JASPER — Jasper’s largest park officially opened Saturday.
Five years in the making, The Parklands of Jasper opened to the public with a Saturday morning dedication and Saturday afternoon grand opening.
“This land is a generation gift,” Jasper Mayor Terry Seitz said, “one which will, through the years ahead, represent the best that this community has to offer.”
People of all ages were in the park, enjoying its features, all day and evening, visiting as late as 9 p.m. The park was also busy on Sunday.
The park includes two miles of walking trails that include multipurpose paths, a walking bridge that will be lit at night, 10 pieces of exercise equipment contained in four fitness pods along the path, an adventure play area with climbing rocks and balance beams, a musical playground with mounted instruments, a tree fort, a splash pad with 42 jets and three rock features, a pavilion that has indoor space to seat 160 people for events and a 2,000-square-foot picnic deck, a wetlands area for nature studies, and about 25 acres of woods that will be kept as woods.
The Parklands also has three ponds and two waterfalls. The biggest pond is named Otis Pond and was dedicated Saturday to the late Mike “Otis” Oeding, former park assistant superintendent.
He was passionate about the city parks, nature and outdoor activities. Otis Pond will be the only pond of the three in the park that will be stocked by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources with fish for fishing. Oeding’s wife, Donna Oeding, was on hand to unveil an Otis Pond plaque that is mounted on the pavilion’s deck.
“He would have loved this,” Donna Oeding said about the park. While Otis was not one that would have enjoyed the attention being on him, Oeding said she appreciates the city’s acknowledgement of her husband’s work.
Prior to 2012, the Parklands land was the Jasper Country Club and golf course, and had been for decades. The country club’s board decided in the summer of 2012 to close the facility and golf course. The city announced in 2013 plans to purchase the golf course for $1 million. The Hanselman family, who own the Schnitzelbank Restaurant, bought the country club’s building and remodeled it into Klub Haus 61, which is an event center available for rentals; the family also has the Schnitz Brewery & Pub on the building’s basement floor.
Seitz appointed a citizen advisory team to determine what the land would become; the restrictive deed on the property states that it could not be used as a golf course. The committee determined in 2015 that most of the land would be kept in a natural state as managed meadows, with limited structures.