Between chatting with friends on a street-side bench, Taylor Hollis peeked at an empty lot across the way. She immediately spotted patches of dead grass and brown spots throughout a vacant lot.
The Vermilion resident then visualized what the property could become: A vibrant green space, filled with people reading novels, flying kites, catching footballs and eating ice cream cones in a shady spot.
“Parks bring everyone together,” Hollis said. “It would also bring more people to the city.” Hollis’ logic supports city officials’ recent efforts to transform a former ambulance garage property at Grand Street and Liberty Avenue into a park. By year’s end, Vermilion Mayor Eileen Bulan expects to debut Friendship Park. The park will be passive, emphasizing open space. It won’t include, for instance, basketball courts or playground equipment.
Friendship Park’s preliminary design calls for several trees, a walkway and a large stone compass pointing north. “This is great for our downtown area,” Bulan said. “It’s another place where people can sit and relax.”
The park is being built mostly without officials spending local taxpayer funds. In 2011, administrators acquired about $91,200 in Community Development Block Grant funds to build the park. Block grant dollars typically fund public improvements to better the community. The city’s park funds contributed about an additional $23,000 for an irrigation system and sidewalk along Grand Street. Vermilion officials say it’s well worth it to chip in the city’s small share for a public facility.
“We’re building a $114,000 park for $23,000,” Bulan said. “The park board and everyone else involved is very excited about this.”