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Mayor Hamilton:  Welcome Bloomington!  Welcome all! This is a long-awaited occasion and I couldn’t be happier to be sharing it with all of you.  This is a historic night, one to remember and to tell your children and your grandchildren about. We’re gathered for the opening of this city-changing Parks project, a landmark in Bloomington’s 200-year history, an ambitious park that will transform a central swath of of our city and become a beloved destination for Bloomington families, and for visitors from miles around.

Ambitious indeed!  Yes we are! And that means all of you gathered here tonight, the fabric of our community, and the leaders who have joined me here on stage.  A transformation this ambitious doesn’t get hatched overnight. In fact, it gestates for decades. We’re going to hear from several folks this evening, and I am especially grateful that joining us to begin are some dear friends who can share Switchyard Park’s origin story, who bring very important institutional memory.  I am so glad we can hear from former Mayors Tomi Allison and John Fernandez, beginning with when the park we’re about to dedicate tonight was just a gleam in Mayor Allison’s eye:

Former Mayor Allison: While the railroad here was still active, before we knew whether CSX would abandon the historic Monon railroad line between Bedford and Bloomington, and stop using the McDoel Switchyard, right here where we’re standing, before that, we had a gleam in the eye that perhaps some day this could be a park, in part because it was in the flood plain. So with significant effort we got a signed agreement from the railroad that the City would have the ‘right of first refusal’ to buy the switchyard land. That meant, and I remember the day, 27 years ago, in 1992, that meant when I read the news that CSX was indeed planning to abandon the property, we were ready. It meant the stage was set for when that last train whistle blew, that it might signal a new start for Bloomington.  Of course, things don’t happen overnight. We got prepared, but it would be another 12 years before the final freight train left the McDoel Switchyard....and by then it was Mayor Fernandez at the helm….. 

Former Mayor Fernandez: Well Tomi, we all are grateful that you could envision the possibilities.  When I began my service as mayor, I got on board with your idea and shared that vision. Early in my tenure, we knew that it was only a matter of time before the Monon would be heading down the tracks for good. In February of 2003, 16 years ago, I announced exciting news that the City had secured a $5.4 million state grant to redevelop the McDoel Switchyard into an urban park trail.  By the end of that year, we were underway: we bought 12 acres of rail corridor from the Indiana Rail Road for $350,000. That may have seemed expensive to some at the time, but I have to tell you, and don’t you agree from this vantage point, that as we walk the B-Line and see so many people enjoy it, and see so much development embrace it, it feels like a great, great deal today?! With so many in our community, including many of whom are here today, we began the design and planning work to bring our shared vision to life.  And I’m so pleased to be here for this next chapter.

Mayor Hamilton: We are all so grateful to the vision and leadership of Mayors Allison and Fernandez. By the time my immediate predecessor Mayor Mark Kruzan came into office, this train was speeding down the tracks. Mark -- who is out of town and was very sorry to be unable to join us tonight -- took this project to the next level, with active acquisition of more land and the design and build phases of our beloved B-Line Trail, which first rolled out in 2009.  In 2011, Mayor Kruzan, along with the City’s Parks Board and staff, commissioned the Switchyard Park’s master plan and in 2015 the city council approved bonds to fund this project out of Tax Increment Finance resources. We are here because these three successive mayors had the vision and the leadership to run the relay races that these big projects demand, to move from imagination to reality. Would you please all show your thanks to their service.

In 2016, when I became mayor, it was Switchyard Park’s time to shine. We reviewed and approved the plans, designs and budgets, to consider and make a thousand decisions to get us to today. Since January 1, 2016 it has been full speed ahead for the park we are unveiling tonight.  Many of you will remember convening at the northern end of the park eighteen months ago for the groundbreaking ceremony. Along the way, one of this park’s most steadfast stewards has been Mick Renneisen. The longtime director of the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, who served our city under all four mayors, Mick is now our Deputy Mayor.  With great appreciation for his leadership, and his own vision and unwavering dedication to this park, which would not be here without him, let us now welcome Deputy Mayor Renneisen to the stage. 

 

Renneisen

Cecil Penland (REA)

Don Griffin (RDC)

Kathleen Mills (Park Commissioners)

Dave Rollo (Council)

Jim Murphy (Parks Foundation)

Paula McDevitt (Parks Dept): 

 

Mayor Hamilton, closing remarks: Thank you Paula, and all of our colleagues, and partners, who have guided this project along its decades-long journey of becoming Switchyard Park.  And thanks to all of you, members of the Bloomington community -- individual residents and taxpayers, organizations, businesses -- whose investments in this city have supported this project, which is leading Bloomington into a third century with a bang!    

It is good, tonight, to be surrounded by community, all of you who love Bloomington, and who have played such key roles in its journey. Like fellow travelers on a long train ride, we can reflect on where we’ve come from, as we contemplate the tracks that lead us into the future. It’s been some journey.  Long before this land was a railroad switchyard, long before the train first came through Bloomington in 1853, and long before the state designated a small seminary just a few blocks north of this spot as Indiana University in 1820 … it’s essential, and humbling, to acknowledge that these were the ancestral homelands of the Miami, Delaware, Potawatomi, and Shawnee people. We hope to respect their legacy today, and in the future with the mindful use of this land.    

As over the past 150 years this place became a thoroughfare, a transfer site, a place where trains switched tracks en route to far-off destinations, this 57-acre site will now assume a new identity as its own destination.  Its rededication tonight will change Bloomington’s onward journey in a way that we can only imagine, as we take the long view of our city. It will change our community like other parks have. Like Cascades Park has done, since its dedication 95 years ago. Like Bryan Park has done, since its dedication 62 years ago. WIll you join me, as a whole community, in thanking the people and leadership of our two-time Gold-Medal-winning Parks and Recreation Department and what they mean to us?

And besides the courts and courses, the trails and playgrounds, the ice and lake and streams, the classes and concerts, movies and celebrations, besides all that amazing stuff, parks are some of a city’s most hardworking elements. They are like our lungs, with tens of thousands of trees. Indeed the 3,600 trees planted in Switchyard will add to our Tree-City’s significant and growing urban forest. Parks improve air quality, sequester carbon, reduce energy demand, prevent erosion, and provide habitat for wildlife. Trails, like the B-Line that winds through this park, move bikers and walkers around our city. We play in parks, and Switchyard offers great new places with a splash pad, a fantastic playground, pickleball, bocce and basketball courts, open lawns and wetlands, and great new dog parks. 

We gather and celebrate in parks, and how about this outstanding new Pavilion? And the great lawns and outdoor stage, and the picnic areas and the bosque outside -- it will be wonderful to see all the galas and shindigs to be hosted at Switchyard. And parks make everything around them better -- as neighborhoods and enterprises nearby thrive with their proximity to this new shining city Pearl. And let’s always remember, this PUBLIC park, helps build equity and opportunity, as a place where all are welcome, from all walks of life, from whatever means, to enjoy this public amenity.

As Switchyard Park has developed through four administrations, we’re working to leverage its impact. We’ve purchased land around the park to develop for mixed housing, like at Switchyard Apartments on Rogers, and at the Walnut entrance, to assure that people from all walks of life can live by and enjoy this great park. We’ve made sure that those of all ages and abilities are included in this vision--from the all-abilities splashpad, to the accessible playground and raised community garden beds, to the dog park and trails and more -- this park invites everyone in. We’ve created new venues, including here, and the outdoor plazas, and shelters, and the new 5,000 person lawn and stage and amphitheater. We’ve focused on sustainability, with native trees and daylighted stream and wetlands supporting more native habitat, with this Pavillion a LEED Silver building, and the police substation…...

This is a night of new beginnings, dedicating a transformed 57-acre industrial site, right in the middle of our city, unwrapping a beautiful gift to current and future residents of and visitors to Bloomington.

Things happen when we imagine them. First we have to imagine them. Then we have to work together to accomplish them. A poet has said “Our reach should always exceed our grasp.” ....that is, we always should be reaching far, and striving to grasp. That’s what we’ve been doing I believe, in Bloomington these past few years. We reach toward the new economy…...we reach toward more equitable housing…...we reach toward a more vibrant downtown with an expanded convention center…...we reach toward a more responsible and sustainable future. There are no great cities without great parks. And we have been reaching toward this great new park for decades. Well tonight, my friends, we can close our grasp around it, for it is here. Thank you, and. . . . .WELCOME TO SWITCHYARD PARK!!!
 

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