The approval Thursday of a master plan for Franke Park paves the way for millions of dollars in potential improvements for the popular site.
The planning document calls for at least $58.5 million in upgrades to the park, which was established in 1921 and includes the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo and Foellinger Theatre. The venues draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, according to the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department.
Improvements would include paving, a facelift to the park's Goshen Avenue entrance, a bike park, a picnic area and increased parking for the zoo and concert venue.
Under the plan, projects would be undertaken in phases beginning next year and continuing through 2030. No money has yet been set aside, and no projects have been approved.
Officials already are examining the feasibility of some of the projects and looking for ways to pay for them, parks department director Steve McDaniel said.
“We're already looking at the first few phases,” he said. “We're looking at the best way to approach it.”
The city's parks board signed off Thursday on the plan, which can be viewed at www.frankeparkplan.com.
Work to prepare the document began in September, after the city hired RATIO Architects to help draft the plan. An advisory group of city officials, parks boosters, tourism experts, advocates of historic preservation projects and others met, and two open houses drew more than 150 residents.
The master plan website was launched, and more than 1,600 people responded to surveys about what should be included at the nearly 330-acre park at 3411 Sherman Blvd.
Tom Cain, vice president of Friends of the Parks of Allen County, called the process “very inclusive, very respectful.”
“It's just a great blueprint and plan for the future of Franke Park,” he said.
Among the plans for the park:
• An organized and thoughtful vehicular circulation system
• Five miles of new paths connecting popular spots in the park and nearby neighborhoods
• Two new playgrounds
• New shelters, a boat house, a “day camp” building and a community/nature center
• Additional amenities such as showers and a bike maintenance facility.
“I think it's a great plan,” parks Commissioner Justin Shurley said.
In other business, the board heard that riverfront development is continuing. Landscaping is underway, and the Harrison Street Bridge is “very nearly complete,” deputy parks director Steve Schumacher said.
“It looks like a new bridge,” he said.
Parks officials had been providing photos and videos detailing progress on the riverfront, but McDaniel said that will stop as the city prepares for a grand opening in August.
“We want to share that final look with everyone at the same time,” he said.