New life could return to deserted island
A one-time playground area for Corydon youngsters may soon get a third chance at life.
Rice Island, which is surrounded by Little Indian Creek on Corydon’s east end of town, was used for years as a playground when the old Gerdon Youth Center, located on the north side of East Chestnut Street, was a schoolhouse. Funded in the 1960s by the school system and the Town of Corydon, the Island was where youngsters also could go to participate in craft activities, play games such as basketball, ping pong, softball, square ball and paddle tennis, as well as, when offered, participate in track meets and tournaments.
Once a new school was built, the property continued to be use by boys and girls playing organized tee ball and Little League.
When the Friends of Harrison County Youth built new diamonds on the town’s north hill, the island became deserted until a youth soccer club took it over. That endeavor eventually folded, leaving the island again quiet.
Now, the Town of Corydon has a vision to bring new life to the area.
Amy Williams, with Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group LLC, said they began meeting with the town council in late May to ‘re-imagine’ what the island could be.
Plans include rehabilitating the old Works Progress Administration building that is on the island and keeping the existing pavilion.
Because Rice Island is located in the floodplain, not just a floodway, Williams said neither of those structures would be able to be added to the site with today’s restrictions.
There would be a parking area with access through the creek during low-water conditions. When the creek is too high, those wishing to use the Island would need to park on the south side of the creek and use the existing walking bridge once it’s restored. Plans also call for relocating another county bridge, No. 65 (Circle Road), on the north side of the creek, near the old Gerdon Auto Sales property, for accessibility by walkers.
The east end of the first stretch of the Indian Creek Trail to be constructed, Logan’s Trail, is at the original walking bridge on the south side of the island.
A conceptual drawing shows observation decks, a great lawn, an event plaza and trails as possibilities on the island.
‘The overall goal is to create a gathering space,’ Williams said. ‘It would allow people to really get back to water and nature.’
Another aspect calls for renovations to the Gerdon property; a portion of the property could become parking, a playground and public rest rooms, while the rest of it could be available for purchase for mixed-use development.
Denny Kirkham, who attended a town meeting and saw a presentation about the proposed project, said he’s had numerous people approach him on his property near the site of the school crossing to the island to ask if they could show their kids where they used to play.
Mike Washburn, who also saw the presentation, asked if a skate park could be constructed there.
‘I’m not a fan of skate parks, but is this a possible place for that?’
Eva Bates North, president of the Corydon Town Council, said a skate park can’t be built on that property due to it being in a floodplain. However, the council, which wants to eventually have a skate park, is looking at other options.
As a plan developed, so did a grant application for $2 million through the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs.
‘The state and other partners have reviewed aspects of the project, so we are hoping that the application is accepted and approved,’ North said. ‘The really big plan is that everyone can use the island, but, for those who live in town, it will increase their property values.’
Jill Saegesser, of River Hills Economic Development District and Regional Planning Commission, said the grant was due by Aug. 13.
‘We had two public hearings’ prior to submitting the grant application, she said. ‘We got good feedback.’
Saegesser added that the town is eligible for the grant. OCRA could ask the town to revise its proposal if there were any concerns.
‘The state will have to review the application,’ she said, ‘so I would anticipate an award notice within 30 to 45 days.’