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Page last updated on March 7, 2019 at 10:44 am

Welcome to the future home of Switchyard Park!  Today we are gathered here to hit the imaginary “go” button and get this project going!  Admittedly it doesn’t look like much today, but please, join me in some imagining.

Imagine it’s a little over two years from now, and you’re walking south on the B-Line, cresting the Grimes Lane pedestrian bridge behind us. Stretching out before you is a continuation of the B-Line, but now it’s lined with native plants on each side, and up and down the path walkers and bikers are heading to their destinations.  Perhaps from your viewpoint you can see the roof of the pavilion, with the doors up to welcome guests to a wedding reception or family reunion. It will be a great spot for all ages because nearby will be a playground themed to remind visitors of the history of this land. And not far from there will be a stage ready to host music and theatrical productions.  Maybe you have your four-legged friend with you and you will want to head over toward the dog park. On your way there you may pause near the stream and admire the pollinator gardens and habitat along the stream and along the park’s edges. As you continue on you can hear the sounds of children squealing and water splashing coming from the new splash pad. Perhaps your dog friend will be excited by all the kinds of games you see on your walk -- bocce, basketball and pickle balls will all be in active play. On your left you’ll see where we stand today -- the old McDoel Switchyard building that has become a Bloomington Police Department safety substation and public restroom facility.  You won’t be thinking of it when you admire the lovely vista, but beneath your feet will be brand new City of Bloomington Utility lines efficiently moving wastewater to treatment. (Hey, it’s not all fun and games!)

When you look beyond the borders of the park itself I hope you will feel like you have entered a new and really inviting part of the city.  You should see housing of several varieties with families and singles, young and old. Not a gentrification, but a great mix across the housing spectrum. You should see new dining and shopping opportunities that have grown up around Switchyard Park.  Think of the delightful B-Line Station neighborhood and Hopscotch Coffee and Cardinal Spirits…a reinvigoration of this area of our city that will draw visitors from far and near. Hopefully among the housing and retailers will be new businesses -- businesses that could locate anywhere, but choose to be near this amazing park because of all of its inspiring amenities, public art and programming and the people that it attracts.  

Great parks lead to great neighborhoods. We’ve invited the owners of the properties surrounding the park to be here today, because their contributions will be vital to the look and feel of this new Bloomington neighborhood. Please wave if you’re a neighbor! And, as a city, we have purchased some of the property surrounding the park in an effort to help secure the kind of affordable housing and creative business opportunities that we want to see surround the Switchyard.

And now we’re back from our imaginary walk and it’s December of 2016 and you’re wondering why am I out here freezing?  This had better be good!

Since we’re in a park and parks are about fun, let’s play a quick game.  I’ll give you the answer, you guess the question.

The answer is: Four. Allison, Fernandez, Kruzan, Hamilton.  

The question is: How many mayors does it take to imagine, envision, plan, design and execute a 65 acre park unlike anything the city has ever had?

They say life is all about timing, and I am the lucky mayor who will, I hope, be in office when all of the work done under each of those mayors, and the work done during my time in the mayor’s office, will result in a jewel of a new park built for the health, happiness and enjoyment of countless visitors for decades to come.

  • Mayor Tomi Allison conceived of the acquisition of the old CSX railroad corridor and switchyard.  

  • Mayor John Fernandez secured the funds to acquire the CSX corridor and construct the first phase of the B-Line Trail downtown.

  • Mayor Mark Kruzan prioritized acquisition of the Switchyard property and oversaw the development of the B-Line Trail and Master Plan for the Switchyard property and secured funding for the project.

Without the contributions of each of the forward-thinking mayors who came before me, who laid the groundwork, we would not be standing here today poised and ready for the activity that will ultimately result in Switchyard Park.  

At this time of year we hear a lot of mention of “2016 - A year in review.”  Well, for this once-in-a-generation project, it was “2016 - a year OF review.” When the Switchyard plans reached my desk in January, I initiated a top to bottom review. Staff and I conducted that review, both fiscal and of the plans themselves, and put our own spin on the project, as each mayor before me had.  I couldn’t imagine the vista I referred to earlier interrupted by electric lines, so the plan is now to bury those lines. And again, after much review, it became obvious that this park would really need a pavilion -- a multi-use space for people to gather, celebrate, learn and meet, surrounded spring, summer, winter and fall by this ever-changing naturally beautiful park setting. And the stage, which was always a part of the plan -- we reimagined that -- more professional and able to accommodate and attract artists and audiences from all over the world.

I mentioned the work of the mayors, and I also want to thank and acknowledge the hundreds of hours of public input that have gotten us here.  So many marvelous ideas! The wise and dedicated Parks Board - that provides such steady guidance to the department...And staff time! Their patience, persistence, commitment to this dream have kept this train moving forward - if you’ll forgive the metaphor. I hope that the time and energy each of you have given already will in return give you a true sense of ownership and pride in this endeavor.

Today we are in the company of many members of the Bloomington Parks Foundation.  They are the support system for so much of what our award-winning Parks Department has accomplished over the years.  Thousands of children have attended camp, learned to swim, new trees are planted, parks enhanced -- just to mention a few of the things that can only happen thanks to these hardworking volunteer community leaders.  Now however, we are asking the Parks Foundation to accept a challenge the likes of which they have never before been asked to take on.

I hope you will agree that the vision of this park we imagined together earlier was a great one.  Playgrounds, dog park, stage, pavilion, acres and acres of greenspace… it’s great. But the $25.5 million dollars we currently have earmarked for the project will get us to “good.” That’s where the Bloomington Parks Foundation comes in.  They believe as I do that Bloomington needs not just a good park, but a great one, so they have agreed to a $5 million fundraising goal to assist with the first class amenities for Switchyard Park. I’ll let Travis go into more detail, but for now I thank them for their willingness to partner with the Parks Department to support this vision and their commitment to take this park from good to great. And I ask the public to support their efforts.

Switchyard Park contains over 65 acres -- that’s close to twice the size of Bryan Park.  A football field covers 1.32 acres, so Switchyard Park is the equivalent of almost 50 football fields.  This build-out is a big challenge. But it is a challenge worth taking on.

We have other challenges -- big ones -- that we will be working on at the same time we work toward realizing this amazing park.  You may have heard me refer to them as the “string of pearls.” That includes the opportunities in the Trades District, the current hospital site, the convention center, and Switchyard Park.  We are living at a time in Bloomington’s history in which the decisions we make and the quality of the projects we undertake will impact the lives of every resident to come after us. We must look not just at today, or next year, but 30 years from now.  Will those residents be grateful for the investments we make today? If we absolutely commit ourselves as individuals and as a community to being and building the best we possibly can, I think future residents, our children and grandchildren, will be proud of our efforts, and that today’s investments will still be paying dividends.

So let’s hit that imaginary “go” button and get this project going!  We will start with the installation of the Utilities infrastructure -- a 48-inch sanitary sewer line that will run the length of the park -- to begin this spring.  At the same time, the Parks and Recreation Department will finalize the blueprint design for the park and start the process of requesting bids for the construction and installation of the facilities and amenities.  Meanwhile, the Parks Foundation will be in full fundraising mode. By spring of 2018, we should be ready to start construction. Then, in fall of 2019, I hope to be inviting the residents of Bloomington to this location to celebrate and enjoy the biggest public parks project ever completed in our city.  That is going to be a party you won’t want to miss!

I would like to leave you with one final thought:

Lots of different things combine to make great cities.  But no city is great without great parks.  

Thank you.