The town of Fishers is working to transform 80 acres of suburban farmland into a destination-worthy park with a man-made sledding hill, mountain bike course and zip line.
Indianapolis-based landscape architecture firm Rundell Ernstberger & Associates has come up with a concept for the still-unnamed park at 101st Street and Cyntheanne Road, but planners are hammering out details.
Officials promised to build the park when Fishers annexed the Geist area. The town has $3.25 million budgeted for the project.
“It’s so far out, we need to make it somewhat of a destination location,” Town Manager Scott Fadness said of the property east of Geist Reservoir.
That means coming up with something different from the standard “utilitarian” parks that host a seemingly endless array of sporting events or “passive” properties like Ritchey Woods, where nature is the main attraction.
“We wanted a very different park than what we’ve been doing lately,” said Town Council member and Geist resident Pete Peterson. “We came up with some really neat ideas.”
Planners also want to make sure the park is a draw year-round. So, a 50- to 60-foot hill planned to accommodate a privately operated zip line also will be designed with sledding in mind. Peterson said ice skating is another option.
Preliminary plans also call for a “progressive” bike course—constantly changing obstacles along increasingly difficult bicycle trails—tree houses and a fishing pond, in addition to the expected playground equipment and walking paths.
The town also is planning an extensive reforestation of the site.
“We see this as the intersection between outdoor physical activity and nature,” Fadness said. “It’s a nice complement to what is already a pretty robust park system.”
Design work is under way, he said, and leaders hope to break ground by spring pending a final OK from the Town Council. The park could open late next year.
The town will seek proposals from vendors interested in operating the zip line, an activity that gained popularity locally thanks to a temporary attraction set up in downtown Indianapolis during the 2012 Super Bowl festivities.
In the meantime, officials are looking for ways to trim construction expenses. Fadness said area homebuilders will be invited to dump dirt from basement excavations on the site, for example, lowering the cost of building the hill.
Fadness thinks the hill will be a hit as soon as the snow flies.
“Fishers doesn’t really have a sledding hill,” he said. “You know kids are hard up when they sled on snow piles pushed up in parking lots.”
Hamilton County also is aiming to improve area winter sports options. The county Parks & Recreation Department is planning a tubing hill for Strawtown Koteewi Park east of Cicero, about 20 miles north of the Fishers project.
The hill is taking shape thanks to a partnership with Mooresville-based Beaver Materials, which is digging a 19-acre lake at the park. Beaver keeps the gravel and sand for its purposes, said county parks Director Al Patterson, and piles up the rest of the dirt.
Although the hill is almost done, he said the county is still seeking funding for necessities like a fence, a tube-rental facility and a warming house.
And given Indiana’s unpredictable weather, there’s another big—and potentially expensive—decision to make: “Do we have enough winter, or do we have to make snow?” Patterson said.
The tubing hill likely won't be open for another year or two, he said.
"We're just trying to get the dirt in the right place, with the proper compaction," Patterson said. "Then we'll start working on the funding aspect."