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Switchyard Park to bring community involvement and affordable parking


The Switchyard Park is under construction Sept. 11 on South Rogers Street. A skate park is being built at the site, among other attractions. Claire Livingston

The new Switchyard Park is reviving a historic area and helping inform the public about a forgotten period in Bloomington’s history. It is set to open November 2019, with the final completion including seasonal planting in May 2020.

“The citizens' survey said they wanted more opportunities to be active,” said Paula McDevitt, director of Parks and Recreation.“It just made sense for the city, we had the trail going there anyway, it was a part of our trail system.”

In the park’s 65.29 acres, it includes opportunities for the public to get involved with a community garden, a scare park with 20 different obstacles and a dog park that spans almost five acres. They are planting 600 trees and 2,000 reforestation seedlings.

The park also provides facilities to host gatherings and performances, such as a pavilion with outdoor and indoor spaces, a stage that can accommodate 5,000 to 8,000 people and a picnic shelter. 

The location, at 245 W. Grimes Lane, was chosen for the historic Monon railroad station and the Mcdoel switchyard that was developed in the 1910s. The B-Line Trail also runs by this location.

“The railroad was a hub of activity when manufacturing was going gangbusters in the community,” said Dave Williams, the director of operations and development. “We want to pay homage to railroad history in Bloomington because it’s a very long one.”

The rail yard was supported by the manufacturing industry as they used the railroad to ship out the product, but once the manufacturing industry started to decline, so did the railroad. 

There will be information about the station and the switchyard throughout the park on display boards, just like the ones along the B-Line trail.

Dave Williams, the Operations and Development Director for Bloomington Parks and Rec, said they were able to get the land because of the soil in that area needs to be remediated as a result of the coal ash and cinders that were left there while the switchyard and station were active. 

 “It had liabilities not everyone wanted to take on, but the city was willing to,” Williams said. “If you come to the park, there is a protective layer of clean soil that covers the coal ash.”

Jud Huber, project inspector, said as long as it is not disturbed, then it is safe for the patrons. 

“There’s somewhere between 6-12 inches of cover as we do general excavation,” Huber said.

He said the city has worked in this area before when they constructed a part of the b-line trail in that location. 

 “Coal ash is an inert material, so you have to be careful with the dust during construction, but it doesn’t wander and stays in place,” Williams said. “We’re taking care of environmental remediation by building a park.”

As well as park features, the area will be home to affordable housing, which McDevitt said was very important to the city. South Central Indiana Housing Opportunities Corporation, a nonprofit affordable housing developer, will be building, leasing and managing them. 

“They will re-energized that area of the community,” McDevitt said. “Not only to repurpose the parcel into park, but to revitalize that area of the community.”

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