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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New Parks Director Brandon Bennett grew up around Forest Park; now he is running it / P13 Residential Customer Local

Citizen’s survey results released / P5

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February 18, 2014

COMMUNITY

Current in Noblesville

www.currentnoblesville.com

13

MEET

BRANDON

New Parks Director Brandon Bennett grew up around Forest Park; now he is running it

BENNETT

By Robert Herrington • robert@youarecurrent.com When Brandon Bennett grew up in Noblesville, he lived on Woodview Drive in Monterey Village – two streets away from Forest Park. “I grew up in the park. I had such great experienccover story es here. I hope to pass those on to everybody else,” the new director of Noblesville Parks and Recreation said. “If I look back now, I’d never figured I’d be here. It’s really humbling.” Bennett began working for Noblesville Parks in 1995 as an intern. “There were only two of us working back then,” he said. He worked on and off for the next couple of years in the evenings at Noblesville parks. He also ran security at Klipsch Music Center for one full season before using his degree as program director at the Boys & Girls Club in Lebanon in 1998. “(Former parks director) Don Seal called me in and said the recreation coordinator was leaving and (asked) if I would be interested. I said, ‘absolutely,’ and started in June 1998,” he said. “I don’t know if I could ever thank him (enough).” A people person, Bennett said his favorite part of the job is being around the people he works with and getting out interacting with the public. He said his ultimate responsibility is to deliver to the community what he inherited. “I really didn’t know what I wanted to do in school. Some people are passionate about math and science; mine’s people,” he said. “It’s a dream I don’t think I know I had. I love being able to look out my window and see people enjoy the parks the way I did and do.”

West Gateway Park

Although neither has been officially named, the parks department is working to create two new facilities – West Gateway Park and Eastside Park. The six-acre park near White River is a joint project led by Deputy Mayor Michael Hendricks. “So many city departments are working as a team – planning, engineering, economic development, the mayor and parks,” Bennett said. “We’re all working as one team on that.” Officials said the park is important because it is the first thing people will see coming from the west into downtown Noblesville. “There’s such a ginormous impact on the community. It’s important for us as a group that we put our heads together,” Bennett said. “It’s a different way of working. It extends downtown and makes the west side of the town connected to downtown. As much of an asset as the river is, this takes it out as a barrier.”

Eastside Park

Bennett said Seal laid the foundation and master plan for Eastside in 2010. With the master plan in place and more interest in housing options, Bennett said the project has started moving forward. “There are a lot of houses out there now,” he said. So far the process of building on the undeveloped area has included a completed feasibility study and updating plans with phasing options and cost options. Bennett said the next step is the schematic design, which includes the nuts and bolts of what those phases will look like and more details. “It will be the biggest challenge – in my opinion – I will have,” he said. “I want to make sure I do it right and feel a huge responsibility to do that.” Bennett said the whole park without a community center will cost be-

HOMETOWN:

NOBLESVILLE

FAMILY: WIFE, LAURA

AGE: 40

SON, MICHAEL

EDUCATION:

Noblesville Parks Director Brandon Bennett, left, and Asst. Parks Director Mike Hoffmeister look over plans for Eastside Park, a 200-acre undeveloped area near Klipsch Music Center. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

tween $20 and $25 million. “But we are not building all that at once,” he said. “It’s the million-dollar question; what can we try to do? It’s too early in the game.” One amenity that has been changed from the master plan is the removal of an archery range, which Bennett said is because one was installed at Strawtown Koteewi Park. Instead, plans call for an outdoor adventure area with a zip line and high-ropes course. “How many people in their career get to build a 200-acre park? It’s not going to get done overnight; it’ll get done over several years,” In comparison, Forest Park is 150 acres with the golf course, which is 50 acres.

New hire

Bennett has hired Mike Hoffmeister away from the Town of Fishers to serve as his assistant director. “He’s already having an impact in his first few weeks,” Bennett said. “My biggest concern was how he’d fit into the team we already had established. I think we hit a home run.” Hoffmeister, of Plymouth, Mich., went to Bowling Green State University and majored in sports management with the career goal of working for a professional sports team. “I had internships in park and recreation and a pro sports team. I found parks and rec was for me,” he said. Hoffmeister moved to Indiana in 2009 and has worked for the Fishers Parks Dept. for the past five years. “I’m serving my community now. I live in Noblesville,” he said. “I love the team we have here. I can’t wait to move forward and evolve.” Hoffmeister, who enjoys playing golf in Forest Park, is working on sponsorships for summer camps and the summer concert series and is assisting Bennett with park department programming and development. “The more park facilities for the community, the better,” he said. “Forest Park is a gem and it’s been around forever. Expanding our parks portfolio is something we need to do.” Hoffmeister is married to Melissa, and the couple has a soon to be oneyear-old son, Camden.

NOBLESVILLE 1992 HIGH SCHOOL 1997 PURDUE UNIVERSITY

HOBBIES: FAMILY

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FISHING

TRAVEL

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‘Living the dream.’

I know it is an overused cliché, but I feel like it’s where I am and who I am. I’ve got a healthy family, a good job, a roof over our heads and food on my table. I’ve got my faith; what else do I need?”


Noblesville to unveil West Gateway Park design BY ROBERT HERRINGTON 路 MARCH 7, 2014

A birdseye view, which has not been released to the public before now, shows the layout of the proposed West Gateway Park with downtown Noblesville in the top right corner. The complete layout will be unveiled at a public meeting March 12. (Rendering submitted) In August the City of Noblesville announced its plans to purchase 6.4 acres between Ind. 19 and Logan and Conner streets. At 7 p.m. March 12, the city will host a public meeting to unveil the design and master plan for West Gateway Park. The public meeting will be held at Noblesville City Hall, 16 S. 10th St., on the second floor in conference rooms A213 and A214. The format will consist of a presentation starting at 7 p.m. given by city personnel and the project consultant and will then be followed by a question-and-answer session.


“It is a well-rounded community park for the size of the space it is. There’s something for everyone and can be utilized year-round,” said Deputy Mayor Mike Hendricks, who is overseeing the project. Ideas for the park were first unveiled on Nov. 1 at the First Friday Soup Cook-off event. “The layout was developed after we sat down and met with different groups giving input,” Hendricks said. “The architects came up with the layout. We’re trying to get as many enhancements in the park.” Hendricks said the city now has to look at potential costs of the various aspects of the park, which include an amphitheater, splash park, trails, public event space, shelters, a parking area and storyboard walls. The project includes a pedestrian friendly walkway from the park to downtown and Ind. 19 enhancements with landscaping. “The focal points are all in your perspective,” Hendricks said of the amenities. The city plans to break ground next year and will be completed in phases. “We were hoping back in November to get a ground breaking in 2014, but with timing and permits it just wasn’t going to happen in 2014. There’s always a possibility to an earth-moving later this year,” Hendricks said. West Gateway Park will be just west of the White River in the area bordered by Ind. 19 to the west; Nixon Street to the east, Conner Street/Ind. 32 to the south; and Logan Street to the north.

Robert Herrington, Managing editor of Current in Noblesville. A 1999 graduate of Noblesville High School, Herrington has been covering Noblesville and Hamilton County as a journalist since 2004. The military brat lived all over the east coast before calling Noblesville home since 1994. He and his wife, Maggie, live in the community with their baby daughter (and youngest Boston Red Sox fan), Caroline. From school board to common council meetings, First Friday events and summer concerts in the city parks, Herrington loves to attend and cover all that Noblesville has to offer.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Legacy Fund names Living Legacy winner / P5 ••• Holiday Festival kicks off the season / P6 ••• Ghouls & Zombies invade Forest Park / P9

Parks pillar Noblesville Parks Director Don Seal announces his retirement after 21 years / P10 Residential Customer Local

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November 5, 2013

COMMUNITY

Current in Noblesville

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Parks pillar Noblesville Parks Director Don Seal announces his retirement after 21 years

Bennett named as successor

By Robert Herrington • robert@youarecurrent.com There are many ways to illustrate Don Seal’s impact on the City of Noblesville over the 21 years he has led the parks departCOVER STORY ment, but it’s the little things that people miss: the shade under a tree he’s planted, the enjoyment children get out of a piece of playground equipment he picked out or the sounds of live music that fill the summer evenings. “If you look at the last 21 years, Seal Don has had an effect on every facet of Forest Park,” Mayor John Ditslear said, adding Seal also has opened Dillon Park and provided upgrades to Seminary and Southside parks. “His leadership to the Noblesville Common Council created 184 acres for the future Eastside Park. There are lots of things he’s provided citizens in the parks under his leadership.” “Virtually everything manmade, I’ve either built or remodeled with Randy (Neff of the parks maintenance staff),” Seal said. “We’ve been planting 20 trees a year the last 10 years.” Seal began his parks career in Anderson in January 1972. After 20 and a half years, he was recruited to come to Noblesville and transform the city’s amenities. The landscape of Noblesville and the parks department was quite different when Seal started in August 1992. “I wish I had taken a picture,” he said. “Forest Park had suffered greatly, not because of a lack of effort of the parks director at the time, but because of a lack of thought given. Overhead lines ran throughout the park. There was a lot of old play equipment and a lot of dangerous play equipment in the park.” “Today’s park was not what was here in 1992. There was one bathroom and playground in the park,” he continued, adding a concession stand and shooting galley were nonfunctional. “It was a good park but it hadn’t been given a bit of attention to quality of life. I think Mary Sue (Rowland, Noblesville mayor at that time) saw that. She had an emphasis on quality-of-life issues.” Seal said one park structure was built – and barely standing – from previous materials found on the property. “Shelter No. 1 literally was an old pig barn,” he said. Another concerning issue was getting to the park. “You literally couldn’t get here. There was no safe way to get to Forest Park. You either crossed

By Robert Herrington robert@youarecurrent.com

Above: Parks Director Don Seal, Mayor John Ditslear, Parks Board President Ann Minnich and Kirk Forbes break ground for the Angel of Hope memorial in Forest Park – the newest edition to the city’s oldest park. Left: The summer concert series and Dillon Park were both created under Don Seal’s leadership and mission to have the public expect more from his department. (File photos)

railroad tracks or drove here by car. It also used to flood all the time,” he said. Seal said his vision since the beginning was to make the parks as usable and safe as possible and “to raise the expectations of what people expected from the parks.” “My greatest challenge when I first came here it was the Noblesville Parks and Golf Dept. There was virtually no recreational programming. It made sense at the time. Now we offer a full menu of programs but that took a long time,” he said. Seal has not had any controversial topics during his tenure but said the most interesting challenge came from an agreement between Forest Park and the former Deer Creek Music Center. The music venue paid for extra security, bathrooms and showers so followers of the Grateful Dead could camp out. “People saw that as an element they didn’t want in Noblesville,” he said. “The people that called to

order a campsite also setup a tee time. Most were blue-collar workers who followed the Dead because that’s what they did.” Seal his two biggest accomplishments are Hoosier Park race track in Anderson, which used to be a city park, and the creation of Dillon Park in Noblesville. “It was fabulous to build a new city park from scratch. It’s an incredibly successful park,” Seal said. “Good parks have water, topography and vegetation. Dillon Park has all three and other amenities.” Seal, who turns 67 in December, said he was tired after 42 years of service. “It’s just time to hand it off,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll consult and I’ll find other things to keep me busy. I’ll continue working with the parks foundation. After 42 years of parks work behind you, you can’t just walk away.”

How has Don Seal impacted the parks department? • Put in place the first park impact fee, which has generated nearly $15 million to date. • Directed the development of the Noblesville Alternative Transportation Plan resulting in the creation of more than 80 miles of trail and the designation of 10 miles of blue way. • Replaced Fox Prairie Golf Course’s irrigation system, added nine holes, built a new maintenance building and constructed a new pro shop, outing pavilion and cart barn. • Added 15 acres to double the size of the soccer complex on 196th Street. • Developed the Hague Road Wetlands and the Nature Haven Concept, installed a pedestrian bridge over Cicero Creek and trail connected the wetlands to South Harbour subdivision. • Built four new lighted basketball courts on the old Conner School grounds.

• Acquired 200 acres and developed the master plan for East Side Park. • Acquired 77 acres and developed Dillon Park. He also negotiated the contract for the cell tower which will result in nearly $1.5 million in revenue. • Expanded Southside Park’s land to include the entire square block and constructed the shelter and playground. • Replaced the gazebo and installed a new playground at Seminary Park. • Acquired the portable stage for concerts and events. • Projects include the paths on each side of 146th Street from Ind. 37 to Hamilton Town Center, pedestrian bridge on Lakeview Drive, trail from Forest Park to Morse Beach, and the Stony Creek trail, bridge and connection.

Assistant Parks Director Brandon Bennett will assume the director’s title on Jan. 17, when Don Seal retires. “Brandon’s a big guy, but he’s got big shoes to fill. He’s a great young man with great talBennett ents,” Mayor John Ditslear said. “We’re fortunate to have a young guy like Brandon. He’s worked in all aspects of the park department. Brandon will continue and improve what Don’s been able to accomplish.” Seal, who recently announced his retirement, was happy to hear of Bennett’s acceptance and believes it will provide stability as the department transitions. “I always assumed it would be Brandon,” he said. “It’s much easier knowing he’s the guy.” Bennett, a Noblesville native, did a summer internship and has worked in the parks department for the past 16 years. “I’m very excited,” he said. “Don has certainly left his mark on the community. I feel blessed they had him as a leader in the department … He assembled a fantastic team and I’m walking into a very positive situation.” Bennett plans to follow Seal’s lead and continue moving the department in the same direction “to provide great recreational opportunities for the community.” Bennett said the biggest lesson he learned under Seal was how to treat people. “If you treat people right you will get a lot of goals accomplished,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s been more than just a boss over the years and that’s special. It’s an honor to follow him.”


Tuesday July 9, 2013

4-H Fair contestants gearing up / P3 ••• Law enforcement teaches integrity / P6 ••• Sheridan BlueGrass Fever strikes / P13

Angel of Hope Memorial devoted to all who’ve lost a child / P10

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COMMUNITY

Current in Noblesville

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From left: Mary Sue Rowland, Bill and Sue Childs, Garry Warren, Ashley, Suzanne and Christian Brooks, Kirk Forbes and Jim, Madeline and Brandi Bates place temporary wooden stakes in the location of the Angel of Hope Memorial Garden to kick off its fundraising efforts. (Photo by Robert Herrington)

Angel of Hope

Memorial devoted to all who’ve lost a child By Robert Herrington • robert@youarecurrent.com In 2008, Noblesville’s Kristen Forbes, 23, died after a yearlong battle with cervical cancer. One of Forbes’ coworkers and friends, Megan Hall, was killed in an automobile accident the next month. Both the Forbes and Hall family have spent the last five years overcoming their grief and dealing with the void left in their lives. Cover Story “To help all parents in our community who have lost children, we are building the Angel of Hope Memorial Garden in (Noblesville’s) Forest Park,” Kristen’s father, Kirk, said. “Our vision is a quiet and healing place where parents and families can remember their children. A memorial to children who once played here. Though they are absent from our lives and our community, they will be remembered for many years to come.” There are 118 Angel of Hope memorials in the United States and Indiana has six with the closest one in Hendricks County. “It is our hope as bereaved parents and members of the community

that the Angel of Hope Memorial Garden fulfills an important need in the Noblesville community – now and in the future,” Forbes said. “It will be a beacon for all regardless of religious background who are trying to cope with the emotional and physical absence of their child.” Forbes, who heads the committee to build the memorial, said its fundraising goal is $125,000. “This will provide the angel statue, polished granite base, engraved bricks, path to the memorial, signage and plaques, landscaping and night lighting,” he said, adding that construction is based on fundraising. “October is the minimum time. If it takes a lot longer, it won’t be until next year.” While fundraising is still in the early stages, $10,000 has already been pledged. Forbes said the committee is searching for a major corporate donor but is selling Bricks of Remembrance for $100. “Their name is enshrined forever and that’s huge for me. Kristen left us five years ago and to have her name written forever, not on a tombstone, but on a memorial is just priceless,” Forbes said. “Every brick has a story.” One brick purchased belongs to Jim and Brandi Bates who lost their son, Zander, from an umbilical cord complication during his birth on Aug. 20, 2010. “I go to the one (Angel of Hope) in Avon to break down sometimes. It’s a neat thing the city has allowed to come to the area. It will be very beneficial for the people of Noblesville and Indianapolis,” Brandi said. Brandi said infant and child death has been a taboo topic in the past and thinks the memorial will provide support for parents and family members. It will be located in the south end of Forest Park. “It’s a wonderful place to provide solace and remembrance for parents who lost children,” Brandi said. “It’s a peaceful area for it – kinda secluded and semi shaded.” “This is a next level project,” Jim said. “It’s a place where anyone who needs some reflection time can go.” Sue and Bill Childs lost their 23-year-old son, David, in a motor vehicle accident in 1999. David was on his way to work when his vehicle was struck. “The hurt is still the same,” Bill said David was the younger of the Childs’ two boys. Bill described him as an athlete in football and wrestling who really looked up to his older brother. David graduated from Westfield High School in 1994. “He was a good guy who loved children,” Bill said. “He was just starting to find his niche in landscaping. It was sad when it happened because he didn’t get a chance to get married or have children.” The Childs said the Forest Park location provides a happy place to come. “We used to bring him here when he was little,” Bill said. “It’s a good idea because you don’t have to go to the cemetery and think depressing thoughts,” Sue said. “We’re going to come here with our grandchildren and share stories of David… It gives you a way to talk to them and let them know what happened.”

K now more The memorial will center on the Angel of Hope statue which will stand about 7 feet tall. It will be an octagon shape measuring 48 feet across with bricks engraved with children’s names and messages from families and friends radiating out from the angel. Three large flower pots will hold planted flowers to celebrate the children’s lives. Surrounding the brick memorial will be bushes and trees. The entire memorial will be illuminated by a lighting system. A 60-foot path will lead from the main park walking path to the memorial. For more information, call 6953551 or visit www.angelofhope.info or the Angel of Hope Memorial-Noblesville Indiana facebook page.

The backgrou nd The Angel of Hope statue was introduced in the book and movie, “The Christmas Box,” written by bestselling author Richard Paul Evans. In the story, a mother mourns the loss of her only child at the foot of an angel monument. Upon learning that grieving parents were looking for the angel as a place to grieve and heal, Evans commissioned Ortho and Jared Fairbanks of Salt Lake City to create one. The angel is bronze with the face of a child, arms raised out as a child wanting to be lifted. In her wings is the word HOPE. The angel represents all children who have died. The first Angel of Hope was dedicated Dec. 6, 1994, in Salt Lake City.


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