By: Melanie Williamson
Vermilion is home to 18 city parks, which includes over 2000 feet of lake frontage, six pavilions, two observation decks, seven areas with playground equipment, and a wide range of amenities including picnic areas, park benches, restrooms, trash receptacles, kayak launch areas, the mobility mat, doggie waste stations, walking trails, and several sports fields.
According to parks supervisor Dana Corogin, some of the newest improvements include bike fixing stations, dog waste stations, and bike racks.
There are two bike fixing stations now available, which were paid for with a grant from the Vermilion foundation. One is in Exchange Park near the corner of Liberty Avenue and Main Street, and the other one is in Sherod Park near the old soccer field. Corogin shared that they chose Sherod as one of the locations because there are a lot of cycling clubs that meet at there before starting their expedition. There are also a number of large cycling events that also start there.
Another new addition for cyclists has been new bike racks. The bike racks are being provided through Main Street Vermilion, which paid for them through the use of two grants. Large bike racks are being installed at Main Street Beach, Victory Park, Sherod Park, and Showse Park, and smaller bike racks are being installed in the downtown area. These smaller bike racks will be parallel to the road and accommodate one to two bicycles.
She went on to say that the usage of Sherod Park has been increasing due to its ideal location and parking for large events. This summer alone, there are three large events taking place; the Vermilion Beach Market, the Highlander Games, and the Vermilion Harbour Trithalon/Duathalon.
In addition to Sherod Park being used for these and hopefully larger events, the parks department is working on adding a fresh layer of mulch to the walking trail. She explained that several local tree companies donate mulch to the parks department throughout the season, and once they have enough mulch to cover the walking trail, they do.
Corogin further stated that Sherod Park has also become popular for dog owners because there is plenty of room to play, walk around, and dogs can go swimming there on the naturalized part of the beach.
With so many dog owners in Vermilion, the parks department is working to make the parks more accommodating to dog owners. Dog waste stations have been installed in Victory Park thanks to a donation from Richard and Karen Kime, Sherod Park thanks to a donation from Anne Naugle, and Main Street Beach thanks to Shore Thing.
The parks department also recently installed signs at the Village Greens because Corogin shared that many people did not realize that was a city park. Located across the street from Victory Park in front of the old town hall, it is used for the Fish Festival, Woollybear Festival, Vettmillion show, Easter Egg hunt and other community events. Due to the need for electricity in that area, the Vermilion Chamber of Commerce has donated money for the infrastructure of that park.
Another park that has dramatically increased in usage according to Corogin is Showse Park. Over the last year, they have been able to add a mulched walking trail, pervious pavement in the parking lot along the lakefront, and are in the process of installing seven LED light fixtures along the south side of Edgewater Blvd. These lights are being partially paid for through the Neighborhood Revitalization grant.
The parks department, with the help of private donors, also maintains the community swimming pool and the playground next to it.
Corogin shared that they are very excited to have recently gotten a sled fabricated by Air Tug that is designed for maintaining the beach. It is dragged along the beach to help remove the sticks and rocks and bring the soft sand to the surface. She shared that they have just started using this, but they currently only have the manpower to clean Main Street Beach once a week and Sherod Beach is only cleared twice a year.
Corogin explained that the upcoming parks levy, if passed, will help tremendously with ongoing maintenance and upkeep. She asserted that right now they are completely maxed out on their manpower.
She explained that there is so much they want to do with the parks, but are unable. For example, the parks department would like to increase programming, maintain the parks at a higher level, buy the proper equipment to make maintaining the parks faster and easier, hire a full-time working parks supervisor that would coordinate all maintenance and new projects, as well as work alongside the other crew members to get everything done. “I want to make Vermilion more of what it is…better but not changed” she said.
Corogin commended park employees Brian Dalton and Chris Branham for their hard work and dedication stating, “They really take pride in their work. I get text messages in the evenings because they are excited to see how many people use the parks.” She also shared that one of their parks workers, Jerry Showalter, recently left for health reasons, but that he was the “backbone of the parks for over ten years.”
She stated that another problem they face is that the parks department doesn’t really have an office where people can stop in, get information about upcoming programs, ask questions, reserve a park pavilion, or anything. She said that she would love to offer residents a central location for information; to promote wellness and fitness; and to compete for young families looking to relocate.
Finally, Corogin shared that they are forever grateful for all grants the parks have received as well as the people and organizations that have donated money and supplies towards park improvements and additions, such as the dog waste stations, bike racks, walking trails and more. The problem the parks department faces is in keeping up with maintaining everything.