Lilly Endowment announces $80M in grants to Indy Parks

Washington Park

The Indianapolis Department of Parks & Recreation will receive $80 million in grants for improvements and updates from the Lilly Endowment, city and parks officials announced Tuesday.

The historic donation will provide funding for improvements at 42 parks in the Indy Parks system, including Washington Park, where city leaders announced the grants.

The grant is 14 times the amount in the parks department’s capital budget for 2023, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said.

Phyllis Boyd, director of Indy Parks, said the funding is necessary because it takes an abundance of resources to “truly reshape, enhance and maintain” the public spaces.

The funding, which leaders called “historic,” is divided between four grants that will be dispersed to parks in all nine townships n Marion County.

The largest grant of the four will support park improvements, at $71.9 million. The three other grants are for park foundations: $2.5 million for Friends of Garfield Park; $3 million for the Holliday Park Foundation; and $2.6 million towards the Eagle Creek Park Foundation. A portion of the funds will be set aside to account for potential cost increases and supply chain delays, at $1.5 million.

City leaders discussed the importance of the park system Tuesday, with Hogsett noting that the Washington Park Family Center served as a warming station during the recent snowstorm.

The projects follow a five-year master plan launched by Indy Parks in 2017.

Under the grant program, the 42 parks will receive between $600,000 and $11.5 million each. The largest project, at Riverside Regional Park, will involve new sidewalks and nature trails, enhancements along the White River, upgrades to the soap box derby track and development of the Taggart Memorial Playground.

Eighteen smaller parks across the city will receive $8.38 million to rubberize turf surfaces and increase accessibility.

The Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment has been a longtime supporter of Indianapolis parks. Its contributions include a $10 million donation to the Indianapolis Parks Foundation in 2012 and $7.3 million in grants in 2009.

Tuesday’s announcement also builds upon recent city efforts to rejuvenate the parks system. In February 2021, the Hogsett administration allocated $45 million towards Indy Parks as part of the Circle City Forward Initiatives.

The full list of projects funded by the Lilly Endowment grants can be found on the Indy Parks website.

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11 thoughts on “Lilly Endowment announces $80M in grants to Indy Parks

  1. As all of the city golf courses are under the Indpls Parks Dept, sure hope a small slice (no pun intended) of these $80M grants is targeted for upgrades and improvements to these facilities. But based on past history, unfortunately it probably won’t happen, as the golf courses are a low priority within the Parks Dept and overseen by administrators who don’t know the difference between a golf club and a hockey stick….at best.

    1. I’m glad that Indy Parks is closing golf courses and focusing on greenspace that serves a larger part of Indy’s population. If you read their golf course market analysis, it’s actually quite helpful to understand the justification for which ones they are keeping or shutting down.

    2. Mike – the 2021 market analysis was it was the largest demand year since 1999….

      Getting rid of riverside was the right move – it was a waste of space as a golf course.

      Not many others are currently struggling and there’s massive parks attached to almost all others in the city

  2. BTW…..where would we be without the Lilly Endowment? What a wonderful giver they are to the entire state of Indiana for a multitude of civic, community, and educational projects. They are truly a treasured asset and without-obligation provider for the citizens of Indiana!

    1. Well, it’s really a gift to Indianapolis, and it’s pretty targeted to one specific “feel good” area… and I’m gonna bet Indianapolis has also given a significant amount to Lilly in tax abatement and other corporate welfare in recent years. Like $24M in 2020, and $7M in 2019, and $9M in 2017.
      So I’d have to guess we could just tax them normally, since they clearly don’t need the tax cuts?

    2. Charles – this is the family foundation not the company….

      Maybe get educated before posting?

  3. Hopefully some of these funds will be allocated to some of the smaller neighborhood parks, such as Canterbury Park (54th & the Monon Trail), which are highly utilized, but often overlooked.

  4. A permanent Maintenance Endowment would be most beneficial for the long term. Daily, monthly, seasonal and full time maintenance!
    We haven’t had it for years and all the parks need serious maintenance !

    1. As a government entity, could Indy Parks legally set up an endowment? Would the state Dept. of Local Finance allow that?

  5. This is great news but only means the city administration will continue to kick the can down the road in bringing annual funding from our tax dollars up to a decent and sustainable level. We have one of the lowest funded parks departments of any major cities in the country and it’s been that way for a long time under both parties. Until this is addressed our parks will continue to deteriorate.

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