2017 Year in Review

Amy Park Developed

2017 brought about the development of a previously unnamed park property at 173rd St. & Cline. The park improvements, pushed for by Amy Radalak and the Girls on the Run program at Hess School, included: Hammond’s second dog park, a 1/4 mile asphalt paved walking trail, a new playground with poured in place safety surfacing, landscape beds and a number of trees. This park property had very limited use prior to the push from Amy as a resident of the area.

With numerous volunteers, donations and support from Mayor McDermott, Councilman Scott Rakos and numerous City of Hammond staff, the revitalized park became a reality in 2017.

To honor Amy, as well as other similar community-oriented volunteers, Mayor McDermott and the Hammond Board of Park Commissioners named the site “Amy Park” in 2017.

Civic Center Train Departs for Fort Wayne

In 2017, the City of Hammond agreed to part ways with the steam engine locomotive and other train cars that have sat across the street from the Hammond Civic Center for more than 60 years. Within five years of initially receiving the donated steam locomotive, the equipment was already falling into disrepair.

In 2017, the City of Hammond was approached by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society about donating the train and locomotive to them.

At no cost to the City of Hammond, the Fort Wayne group removed the equipment and is now embarking on:

  1. Renovating it to make it operational again, or
  2. Make it a prime piece for a planned museum level roundhouse in Fort Wayne.

They have secured the funding to make this happen and have guaranteed the locomotive will be referred to as the “City of Hammond” as they move for-ward with their lofty goals.

Many were sad to see it go but were also happy to see it go to the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society as they see that organization is likely with the funding they have to bring life back to that historical piece.

New Playgrounds from Solid Waste Funds

The Parks and Recreation department was able to upgrade two playgrounds in 2017 utilizing Solid Waste District Funds that the City receives. Items purchased include a percentage of recycled content which helps to close the recycling loop by purchasing materials that have already been recycled.

Indi-Illi Park and Rich’s Park were the beneficiaries of new play-grounds replacing the old, outdated and underutilized equipment that previously stood at each site. The planning was also done in 2017 for a similar playground to be completed in 2018 at Dowling Park.

These improvements followed ones made from the same funding source in 2016 for Hessville Park and Riverside Park. This same funding mechanism also allowed for purchasing of recycled content tables and chairs at the Civic Center to continue updates there.

Columbia Park Improvements Develop

Mayor McDermott and 2nd District Councilman Pete Torres partnered in 2017 to bring about park improvements to Columbia Park, Columbia Ave. & Michigan St. More than $500,000 worth of improvements were planned and these included exterior workout equipment (shown), a newly paved basketball court, additional playground equipment, better accessibility, a graded soccer field, and asphalt paved pathways of 1/4 or 1/2 mile loops. The additional playground equipment has been installed in the area between the park shelter and the original playground area.

The workout equipment is the first of its type in any City of Hammond park. Final improvements to this project will be done in the spring of 2018 including restoration and seeding of the newly graded soccer field play area. Final touches include new park benches, trash receptacles, and new basketball hoops will be completed in 2018.

Hammond Dog Parks Grow by 200%

The Parks and Recreation department in partnership with the Hammond Port Authority added two new dog parks in 2017. These free facilities were added at Amy Park in Hessville and at Forsythe Park in Robertsdale.

With the continued success of Hammond’s first dog park at Riverside Park, the City, under Mayor McDermott’s guidance, developed two new sites for the community to use as off-leash dog park facilities. Dogs are major parts of recreation time for many households and supporting active community members is important in having strong neighborhoods.

Now with dog parks in three of the six Districts in the City, the Parks and Recreation department is continuing to look for additional sites that would be good candidates for additional dog parks in the City. The dog park amenities have all been built by the City’s public works staff to allow them to be built at a fraction of the cost using outside contractors.

Hammond SportsPlex Construction Begins

Quite possibly the biggest news from the City of Hammond Parks and Recreation deptartment in 2017 was the ground-breaking for the Hammond Sportsplex at the site of the old Woodmar Mall, 167th St. & Indianapolis Blvd. This $18 mil-lion project which will include 6 basketball courts, 12 volleyball courts, 1/4 mile suspended walking path, 2 indoor soccer fields, 5 batting cages, a community room, concession area and offices is scheduled to be open by September 2018.

This new facility is planned to be a destination for sports tournaments and activities for years to come. It’s also expected to have a positive effect on the economic impact to the City of Hammond’s local business community by bringing guests to our City as well as providing indoor recreation space for those wishing to recreate in Hammond.

Outdoor Pools Evaluated

The Board of Park Commissioners for the City of Hammond had an independent consultant review of the four outdoor pools at Edison, Hessville, Martin Luther King Jr. and Pulaski Parks in 2017. After review of many immediate risks at the pools and learning that it would cost more than $5 million to bring them up to code, Mayor McDermott and the Board of Park Commissioners announced the pools would not open for the summer of 2017.

Following up on what to do with each site, Mayor McDermott, the City Council and the Board of Park Commissioners began a process of seeking a park bond issue to make improvements to each of these four sites. The pools will see new recreational improvements to each of the four sites at a budgeted figure of $2 million each. Consultants have been engaged by the Park Board for each site and work continues into 2018 for completing site master plans.

Energy Efficiency Updates

The City of Hammond began a large energy efficien-cy update program in 2017. Part of that included up-dating all lights within the Civic Center to LED fixtures. The remaining exterior building lights and lights at the Jean Shepherd Comm. Center will be replaced in 2018.

The HVAC system was also upgraded with a number of new units. Four air handler units that hadn’t been in operation for more than 30 years are now also opera-tional to help keep comfort levels in the facility to the way it was orig-inally intended when built 81 years ago.

Emerald Ash Borer Impacts City

Ash trees in the Midwest beware. The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is well into the Hammond area. Such a little bug is creating a large impact to our City and beyond. The picture shows the type of boring that the bug does leaving tree removal as the only solution for a safe situation.

Thousands of ash trees within the City of Hammond are affected. The four parks with the largest stock of ash trees are: Harrison Park 127, Martin Luther King Jr. Park 58, Riverside Park 37, Dowling Park 21.

Many others are located within parkways or on privately owned property within the City. These trees begin dying from the top down and usually take three years to fully die. Staff is evaluating the trees and is seeking to remove the most dangerous trees first.

800+ Trees Planted to Benefit Hammond

The Hammond Parks and Recreation department continually looks to improve the community by planting new trees. Trees have numerous benefits for the community including environmental, economic, public health and social benefits.

At a time when a number of trees have to be removed due to EAB it is especially important that current staff are stewards of trees and that we look at replacing those that get removed. While they may not be replaced in the same location, the City has the opportunity to add trees to our parks, parkways and greenways to share benefits of trees for years to come in Hammond.

In 2017, trees were planted via a few different grants and programs. In the last two years the City has received grant funding, donations or volunteering of time from: Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission, Chi-Cal Rivers Grants, Student Conservation Association, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, US Forest Service, NiSource, Nipsco, Home Depot and the Hammond Park Foundation.

Over 800 trees have been planted all over the city including the following park sites: Civic Center, Columbia Park, Dowling Park, Erie Lackawanna Greenway, Harrison Park, Hessville Park, Martin Luther King Jr. Park, Optimist Park, Peoples Park, Rich’s Park, Riverside Park, Turner Park and Windrich Park.

New Senior Center Opens at Pulaski Park

In December of 2017, the City of Hammond Parks and Recreation department opened up a new Senior Center at Pulaski Park. The City was approached by a group of senior volunteers including Kathryn Jesuit, Ann Kruszynski and Margaret Saliga about the need for a Senior Center. After meeting with Mayor McDermott, 1st District Councilman Mark Kalwinski and City staff it was decided to transform an underutilized space at Pulaski Park.

With many seniors helping to bring items for the center, support from Mayor McDermott, Councilman Kalwinski and staff the facility was ready to open. A ribbon cutting celebrating the repurposing of the recreation center within Pulaski Park as a Senior Center on December 5, 2017. The center continues to open on Tuesdays and Thursdays under the volunteer coordination by the Seniors.

Disc Golf Course Returns to Riverside Park

Another exciting improvement in 2017 was the return of an 18 hole disc golf course to Riverside Park. Under Mayor Thomas McDermott, Sr. this park was the first disc golf course in Northwest Indiana when it was originally built in 1986. Due to the reconstruction of the levee along the Little Calumet River, the course was removed in the 2000’s. By working together with the Red Roc Disc Golf Club and Brian Cummings, Mayor Tom McDermott, Jr. and parks and recreation staff was able to bring about the return of the course in 2017.

The 38+ acres in Riverside Park provide a great space for such a course when originally constructed and is able to fit in well with the other recreational uses at this same park including the dog park, playground, rugby field, 2 baseball fields and pathway. This is one of two disc golf courses that is located in Hammond’s park system with the other one being located at Pulaski Park.

2017 Festival of the Lakes

Festival of the Lakes is an annual five-day event held during the third full week in July at Wolf Lake Memorial Park, 2324 Calumet Avenue. In 2017, the event was held July 19th - 23rd. During these five days, Hammond offers something that appeals to everyone in our diverse community. The main attractions are nationally-known main stage concerts. Hammond provides many other events for the public to enjoy, along with a carnival, food vendors and a beer garden every night of the event. This event showcases Hammond’s three lakes, Wolf Lake, George Lake and Lake Michigan. Typical attendance at this event can reach over 100,000 over the five days of summer fun.

Here are the events from Hammond’s 2017 Festival of the Lakes:

  • Senior Citizen Day: Hammond provides a band and a free lunch to attendees over 60 years of age. They can receive health information, get their blood pressure checked, and socialize with friends and more.
  • Special Persons Day: Hammond provides free rides and a free lunch to individuals with special needs.
  • Kids Day at the Splash Pad: All children can use the splash pad for free all day on the designated day during Festival of the Lakes.
  • Golf Scramble: Festival sponsors take part in a golf competition at Hammond’s Lost Marsh Golf Course, where lunch and prizes are provided.
  • Fishing Derby: children under 12 receive a fishing rod/reel and a class on how to fish for beginners. There is also a fishing competition with awards given to the largest fish caught in each category.
  • Kathleen Pucalik 5K Walk/Run: in memory of Hammond Council-woman Kathleen Pucalik, who participated in the race annually, the 5K Walk/Run is open to all ages with prizes awarded by age group.
  • Polka Party at the Marina: This is a very popular event held at the Hammond Marina featuring a Polka band with lots of dancing along with door prizes, Polish food, and drink.
  • The Festival Hot Rod & Custom Show is a custom car and motorcycle show that includes prizes to category winners.
  • Free Pontoon Boat Rides around Wolf Lake are provided courtesy of the Hammond Marina.
  • Free Concerts: Each night, the Pavilion stage hosts nationally-known music talent that is free to the public.
  • Free Fireworks Display: Hammond provides a quality fireworks display on Friday and Saturday nights after the concerts.
  • Community Stage: The community stage is a separate stage on the Festival grounds that offers community groups and smaller bands or other organizations an opportunity to showcase their talents.

Goals for 2018

The following are some of the goals for 2018 for the City of Hammond Parks and Recreation department.

  • Open the SportsPlex at Woodmar Mall by September 2018
  • Complete a 2018 Park bond issue
  • Begin construction of new park improvements at Edison, Hessville, Martin Luther King Jr. and Pulaski Parks supported by the Park Bond
  • Begin construction of park improvements at Irving Park
  • Complete park improvements at Columbia Park
  • Complete a new playground in Dowling Park
  • Update shelter and area around shelter at Dowling Park
  • Hire a new Recreation Supervisor
  • Hire a Civic Center Manager to fill the vacancy created by a retirement
  • Update Hammond Sports Hall of Fame display
  • Construct two new additional dog parks
  • Transform the band shell at Harrison Park to a shelter
  • Update Dowling Park shelter
  • Continue removing dead and dying Ash trees citywide
  • Seek grants and other opportunities to plant 300+ new trees in 2018
  • Compile and send out a 2018 Summer Guide of Recreational opportunities from various recreation providers within the City of Hammond