GOSHEN — A combination of curiosity and anticipation is bringing many people to Goshen’s Fidler Pond just days into the site’s existence as a city park.
Parks Superintendent Sheri Howland said the park, which opened Friday, Aug. 30, saw about 200 visitors in its opening weekend and employees have been receiving great feedback.
“We’re really encouraged by all of the visitors, not only from our local area, but from outside our area,” Howland said. “The enthusiasm for this facility is just contagious.”
The park, located off U.S. 33 just southeast of Goshen High School, offers various activities for those wishing to experience the site as a public park.
“We offer canoeing, kayaking — we rent those out,” said the park’s coordinator, Jason Lopez. Canoes and kayaks can be rented at a rate of $20 for a two-hour period.
“We also have fishing and a mile-and-a-half walking and biking path all the way around.”
Lopez noted that fishing is free, but fishers must sign up for a permit in the barn upon arrival.
Several people walking the path for the first time Wednesday, Sept. 4, noted their appreciation of the beauty of the spot, as well as their pleasure in the site finally being open to the public.
“I think it’s going to be great,” said Goshen resident Merv Schrock. “Of course it’s going to be, an improvement needed to be done.”
“I just think it’s a nice place for the community to come together,” he added. “This is new and I live so close, I thought I’ll go over and check it out.”
Fishing enthusiasts have been especially eager to get to the park and get their lines in the water, Lopez said.
Though he said traffic through the park had slowed during the first few days of the week after a strong opening weekend, he added that there were still 70 fishermen who came through the park Monday alone.
Friends Austin Ropp of Goshen and Josh Knapp of Syracuse were fishing along the northwest side of the pond Wednesday — an activity they’d been looking forward to for a long time.
“I like it. It’s really nice and clear,” Knapp said.
“Ever since I found out they were opening this place I’ve been waiting on it,” Ropp added. “Over two years now.”
Though they’d already made a few catches, Ropp and Knapp both expressed some frustration over some of the stipulations that have been placed on the fishing, but they came out for a chance to finally publicly fish the pond.
Currently, fishing is restricted to the northwest side of the pond. Fishers can also only fish while the park is open from when the park opens in the morning until early evening and only for a two-hour time limit.
“I’d open it up all the way around,” Knapp said, adding that he’d understand if fishing was still prohibited in wading and launching areas.
“Even if it’s catch-and-release, people will be a lot more interested at that point,” Ropp added. “Or let them fish off a boat. People would drive from distances then.”
Schrock also said he would like to see more open fishing as the park develops.
The parks department has little control over those restrictions at this point, however, as the Indiana Department of Natural Resources is currently conducting an aquatics study as well as putting together a management program and restocking program.
Howland said that once the results of the study are in, Goshen Parks will defer their management of fishing to the suggestions of the DNR.
The pond’s size and history within the community are most certainly a draw for patrons, but Park Board member Jim Wellington said he also envisions the pedestrian and bicycle path to attract many people.
Howland said patrons have already approached staff suggesting ideas for further amenities and programming, something the parks department has already been working at establishing.
Possible programs could include everything from classes on boating, sailing and fishing to scuba diving.
For his part, Wellington, who spearheaded the effort to turn the spot into a city park, said he’ll be working to establish a Goshen sailing club, for which a Facebook page could soon appear.
“We could have informal racing or just a club,” Wellington explained.
He said he’d like to gauge local interest for such a club and, if all goes well, hopefully begin the club sometime next spring.
Parks Department staffers say the possibilities for the park appear endless at this point, as the Fidler Pond Park presents an entirely unique challenge.
“We’re just in the beginning stages,” Lopez said. “There’s a big learning curve. (Goshen Parks) never had anything like this at all.”
Still, it’s a challenge worth taking up, as the parks department has nothing but high hopes for the site.
“It’s awesome that the city can own something like this in the city limits,” Lopez said. “There’s nothing like this in the city limits at all.”
“People are just so encouraged about this facility as a public entity,” Howland added. “All that feedback makes all the efforts worth it.”
A grand opening for the park may be planned in the future once the DNR’s management plan is completed and other small tasks are completed.