November 20, 2023 at 2:52 p.m.
BRYANT — For decades, Bryant leaders have dreamed of creating a town park.
That dream was granted in the last year, and improvements continue to take place at the town’s newest hotspot.
Construction work recently finished on the town’s walking trail, a more than half-mile path that curves through Bryant Area Park. The town celebrated Nov. 11 with a ribbon cutting for the project priced at nearly half a million dollars.
Park director Paul VanCise led the ceremony, which included a community lunch and Veteran’s Day service. He referenced the freshly set concrete path, which starts along Wilson Street and continues north, passing the community pavilion and traveling along the west side of the park until reaching Indiana 67.
“If you do choose to walk, you can today,” VanCise said to a small crowd gathered in the park. “It’s completely open, all the way to the highway.”
More than 100 trees will be planted along the trail. The trees — they’ll be installed at 6 feet tall — are intended to provide privacy for residents who live next to the path. More bushes are also on the way. VanCise noted several flowering trees and Dogwood trees have been planted already in the park.
Other improvements include a parking lot addition finished Oct. 24 between Elm and Main streets and repairing and relocating the town’s 130-year-old former jail building, which now sits along the trail just southwest of the playground equipment.
Bryant has been developing its own park system for more than two and a half years. The idea stemmed from town board president Gregg Ellenberger suggesting Bryant utilize the five acres of former railroad property west of Meridian Street and north of Elm Street. In May 2021, the town established Bryant Park Board, and it created a five-year park plan with Jay County Trails Club.
Part of that process included applying for grants. Bryant received $438,500 from a Next Level Trails Grant through Indiana Department of Resources in April 2022. The grant — it requires a 20% match — funds trail development for non-motorized trails and some multi-use trails. Indiana Economic Development Corporation regional office in Muncie then supplied the town’s match of about $175,000.
Locally, Jay County Commissioners allocated $50,000 in Bitter Ridge Wind Farm economic development funds toward recreational projects in Bryant. (Commissioners agreed to contribute $50,000 to Bryant, Salamonia, Redkey and Pennville, as well as $100,000 to Portland and Dunkirk, in November 2021.)
“I so appreciate all the help we’ve got,” said Ellenberger earlier this year. “We could’ve never done it without all the help.”
The Portland Foundation also provided $110,000 to Bryant Park Board for new playground equipment, which was installed and opened to the public in April. The play set includes two rock walls, four swings, a Spinami — it’s similar to a playground roundabout — and a large multi-activity set, which has three slides and two additional climbing devices. Throughout the playground are Freenotes musical equipment, which are flower-shaped chimes, and a Unity Web 3D climbing surface.
Using the park’s general funding and donations from local businesses, the park board also installed a gaga ball pit, tether ball, volleyball and four square courts in October 2022 with help from Jay County REMC.
In the last few years, volunteers have helped make renovations and repairs to the park’s existing facilities, which included a restroom building and basketball court.
Bryant resident Donna Glassford said she’s thankful to have a safe place for children to play.
“This is probably a lot safer place to come down … and the community can watch it,” he said. “It’s a place that everyone can gather.”
John Glassford has lived in the area for more than 60 years. His father and former Bryant Town Council member Carl Glassford ventured with others to Cincinnati in the 1980s to purchase the land now used by the park. At that time, he said, the town didn’t have the finances to do much with the grounds.
In an interview earlier this year, VanCise referenced those community leaders who first bought the former railroad property.
“They had the dream to help develop something for the town, they just didn’t know what it would be,” he said.
During the ribbon cutting Nov. 11, VanCise thanked several groups and individuals involved in the project, including Indiana Economic Development Corporation for its matching dollars.
“Do the math, we have inherited the blessing of having a trail about a half a mile long for about half a million dollars,” said VanCise.
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