A place of their own: Kids on Wheels signs purchase agreement for park property

For more than a year, a group of teens and parents has been working to create a place for teens to skateboard and hang out safely near town.

They think they’ve finally found it.

At the end of January, Kids on Wheels signed a purchase agreement for 3.66 acres between the Brown County Law Enforcement Center and the Brown County IGA along State Road 46 East.

The price is $115,000 — reduced from the $197,500 the owner was asking.

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The agreement doesn’t mean that a skate park can go up tomorrow; it just means no one else can buy the property. The group still has to raise the money to buy the land and then to build the park.

“I think it’s a pretty big step. We’re pretty excited. We’re happy with the price agreement and the terms,” said parent Colleen Smith with KOW. “Tom Vornholt from Carpenter Realty worked really hard to get us a good agreement.”

The land is in floodplain, but it can be raised to build the skate park. “We haven’t priced any of that and we haven’t really addressed that. Until we own the property, we probably won’t put time in that,” she said.

Smith’s son, Isaiah, is the project manager for Kids on Wheels. He and his mother have written grants for the project. They earned their first from the Brown County Community Foundation in June. It was a $10,000 matching grant, so to receive it, they have to raise $10,000 by this summer. On Feb. 27, Colleen Smith said the group was about $200 away from that goal.

“It’s such an exciting step. The property is just so beautiful and I think it’s going to be perfect for what we’re trying to do,” Isaiah said.

“It’s right next to the sheriff’s department, so it’s a very safe place. It will be monitored very well and it will be close to town so kids can get there safely.”

The Fabulous 50 Women’s Giving Circle awarded KOW a $5,000 grant at their annual giveaway Feb. 15.

“Being a teenager, riding a skateboard in this community can be kind of hard because there’s not a whole lot of places to go,” Isaiah told the Fab 50 group. “We wanted to start a space for the kids to skateboard, but more and more people got involved. Over time, it’s become a project where we want to provide a space for all teenagers to enjoy.”

Plans include a skate park, a pavilion, a hammock swing conversation area and tire swings. Those pieces of the park will come in phases as funding becomes available.

The cost to build a skate park is around $100,000, according to KOW’s research.

Colleen recently applied for a 50/50 Creating Places matching grant through the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. The grant would have required KOW to raise $50,000 in 60 days in order to get an additional $50,000.

But that grant was not approved because the state wants permits in place on the property. Colleen is not sure KOW can get them without owning the property. The hope was to use that grant, along with the Fab 50 funds, to put toward buying the land.

Now it’s up to the community to donate to KOW to help them reach their $115,000 goal.

“Once you own property, there are actually more grants available. There’s not many available for purchasing property,” Colleen said.

The hope is that some of the teen elements of the park, like the hammock swing area, could be built by volunteers to save money. Isaiah recently built picnic tables for the park as part of his Eagle Scout project and another teen is building the tire swing area.

Colleen said grants also could fund the construction of restrooms and the pavilion.

Once the park is complete, it will be turned over to the Brown County Parks and Recreation department to maintain. Last fall, the Brown County Council agreed to fund the maintenance.

KOW was looking at building the park at the county-owned Deer Run Park, but members decided to try for a spot closer to town to avoid having young people walking or skating alongside Helmsburg Road to get to it, Isaiah said.

The Smiths and BETA teen center board member Clara Stanley said they would like to see the Salt Creek Trail extended to reach the park, possibly using a tunnel under State Road 46 East to get teenagers safely from the schools in town.

Brown County Parks and Recreation Director Mark Shields was a member of the Salt Creek Trail Committee, but in October, the Brown County Commissioners announced they were revamping the committee, and Shields said he has not received one email about the trail project since.

He said he is not aware of any funding being in place for the phase of the trail that would connect to the school campus. All funding that’s currently in place for the trail is pledged to build other phases, like the Department of Natural Resources phase that will connect Brown County State Park and Brown County Schools’ Eagle Park.

“I don’t believe at this time we would be able to redirect any of that funding unless we had approval from the state to do so,” Shields said.

Despite having to raise a whole lot of money, Isaiah said he is really excited about the piece of property.

“I know it’s going to be a lot to finish paying for the property, but I think it will be worth it. I think the park, once we have everything built, will be a lot better at that location then it would be at Deer Run,” he said.

“The property is really secluded. You have these hills on all sides of you. Even though you’re right next to the sheriff’s department, it feels like you’re out in the middle of the woods.”

Donate to Kids on Wheels

KOW needs to raise at least $115,000 to buy 3.66 acres between the Brown County Law Enforcement Center and the Brown County IGA on State Road 46 East.

The group also needs to raise another $100,000 to build the actual skate park.

Contact Colleen Smith at 812-929-0160 or Isaiah Smith at 812-929-0596 to donate, or email them at colleenmie@yahoo.com or 18smithi@students.bcsc.k12.in.us.

Donations also can be made to the KOW account at the Brown County Community Foundation. KOW still has about $200 to raise for the $10,000 Community Foundation matching grant they earned last summer.

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.