At the Lewisport City Council Meeting, held on Thursday, March 16th, an Open Forum was held for Hancock Park’s current and previous residents to state their reasons for wanting the basketball court and park area in the neighborhood to be restored.
Specifically, they are asking that the City repair the basketball court. It was voiced that the court is in need of resealing, that the nets have dry-rotted, the rims are rusty and the squares for the back boards need sanding and repainting. It was stated that there are 8 inches of overgrowth encroaching-in on the edges of the court.
Also, the playground equipment that was previously there was removed around 5 years ago after a large tree had fallen and damaged it, but was never replaced. The parents would appreciate possibly having a piece or two of playground equipment installed, but their main ask was for a rehab of the basketball court.
Families who live in Hancock Park now, as well as others who grew up enjoying that area, were present at the forum, and would like to see the park revived and made safe again for children to ride bikes in, play, play basketball and have a safe area in the neighborhood.
Lewisport Mayor Chad Gregory began the Forum by opening the floor for those present to voice their concerns. Seth Taylor was first to speak. He and his family have lived in Hancock Park in Lewisport for 10 years and he, along with others, would like to see the park area in that neighborhood be restored to the state it was in when so many children enjoyed it.
Taylor stated, “A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Clarion just to get an article out there for people to read about why I would like the park in Hancock Park to be revived, to make it a safe place for the kids in the neighborhood to go, without playing in the streets. Just having somewhere that parents feel is safe.
In addition, with all the new houses being built in the neighborhood, I feel like if it was redone that it would create a major selling-point for somebody, knowing that they don’t have to drive down the road to take their kids to the park. They can just walk right over there, knowing that it’s a big, open space and is completely surrounded by fences and, for the most part, is gated.
Also, it was brought to my attention that North Hancock Elementary is getting new playground equipment next year and it was donated. That would be a nice option if some of the old equipment could be acquired. There are more kids now in the neighborhood.
When I moved in, there were a few kids. Now you’ve got younger people moving in and they have kids growing up. I, myself, have a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old. We also have one on the way. My wife, Sarah, is due in 6 weeks. I want to create that space for my kids but also, at the same time, try to help out other children and their families in the neighborhood to have a place to go that is safe.”
It was stated that the old playground equipment at North Hancock wouldn’t be removed until August or September of this year, and that Judge/Executive Roberts said that it would have to go through the City first if it was decided that they would try and acquire any of that equipment to be repurposed for a new playground in the Hancock Park neighborhood.
“I have a couple of questions,” Daniel White said. “Just thinking back, we all grew up at Hancock Park and it was a great amenity to have. The neighborhood goes through a period of growth, stabilization, decline and renewal – which is the state it’s in now with a lot of kids. I’m just curious as to why the park has been an afterthought for so long?”
Gregory responded, “Many years ago, it had playground equipment back there – a slide, monkey bars, and a tennis court, etc. Well, over the years, stuff got neglected and, actually, several of the home owners that lived back there at that time, that lived by the tennis court, complained about it being broken-up, they couldn’t use it and they wanted it out of there. We did take that out. And then, fast forward a few more years, one of the trees fell on that playground equipment. What was left, we actually went through a safety audit and some of the stuff was deemed unsafe, so we just took it out.”
Gregory added that he’d be the first to admit that the basketball court needs repairs. “Last time I was back there was when the tree fell,” he said. “With the basketball court, I don’t have any problem with fixing it up. It’s already there. We did have some quotes on it. One we got-in was $10,000 and I knew that was way too high, but the other one we had was $4,950. So, that’s just for that basketball court. That was for putting an acrylic cover on it, just like what they did at the boat dock.”
Council members and residents had a very lengthy discussion, weighing pros and cons. Concerns were stated by at least one council member and a long-time Lewisport resident who attended the forum, Iris Faye Covetts, that they want to avoid any serious accidents from happening, due to unfortunate incidences that’ve occurred in the past. Councilman Kelly Vanover stated: “Definitely, if anything is done, it needs to be safely done and well-lit.”
Hancock Park residents who attended, stated that parents and families who live in the neighborhood are willing to step-up and take responsibility in watching over it and keeping things safe there now.
When Gregory stated again that he had no problem with renewing the basketball court, Covetts said, “But how do you get to it? It’s landlocked.” Others said there is a passageway to access the area, an easy walking path to the court.
Covetts spoke again: “My brother-in-law lived out there at the very front part of it. They put up a fence and people would climb over the fence and break the fence down. You can’t even fence them out. The ones that are the culprits – there’s big kids out there. There’s kids that needs things for ‘em. But how do you go about doing it? Because you can’t divide them.”
Daniel White responded to the many concerns that were voiced: “You’ve got to understand, times are different too. When we were frequenting the place every day, people took care of it.” He asked around the room, “Do you remember it being trashed every day?” And the resounding response was, “No.”
White went on to say, “Do I remember fences being broken down? No. Not one time. Not while I was growing up there. And when you’re talking about a basketball court, when people are actually playing there every day, everybody takes a responsibility and looks after it.
What happened with some of that stuff, and I get it, it’s really bad. A lot of that happened during that period I mentioned earlier, of decline, when there were less kids around and nobody was in that park. Nobody was there all day to be playing. So, when we quit going there, that’s when the bad stuff happened.”
Gregory added that, “And, it is one of the most rapidly growing places in Hancock County (Hancock Park).” White echoed the point Gregory made, stating: “It is the ONLY neighborhood that I know of where we are seeing a lot of residential builds currently.”
It was also stated that there are ways of surveilling that could easily be done, and that if residents living in the neighborhood have a problem they can report it to law enforcement to be handled immediately.
“I don’t expect a whole lot,” Taylor added. “We do have a nice park downtown. We have the boat dock. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t let my kids go there. And we don’t have a basketball court downtown, for whatever reason. But we do have one there at Hancock Park. A minimal investment – if we could have a basketball court and maybe get some donated items…”
“We’re not asking for new stuff. If there was just a piece there that we could use,” Sarah Taylor said. “It’s not just us who are interested in this.”
It was stated that there are many people who would like to see something done to improve the area in the neighborhood, and that not all of them were able to attend the forum. The ones that were able to attend were speaking on behalf of a large group of people.
“This may tell you how invested I am, talking about people keeping up with it,” Taylor said. “I will say that, I admit it, I stepped on some toes. I took it upon myself to go start clearing the basketball court and fixing it up myself. I did that on my own time and with my own money. I bought nets for it…I had to stop, but I did that on my own time-off, because I wanted to give kids somewhere nice to go.
Also, like Sarah said, donated items…I work for Southwire. This was about 3 weeks ago, Mack Cummings, he works in HR at Southwire, his brother lives in the neighborhood. So, I asked Mack what it would take for Southwire to donate a couple of picnic tables. They said they didn’t think it would be a huge deal and that they’d have to talk with one other person. He liked my idea. So I’ve asked, because I am interested. We would be responsible in keeping them taken care of.”
Some of the council members were saying, “Let’s just see how is goes.” Others stated that, succinctly, if you have a good core-group of parents and families who take good care of the area and work together to “police” it, then it would be a good thing to restore the area and give them a chance.
By Jennifer Wimmer