GOSHEN — The possible addition of Fidler Pond to the roster of Goshen City parks had an environmental group wondering Wednesday whether cities and counties will be able to acquire and manage public lands in the future, or whether other alternatives make more sense.
Evan Bontrager presented the monthly Sound of the Environment gathering with Jim Wellington’s plans to raise the money to buy Fidler Pond and donate it to the City of Goshen as a city park.
“It’s nickname is ‘Goshen Ocean.’ It is large,” Bontrager said of the 80-acre site on Lincolnway East north of College Avenue.
The project is the brainchild of Wellington, who serves on the Goshen Park Board. Bontrager said, “I am comfortable with the Goshen Parks Department taking it, but there’s many ways to conserve land. What are all the options,” Bontrager said.
Melissa Kinsey, coordinator of the event, recently lost her job with the city park department due to budget cuts, and she fears the city won’t be able to maintain its parks in the future.
One alternative she discussed are land trusts, “private alternative to land preservation.” Those are nonprofit groups formed solely to preserve pieces of land.
There are some in northern Indiana, including one in Elkhart County. With those groups raising endowment money to maintain the land, it takes the responsibility for that from cash-strapped city and county governments.
“Cities across the country are selling park land,” Kinsey said.
Bontrager said, “this is a debate across the country: What is the role of government?”
Kinsey said the land-trust model has worked in other areas, and she and Goshen Forester Aaron Kingsley put together a proposal to have the city park department develop one before she lost her job, though that hasn’t happened.
On Wednesday, she told the two dozen attendees of the meeting, “What we’re trying to encourage is more conversation,” starting with Fidler Pond. “Let’s discuss what that looks like in the long term to pay for it. Maybe we can get an endowment.”