Southern Indiana

A Southern Indiana nonprofit is awarding $150,000 to a pair of local groups as part of a new grant program to enhance public spaces.

The Community Foundation of Southern Indiana launched its Quality of Place Pathways to Progress grant program this summer to help fund projects by nonprofits in Clark and Floyd counties. Its goal is to improve access to high-quality public spaces for people who face barriers related to income, transportation and mobility.

Floyd County Parks and Recreation and the Jeffersonville Township Public Library are the first to win funding through the initiative. Both groups will use the money to construct parks that are accessible to people with physical and mental disabilities.

“When we make our public spaces and our venues more attractive and welcoming to our most vulnerable citizens, then we make them more attractive and welcoming to everyone,” said Linda Speed, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “When you do that, you open your whole community up for new growth, economic development and all sorts of good things that will come as a result of that.”

Floyd County’s $70,000 will go towards the construction of a playground at Kevin Hammersmith Memorial Park in New Albany. The 12,000-square-foot playground will have a “splash pad” play area next to it.

Floyd County Parks Superintendent Roger Jeffers said the accessibility-focused playground will be the first of its kind in the area. It’s expected to open next spring at a cost of about $1.4 million, of which the county has already raised more than $1 million.

“This isn’t just a spur of the moment thing, because we’ve been working on it for over six years,” Jeffers said. “It’s just something that’s badly needed in this area — not only Floyd County, but Southern Indiana in general just needs something like this for children and adults with disabilities. And this is going to meet the needs of all of them.”

The Jeffersonville Township Public Library will use its $80,000 award to create a small, accessible park on a portion of landscaped property at its Jeffersonville campus.

Library director David Seckman said the project will include a “story walk,” with plaques similar to a picture book placed throughout the park. The park could open by next June, and Seckman said he hopes it will continue to evolve over time with new ideas from the community.

“One of the big issues is there’s just not a lot of green spaces that are walking distance from the library or just that whole area,” Seckman said. “We wanted to build something for folks that’s really multi-generational and can have multiple uses.”

The Community Foundation of Southern Indiana plans to announce new grant recipients on an annual basis. Award amounts will vary from project to project.

John Boyle is a reporter and editor at WFPL news focused on Southern Indiana. He is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.