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Page last updated on September 19, 2022 at 1:11 pm

Welcome friends to Switchyard Park! I know that this has become a familiar place for many of you. If this happens to be your first time here I suspect you will find many reasons to return. Several milestone events have been recognized here at Switchyard Park; we’re proud of the largest - at 65 acres - and most extensive park development project in the City's history. See Dep Mayor Don Griffin (RDC), council members, Tim Street….other electeds?


We recognize that the city of Bloomington sits on Native land. The city, this park, and surrounding areas are on the traditional homelands of the Miami, Delaware, Potawatomi, and Shawnee people, whom we acknowledge as past, present, and future caretakers of this land. We also acknowledge that much of the economic progress and development in Indiana and Bloomington resulted from the unpaid labor and forced servitude of People of Color - specifically enslaved African labor.  We acknowledge that this land remains home to and a site of gathering and healing for many indigenous and other people of color and commit to the work necessary to create and promote a more equitable and just Bloomington.


Switchyard Park is meant to be a place where Bloomingtonians can come together for community, for health, for entertainment, for equity, for healing. And for fun and food – hence a great day to be here, sharing our ceremony today with Food Truck Friday. [and glow in the dark later?]


This park reflects the visions of decades of mayors, parks directors and staff and City planners. And wise partners and professionals. It also reflects an unprecedented amount of feedback and input from the community. Switchyard Park is the realization of the voices of the people of Bloomington about what THEY wanted in a city park, bringing us a park that manages to meet many interests in our diverse, vibrant community.


And this great park reflects lots of community supporters. The Community Foundation Switchyard Plaza Spray Pad is one of the most popular features. We are so grateful to the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County for their sponsorship of the spray pad, and for helping our Parks and Recreation Department make this free, accessible resource available every day during the summer months, including on weekends until the end of September, not the case for most other water play facilities. So thank you, Community Foundation! The youngsters of Bloomington and their families appreciate it!


Let’s also give a shout-out to the Bloomington and Bloomington North Rotary Clubs, who celebrated their own 100-year milestone back in 2018 by funding a significant number of trees here in Switchyard Park. Many existing trees had to be removed to allow for the extensive coal ash mitigation work needed to make this area a park. We are forever grateful to the Rotary Clubs for recognizing the value of trees for us today, and for future generations. Planting a tree under whose shade you will never sit is a mark of true selflessness and vision.


The Bloomington Lions Club worked closely with our Bloomington Parks Foundation to support our large "porch swings" overlooking the main stage near the spray pad. Something about a porch swing invites people together. We thank the Bloomington Lions Club and the Bloomington Parks Foundation, and all others who have steadfastly supported the creation of Switchyard Park. 


Bloomington Parks and Recreation is an accredited department that is also the two-time recipient of the National Recreation and Parks Association Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management. You perhaps won’t be surprised that Switchyard Park has already received its share of awards. Including, in 2021 Switchyard Park received the Accelerate Indiana Municipalities Community Placemaking Award. Kudos and thanks to our landscape architect, Rundell Ernstberger Associates, who led the community engagement and master planning process that was needed to transform a formerly industrial 65-acre site into a thriving city park.


This park is a Bloomington park in every way. Its location near homes, businesses, public transport, and smack dab along the multi-use B-Line trail makes it accessible by many means of mobility. Accessibility designed and built throughout helps everyone enjoy and benefit from the park. Switchyard has native plantings and skateboarding and community gardens and dog parks and recreational courts and games and wetlands and performance stages and on and on. The Pavilion is even more popular than we had imagined. Dozens of couples have already celebrated their weddings with us in the Pavilion, which has also hosted banquets and luncheons and awards programs and meetings. [Sean: goal of 25 and got 60+ events] 


We’ve also focused on affordable housing at the park, with two projects already approved and underway – Switchyard Apartments and the Retreat at Switchyard on land provided by the city – and we expect more to come. We want to build in diversity and equity today and tomorrow and forever. 


Today we are unveiling one more piece of Switchyard Park - the absence of which, quite frankly, is something no one has really noticed. Everyone has been too busy enjoying what is already here. But the dedication element we are here to introduce you to today is filled with names. It is filled with names of people and institutions who through the decades spent many hours of discussion and deliberation, of imagining and worrying, of hand wringing and hand shaking, of listening and collaborating, all through the years, to bring this fantastic vision to reality: to buy the land, to design the park, to involve the public, to build it, to activate it – all how best to invest the $34 million to best serve our residents.


Through the decades so many made this happen. Some people are no longer with us. But all have a place here, a piece of the past and the future here. These names and the many, many people whom they represent and with whom they worked, they all were part of that process of seeing, not just an abandoned rail facility, an industrial wasteland, or a commercial development opportunity, but they saw a different future - a way to bring the community together in a park very different from any other Bloomington parks. A shining new bloom in Bloomington’s beautiful bouquet. 


It’s dangerous to name names – you’ll see many on the to-be-unveiled feature shortly, and hear from some directly. But important too. I want to thank directly designers Rundell Ernstberger Associates and builders Weddle Brothers Building Group for extraordinary care and excellence. I want to thank predecessor mayors Kruzan, Fernandez, Allison [and McCloskey] for their leadership. Thank Parks board members through the years, tireless volunteers and visionaries, represented today by Les Coyne (Kathleen Mills). And we have to let Dave Williams feel the love, our long time Parks Operations director, retired now, may know more about this place than any one person. And of course also please thank the inimitable Mick Renneissen, both long-time Parks Director and Deputy Mayor, carrying this project thru years and years, with just outstanding skill and steadfastness and imagination. And finally, Paula McDevitt. Paula we love you and thank you sincerely for the incredible devotion to our city and to this project, shepherding ALL of these people and efforts during past seven years. Dave, Mick and Paula: your Footprints and Fingerprints are figuratively and literally all over this park. Thank you.


We think about future generations of visitors to our beautiful Switchyard Park, as they run or bike or walk or roll along the B-Line Trail, as they oscillate happily between the accessible playground and the spray pad, as they loll on a porch swing or lie on a blanket listening to the Community Band or Bloomington Symphony on the main stage, as their dogs cavort and play in the dog park, as they celebrate or buy food or get married in the Pavillion, or picnic with family and friends, or play on pickleball, bocce or basketball courts, garden or skate, on and on the visions are delightful. We think about how many human stories and memories will happen here. For all of that, for all of them, we pause today and say "thank you" to the people who, with parts both large and small, created Switchyard Park. What a great day for Bloomington. Thank you for being here.