Members of the Westfield City Council on Monday night unanimously approved an ordinance that established a new parks and recreation department and board.
Councilors voted 7-0 in favor of the ordinance that makes Westfield Parks & Recreation a standalone department and creates a five-person board that will seek state and federal funding to build parks and trails.
“I do look forward to having a more robust parks system throughout the entire city, and I think this is a great first step to do so,” City Council President Patrick Tamm said.
Last year, the Westfield City Council voted 4-3 to reject an ordinance to create a parks and recreation department and board. All seven seats on the city council are now filled by new members.
Westfield was the only city in Hamilton County that did not have a standalone parks and recreation department. Before Monday’s vote, the city’s parks operations were handled by the Westfield Public Works Department.
The new parks and recreation department is now staffed by the four DPW employees who handled park maintenance and operations. The city’s expenses are expected to remain the same for now, but the department plans to add positions for landscape manager, program manager, park manager and laborer.
The board will consist of four mayoral appointees and one appointee selected by Westfield-Washington Schools.
Westfield Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Chris McConnell told the council on Jan. 8 that the city has missed opportunities to obtain state and federal funding because it did not have a parks board.
“All of those things are out there and without a parks board, we just don’t qualify for them,” McConnell said.
Westfield has 11 city parks, including the 2-year-old Grand Junction Plaza in the city’s downtown. There are nearly 94 miles of trails in Washington Township, including about 86 miles inside Westfield’s city limits.
Newly elected Mayor Scott Willis told the city council on Jan. 8 that his long-term vision is to consolidate parks operations in the city of Westfield and Washington Township. He said it would allow the city to be proactive and “lock in land for potential parks” in rural areas of Washington Township.
“When you think about keeping up with the growth of Westfield, if we wait until it’s part of the city of Westfield, they’re probably not going to become a park because land values skyrocket and it becomes unaffordable,” he said.