The bulk of Tuesday’s Warsaw Parks and Recreation Board meeting was a presentation of the highlights of the draft of the five-year master plan by Deb Schmucker, president and landscape architect with Cornerstone PDS.

At the June meeting, she discussed with the Board the results of the public input. In May, they talked about the community profile and the existing parks.

“So now we’re going to start stacking all that information together and show you how we got from point A to point B down to the action plan,” she said.

Beginning with demographics, she showed how the population of Kosciusko County grew from 65,294 in 1990 to 80,240 in 2020 according to the U.S. Census, with the population estimated to reach 83,361 by 2030. The city of Warsaw grew from 10,968 in 1990 to 15,804 in 2020, with the population estimated to reach 17,384 by 2030. Schmucker said Warsaw “kind of ties together” with Brownsburg, Shelbyville and Lebanon.

The Hispanic population, specifically, is 12.4% in Warsaw and 8.2% in the county and going up, she highlighted. The Asian population is 4.7% in Warsaw, and 1.7% in Kosciusko County.

Schmucker used information from the Indiana Department of Education to highlight the student enrollment for Warsaw Community Schools for 2011-2021. The population was 6,889 in 2011; peaked at 7,142 in 2015; dropped to 6,983 in 2019 and took a dramatic drop to 6,420 in 2020; and then rose to 6,797 for 2021. That information could help see a trend and plan for recreation programming.

On the screen, she showed a map of where all the parks are in the city. There is a “really heavy majority” toward the center of the city. “One of the things you start to see an absence of is up near (U.S.) 30, up on the very north end of town,” she said, which people pointed out in their comments. There’s also not as much as the southwest corner of the city.

“I will also tell you that the number of parks and the unique offerings that you have are dramatically different from most communities of your size,” Schmucker said, noting the campground, the lakes, etc. “It’s a huge tourism opportunity.”

Every five years, the state does a comprehensive outdoor recreation plan. The state just did its plan for 2021-26. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources recommends 20 acres of regional outdoor recreation area per 1,000 people. Kosciusko County does not meet that recommendation, she said, though a lot of others do not.

Based on the 2020 populations, 1,605 acres are recommended for recreation for Kosciusko County. Throughout the county, it only has 636 acres, a deficit of 969 acres.

Pulling Warsaw out, the recommendation for the city is 316 acres. It has 167 acres, a deficit of 149 acres.

Michelle Boxell, Park Board member, asked if trails were included in that acreage. Schmucker said it depends on how that trail land is owned. If it’s owned by a public entity, it would be included. If it’s owned by a nonprofit or other, it probably would not be counted. Responding to Board member Jill Beehler’s question if lakes were included, Schmucker said the acreage doesn’t count.

After reviewing activity trends based on ages over the years, she summarized the priorities of the 431 people who took the survey. Those included trails and walking paths; maintain and update existing park facilities; provide access to water and offer a variety of activities; offer multi-generational activities; a new greenhouse; and the relocation of Mantis Skate Park.

“So what we did was, we took all those different things, and we took a look at all the different parks,” she said and figured out an action priority plan for the next five years.

For 2022, the total cost of the action priority plan is projected at $3,457,000. It includes $2.5 million for moving the Parks offices and maintenance into a new building; $500,000 for the relocation of Mantis Skate Park if a grant from the DNR is received; $200,000 for pond revitalization with piers and sidewalks at Kelly Park; and $100,000 for asphalt parking lot.

For 2023, the estimated cost is $266,000. The two largest costs are $90,000 for a 5- to 12-year-old playground and gazebo at Madison Grove; $60,000 for a new boardwalk from Buffalo to Bixler public access (donation); and $42,000 for a new recreation staff member.

In 2024, the largest portion of the $500,000 estimated cost is $100,000 for restrooms at Hire Park. There’s also $80,000 listed for resurfacing the basketball courts at Boggs and $60,000 for pier removal at Municipal Park.

The projected cost is $1.3 million in 2025 for the priority list. Of that estimate, $1 million is for a new greenhouse on the former gas station property along Detroit Street. Donations and grants would help with that expense. Another $100,000 could go toward possible pickleball courts at Mantis Skate Park after the skate park moves to Richardson Dubois Park.

In 2026, the priority list is estimated at $2.17 million, with $2 million of that for the renovation of Center Lake Pavilion at Municipal Park. Donations would help toward that cost.

Finally, in 2027, the priority list is estimated at $280,000, with $100,000 of that toward a zip line or exercise equipment on the south parcel of Krebs Trailhead Park.

Superintendent Larry Plummer said, “We could have easily made these at $3 million every year, but we’re realistic with what we can do with our budget.”

Schmucker said there’s always the opportunity for money to come along from a grant, donor or other source and plans could get moved around.

“It’s a road map, not carved in concrete, but certainly a way to get you started,” she told the Board.

The final draft of the five-year master plan will be presented to the Board at a later date.