Quality of place on the rise in the Indiana Uplands

In 2019 and 2020, ROI awarded $3 million in grants to support 18 quality of place projects in the Uplands region. The purpose of the ROI Ready Communities program is to improve the attributes and amenities that make the Indiana Uplands an attractive place to live, work, and play.

While COVID-19 delayed the launch of some grants, several others have made incredible progress in the last year. We’re thrilled to share some exciting updates on Salem Pocket Park, CDFI Friendly Bloomington, Avoca Park (Lawrence County), The Launching Center (Bedford, IN), MyPath Trail (Owen County), the Jasper-Dubois Library Mobile Makerspace, Humphrey Park (Linton, IN), Banneker Community Center (Bloomington), and PLAYoli Community Playground (Paoli, IN).

Salem Pocket Park

Developed in partnership with the IU Center for Rural Engagement and IU ServeDesign Center, the Pocket Park is an innovative and imaginative project to enhance an underused parking lot adjacent to Salem’s City Hall. Creating a pedestrian link between the town’s Central Square and the John Hay Center, the park will provide a new public space for the community with seating and gardens. It will also feature a mural by contemporary artist Rafael Blanco to honor significant women in Salem’s history as a colorful backdrop to the park.

Salem recently welcomed Blanco to begin working on the park’s mural. Known for many large-scale murals across the country, Blanco’s artistic style promotes human expression, diversity, and inclusion. Follow the Washington County Community Foundation on Facebook to see future updates on the mural and Salem’s Pocket Park.

CDFI Friendly Bloomington 

CDFI Friendly Bloomington is a 501(c)(3) organization implementing a new strategy to increase flexible and affordable financing for businesses, nonprofits, affordable housing, and community projects in the Uplands region.

Since awarding seed funding to this new nonprofit, CDFI Friendly Bloomington has worked with six CDFIs, helped to secure $30 million in capital investment in the region. Recently, German American Bank presented a check for $60,000 to CDFI Friendly Bloomington to help continue its mission to expand economic opportunity in underserved communities. To learn more about how CDFI Friendly Bloomington works with lenders and potential borrowers, visit: https://cdfifriendlybtown.org/

Avoca Park

Built in 1819, this historical site first served as a grist mill then as a state fish hatchery with 13 earthen ponds. Thanks to grant support and dedicated volunteers, Avoca has become Lawrence County’s first public park and featuring renovated walking trails, open green space, rentable shelters & event spaces, historic stone structures, picnic tables, and much more.

Work is ongoing at Avoca Park, but it is open daily for visitors from dawn to dusk. This is a beautiful and serene place to have a picnic, plan a party, or take a walk on the 1.2-mile loop trail. To learn more about Avoca and how you can support this project, visit the Avoca Park and Recreation of Marshall Township group on Facebook.

The Launching Center

In spring 2020, The Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence County began to renovate the teen gymnasium and create The Launching Center, a multi-use STEM space featuring robotics, a makerspace, and a tech shop for elementary school children and teens in after-school programming. While COVID-19 delayed some of the buildout, The Launching Center opened in summer 2021 and hit the ground running with a variety of programming to introducing students to regionally relevant in-demand skills and jobs through project-based learning, soft-skills training, career awareness, and pathway activities. The Boys and Girls Club is expected to directly serve up to 775 students through a variety of programs in the Launching Center. To learn about upcoming Launching Center programs, visit https://www.bgclawco.org

MYPath Trail

The MYPath Trail System is a planned network of multi-use trails in Owen County. Eventually, this series of connecting trails will travel through Owen County from McCormick’s Creek State Park (2 miles east of Spencer), through the town of Spencer, and to the YMCA (2 miles west of Spencer). The Ready Communities grant is funding improvements of the section from the east side of Main Street from Cooper Street to Jefferson Street, including new sidewalks, lighting, decorative street markings, interpretative signage, and ADA crossings. Work on this project is nearing completion, and the official ribbon cutting is scheduled for September 18, 2021. More information on MYPath can be found at: http://mypathtrail.org/

Jasper-Dubois Mobile MakerSpace

Building on its successful maker programming, ROI awarded a Ready Communities grant to the Jasper-Dubois Public Library to create, equip, and staff a mobile makerspace. This grant funded a mobile van to bring hands-on STEM, library, and creative programming to community events and locations throughout Dubois County. The Mobile MakerSpace debuted in spring 2021 and has already made appearances at many community events. To see where the Mobile Makerspapce will be next, visit: https://jdcpl.us/makerspace/

Humphreys Park

Humphreys Park in Linton is one of the most popular and well-used parks in the region. Its 19.58 multi-use acres include playgrounds, a splash pad, miniature golf, swimming pool, community buildings, shelters, and more. ROI’s Ready Communities grant made it possible for community organizers and dedicated volunteers to add several new exercise, health, and wellness amenities. As of August 2021, two pickleball courts, exercise stations, and signage along the walking trail have been completed. Currently underway is the addition of a sand volleyball court, which will be completed soon. For updates on the park’s enhancements, visit: https://www.facebook.com/HumphreysPark/

Banneker Community Center

Located in a historically diverse Bloomington neighborhood, this 1915 building was a school for the city’s African-American students before opening becoming a community center in 1954. The facility serves a diverse population – more than half of which identifies as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). The Center celebrates diversity and inclusion through a variety of programming for area residents of all ages, including hundreds of elementary and middle school students.

Ready Communities made it possible for significant renovations throughout the building, gymnasium, and kitchen; new equipment and furniture; and new technology. ROI also awarded Banneker partial funding for a 14-passenger bus to provide transportation for field trips and Banneker programs. While Banneker was closed to guests for much of 2020 due to the pandemic, most renovations were completed in the fall of 2020 and the space opened for limited and minimum capacity events in 2021. In 2021, Banneker welcomed guests for summer camp activities, a new adult basketball league, weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and El Mercado‘s monthly market and cultural events. Stay tuned for updates on more upcoming Banneker events at https://bloomington.in.gov/parks/facilities/banneker-community-center

PLAYoli Community Playground

Located in Paoli Community Park, the PLAYoli Playground is the only quality handicap-accessible recreational facility in Orange County. PLAYoli was completed this summer thanks to hundreds of dedicated volunteers of all ages and skill levels who gave their time and talents to bring this project to fruition and build the playground. In addition to initial project grant funding, ROI also provided a matching grant to support the purchase of a rubber surface to improve the playground’s long-term accessibility and sustainability. PLAYoli officially opened on July 28, 2021, and is ready for children and families to play, learn, and have fun! Learn more at: https://paoliplayground.com/