 acres of land. Of that total acreage, 70 percent is natural habitats. While you may not be walking every inch of the park system, as a volunteer, you have the opportunity to explore and connect with these natural habitats every step you take — and CCPR does need your help. With the help of volunteer partners, neighbors and neighborhoods, businesses, and many others, an empowered and educated group of community park stewards are helping CCPR maintain and beautify the land. You’ll hear Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation talk about their volunteer program and the types of individuals who fit the bill, park stewards, advocates, adopters and mentors, quite regularly. Park stewards are an essential part of keeping CCPR’s parks beautiful for years to come. As a park steward, you will engage in opportunities to protect the natural areas in our parks. Signing up for a park stewardship opportunity through

volunteering, interpretation, adopting a park or education will help you understand and give back to the natural resources that form the foundation of our parks. “We want the community to see and understand how and why we manage the land the way that we do to create a valuable asset to our community and to individuals in their daily excursions and experiences,” says director of parks and natural resources Michael Allen. “Our volunteer program is now a part of the natural resources division and has a new program coordinator focused on training and education for volunteers.” New volunteer coordinator Joanna Woodruff comes to CCPR with extensive experience with the Central Indiana Land Trust. She has hands-on working knowledge of nature and how important it is to educate and then deploy volunteers as extra support for maintaining nature’s balance. Woodruff is looking forward to the face-to-face interaction with volunteers, upping the engagement factor and putting in place a volunteer system that will create advocates to spread the word community-wide.

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As part of an Invasive Species Removal Day, volunteers work to remove sweet clover at Central Park. Summer 2019.

An experience that is interactive, initiative driven, and strives to beautify the park system, makes a bigger impact on nature now and in the future, and grows and strengthens CCPR’s partnership role in the community.

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“Education is key to understanding that our actions in nature have a ripple effect, and we shouldn’t be operating or making decisions in silos,” shares Woodruff. “We want to put management techniques into place that are collaborative to ensure we have sustainable land assets in the future. That is where volunteers can make all the difference in our success.”

New Hope Indiana employees remove invasive teasel plants at Founders Park. Summer 2019.

Reagan M. plants milkweed as part of an Extended School Enrichment project. Fall 2018.

And, our success is community success. You may get your hands a little dirty but that is all part of the opportunity to gain some real, experiential learning and help our volunteer numbers soar. We can do it — together. Engage with Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation by volunteering! Whatever your interests are, you can be matched up with a volunteer effort mutually beneficial for you and the park. Learn more by visiting

Through a community partnership, volunteers from Gigi’s Playhouse remove invasive teasel plants at Founders Park. Summer 2019.


GROWING WITH A LOVE OF PARKS Enjoying the career advancement ride

When asked to describe himself as a child, Sean Robert laughs and says, “trouble,” without a second thought. He’s sitting in his office chair, leaned back and entirely relaxed. “I was trouble, but I always knew I wanted to help people.” Growing up, Robert told everyone who asked he wanted to be a children’s book illustrator. He always had a passion for art, especially drawing. But a close second was being outdoors. Not sure how to turn that into a career, he turned it into his hobbies. You’re likely to find him outside skateboarding, hiking, playing with his dog, or driving his bicycle taxi in downtown Indianapolis. Robert has had a tie to the Monon Community Center (MCC) since before it opened. During preconstruction of the MCC, there were public focus groups held at Carmel Clay Schools to discuss the amenities the community wanted built.

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When Robert heard the callout for a meeting about a possible skate park, he knew he had to attend. Robert has been an avid skateboarder since junior high, even giving up other sports to spend more time skateboarding. He was an advocate for the skate park at the MCC and his participation in the focus group led to what is now the very popular skate park at the MCC. After participating in the focus group, he knew a little bit about the facility and his mom knew they were hiring. His first job with CCPR was as a lifeguard at the MCC in 2008, shortly after the facility opened. If he’s being honest, he didn’t want the job. It was one of those “my-mom-toldme-I-had-to-so-I-did” situations. He never would have pictured himself back then where he is today, recreation services assistant manager for aquatics and operations.

Robert first came on board as a lifeguard, moved up to pool manager, The Waterpark tech and then The Waterpark supervisor. He continued to demonstrate his value to the team and was rewarded for it. But it wasn’t always easy. Robert recalls nearly being fired once in his first few years for missing lifeguarding shifts. A nod to those rebellious teenage years when he described himself as trouble. The MCC became a home away from home for Robert — both during working hours with his aquatics team and after work at the skatepark. The people around him were continually rooting for his success personally and professionally, and it made all the difference. He began to believe in himself too and got the, “I can do this,” spirit. The MCC, particularly the aquatics team, has become like family to Robert. They’ve been friends, colleagues and mentors. “I’ve had a few mentors during my time here, all of my bosses have helped me in so many different ways,” says Robert. “They gave me responsibility and freedom to learn and fail. CCPR isn’t afraid to fail and then fix. They’ve rounded me out to be better.” When the FlowRider® opened at The Waterpark in 2012, Robert was tasked with creating programming for the new surf simulator — the only one to this day in Indiana. He dove head first, literally, into something he knew nothing about. It was a lot of responsibility, but he was ready for it and proved himself yet again. Since then he’s played a large part in the

continuing growth of adventure aquatics. The Waterpark now offers a variety of programs including FlowRider® lessons, Open Flow, Log Rolling and AquaClimb® lessons. The Waterpark also hosts adaptive FlowRider® programs designed for individuals with disabilities. “One of the coolest things that we offer that I’m involved in is Adaptive Open Flow,” says Robert. “I’ve learned so much about myself through working with our inclusion programs. It’s not just growth for the participants, it’s growth for me.” The Waterpark hosts FlowRider® competitions and FLOW tours. With the dedication and drive of team members like Robert, CCPR launched the very first adaptive division to the national competition circuit. For Robert it all comes full circle. He’s always known he wanted to help people, from a young age that was his passion. While it might not be the first thing listed under his job title responsibilities, he still gets to pursue that passion every day, and he has the stories to share. And now he’s in the position to mentor his own staff and help them succeed. “The best part of my job is interacting with people and helping young people grow like my mentors have helped me,” says Robert.

Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation is always looking for more “Sean Roberts” to join the team. People with dedication, drive and the desire to help themselves and those around them succeed should apply at


Student Voice Matters the

Empowering students to use their voice leads to happiness, fun and learning Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation’s (CCPR) Extended School Enrichment (ESE) before-and after-school program takes place at Carmel Clay School’s 11 elementary schools. The ESE program is hosted at each site for students kindergarten through 6th grade. During the 2018-19 school year 2,500 were enrolled — a number that grows year over year. ESE is founded on the belief that each and every student is capable of success. Staff is committed to setting high expectations and assuring the development of a strong foundation in basic life skills.

Voice + Choice

The ESE program has all of the features you would expect from a before- and after-school program including breakfast, snacks, recess, and academic assistance. What makes ESE stand out from other providers are the enrichment clubs that give students a chance to explore their interests.

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Since its launch in 2006, ESE has had a strong focus on empowering students and giving them a voice in the program’s activities based on the program’s core belief. This was developed into a formal process three years ago with the implementation of Student Voice + Choice.

At the core of Student Voice + Choice is the ability for students to have a say in enrichment clubs. Students choose from categories like sports, hobbies, arts/crafts, science, and others, put in their ideas, vote, and then enjoy the clubs of their own design. Extended School Enrichment & Summer Camp Series director Jennifer Brown says, “While we’ve always had a focus on innovative and engaging programming, a big game changer for all of us was the addition of Student Voice + Choice. It’s empowered our students and given them a heightened ownership of our program.” Enrichment clubs are voted on every quarter. Two clubs are featured before school and three clubs are featured after school, for a total of 25 clubs a week at each school. To keep parents in the loop on all the club fun, staff and students produce videos throughout the school year that are sent via email updates to parents. “We take any student suggestion seriously,” says Elijah Bullard, ESE site supervisor. “We are lucky as we employ an ecclectic staff. For example, one of our staff is a trained nail technician and another is certified in American Sign Language, so their insight and expertise brought the club idea to the next level.”

Commitment to Inclusion

Building Authentic Relationships In A Barrier-Free Environment

Inclusive and adaptive programming centers on nurturing authentic relationships and providing a barrier-free environment for students of all ages, levels and abilities to feel empowered and capable of success. All 11 ESE sites are inclusive. Inclusion supervisor Aimee Rich works directly with parents/ guardians, students and staff to assess needs, develop a plan and provide accommodations as needed, so all students are able to participate and build relationships. Modifications come in many different forms. It’s all about what a student requires to feel more involved, confident and empowered.

In addition to staff’s commitment to empowering students, they are committed to inclusion. A sense of belonging is the starting point for all children, and focusing on inclusion is in line with CCPR’s mission to include all ages, levels and abilities.

“We want all children to be able to explore and be a kid, regardless of ability,” says Rich. “It brings me such joy when a student feels confident and makes ESE their own.”

Eric Covington’s daughter is enrolled in ESE, which he says is nothing like the before-and after-school care of his youth — It’s much better. “My daughter wants to stay longer on certain days because of the featured clubs. ESE is a big plus for her,” says Covington. “I feel super lucky to have ESE and the staff. It gives me peace of mind that the transition before and after the school day is seamless.”

In 2016, CCPR won the National Recreation and Park Association Excellence in Inclusion Award, recognizing its efforts in implementing inclusive processes and practices and providing supports for inclusive participation.

Covington’s daughter has selective mutism, an anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school. He says the ESE staff are amazing. “Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation is proactive about inclusion in every way,” says Covington. “The kids get the same level of care and security just like the school day, and it is because of the staff and the consistency that we are comfortable here.”

Explore ESE Programming For more information on modifications and supports, including 1:3 ratio, or to request an assessment, contact Aimee Rich at 317.843.3866 or

The ESE program is a safe and supportive environment for everyone, no matter their ability. “With Student Voice + Choice, we often see students who hesitate to get involved see that they have a voice, buy in and get involved. It’s thrilling!” says Brown. The addition of Student Voice + Choice is a demonstration of the value ESE places on each student’s voice, ability and success.

Monon Community Center 1195 Central Park Dr West Carmel, IN 46032




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Monon Community Center 1235 Central Park Drive East Carmel, IN 46032

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Park Conversations Fall 2019  

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