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Indy Parks to get $80M in grants from Lilly Endowment

The planned projects will take place through 2025.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis leaders announced a historic $80 million in grants from Lilly Endowment to make improvements across the Indy Parks system.

Here's how the grants will be allocated: 

  • $71.9 million to the City of Indianapolis Department of Parks & Recreation to support improvements in 42 parks located in all nine townships of Marion County.
  • $2.6 million to the Eagle Creek Park Foundation to support improvements at the west side park.
  • $2.5 million to the Friends of Garfield Park to support improvements at the south side park.
  • $3 million to the Holliday Park Foundation to support improvements at the north side park.

"Today's announcement continues a streak of transformative investments for our city's public parks," Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said. "With Circle City Forward, funds from the American Rescue Plan and today's incredible $80 million of support from Lilly Endowment, we are sending a clear message about the fundamental role a well-funded park can play in a healthy community."

The $80 million is 14 times the annual parks department capital budget.

“This gift from the endowment is of a magnitude that I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around it,” said Indy Parks Director Phyllis Boyd. “But it's really incredible. We've had a very detailed to-do list for a while. So basically, it just means that we can get more done on that to-do list." 

The project design and construction schedule will run through 2025. 

“I think it’s coming alongside communities and really listening and thinking about what it is that they want to do and how they want to use parks,” said Boyd, "catching up on the work that we haven't been able to do in past years and just making our parks really fit into and support the lives of our communities." 

"This investment is massive in terms of infrastructure within parks,” said Gretchen Patch, American College of Sports Medicine senior director of strategic health initiatives and partnerships. “But it has to be complemented by long-term programming and engagement with those community partners. You can't just throw money at a problem and fix it, but it can get things started."  

The problem Patch refers to is that Indianapolis ranks 97th out of the 100 largest cities on the ACSM American Fitness Index, research tabulated by the Indy-based American College of Sports Medicine. The poor ranking factors in personal health issues, but also well below average ratings for spending on and access to parks. 

The most recent annual report published last summer says Indianapolis has 2.4 parks per 10,000 residents compared to a 4.1 average for the largest 100 cities. Indianapolis spends $41 per resident annually on parks compared to the $107 average. Thirty-six percent of Indy residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park compared to a 71.6 percent average.

“If we think about neighborhoods that don't have easy access to parks, if we think about neighborhoods that don't have sidewalks, that aren't walkable, that aren't safe to ride your bike on - Indy's kind of struggling with all of those things,” said Patch. “This is a really big investment. It would just be nice to see the city take steps to be able to maintain and fund these long-term so that it’s not just a one-time cash infusion, so that it’s a long-term investment in the community.” 

Click here to see a full list of the planned projects, which will take place through 2025.

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