About $1 million worth of ideas went up on the wall at a brainstorming session March 10 about a downtown “play space.”

That’s about 10 times the initial budget for the project, but that’s OK, said Town Manager Scott Rudd.

“I think if we start small and think big and aim high, over time, we can do all of these things, if the community wants them,” he said.

About a dozen Brown County residents showed up at a noon meeting to talk about rethinking the Village Green, or Four Corners. A second meeting took place that evening.

The focus right now, Rudd said, is on the southeast corner, where the old library building is being retrofitted into new public restrooms and a “comfort station” with cellphone charging stations and a display of public art. It’s set to open by the first week of May.

The porch of that building and the lawn are where Village Green committee members plan to concentrate first, due to the availability of a grant, with the application due in April.

But that’s not the only place funding could come for an “all-ages play space,” Rudd said. That’s why dreaming big was encouraged.

The Place Based Investment Fund grant could provide up to $50,000 for projects that “add to qualities of place that are attractive to residents and visitors alike.” It would need to be matched with $50,000, and another $25,000 would be needed in donated goods or services.

“We want to do what we want to do, outside the realm of this grant,” Rudd said. “But, the purpose of the grant is a lot like what we want to do.”

Nearly all the noon meeting participants were grandparents.

Committee members described a place where parents and grandparents could play with their children and grandchildren on small, natural-looking play equipment, or with their own adult friends at cards or checkers.

The noon group supported the idea, with some additions and modifications.

Marilyn Rudd suggested putting a children’s play space on a different corner than the southeast because of safety reasons, being so near the public restrooms and a path to the alley behind the Village Green Building.

She also thought the lot was a little too cramped to try to do so much on it. She suggested looking at the northeast corner for a children’s play space instead.

Kathy Anderson suggested placing a very small amphitheater on the northeast corner where musicians could perform and folks could sit and listen.

David Martin said the town pump on the southeast corner needs to become functional again. The committee had talked about restoring the post-and-beam structure that covers it.

By email, Terry Schultz suggested using the pump to feed a water feature on the southeast corner, similar to the shallow swale that attracts children at the Bloomington Farmers Market.

Other suggestions included swings on the restroom’s covered porch; checkerboards painted onto tables; banners over the streets heralding special events; and post holes to be set into pavement, so it would be easy for festival organizers to set up tents at the Village Green corners or across Jefferson and Main.

Pictures were projected from the late 1940s of tents covering the entire stretch of West Main from Van Buren to Jefferson. Marilyn Rudd said the flea market/local fair used to last a week. She wasn’t sure about doing that type of thing now out of concern for restricting emergency vehicle access to Helmsburg Road.

The Nashville United Methodist Church has conducted a street fair and flea market at the Village Green corners for more than 40 years, one Saturday in October.

Church member Jane Huffman attended to let the group know that NUMC is talking about building a playground, a shelterhouse and half basketball court — all open to the public — behind the church where Parents Day Out used to stand.

She said the church has applied for a grant to build it and will learn later this month if it’s coming.

“We want to make sure we cooperate with this, think of this project together,” she said.

Meeting participants also talked about redoing cross-walks in a decorative way that would help tie the areas together and make the Village Green more visible from Van Buren and Main, where most tourists walk.

The “all-ages play space” isn’t meant for only tourists.

“We’re talking about locals here, and the awesome benefit is that visitors will use this like crazy, too,” Rudd said.

“We’re really colorful people. … They want to interact with us.”

What's next?

Village Green committee member Scott Hutchinson said the group plans to look at all the input, “put it all together and see what’s sticking and what looks less feasible.”

The Place Based Investment Fund grant opportunity will continue to be discussed at public meetings.

The Village Green committee is a loose group that includes members of the Nashville Arts and Entertainment Commission, food and beverage commission, parking and public facilities commission and other interested residents.

Sara Clifford has been raising a family in Brown County since 2005 and leading the Brown County Democrat since late 2009. In addition to editor, she is the beat reporter for town government and writes columns, features and general news stories.