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Douglass Park nearing 100 years old, needs new family center

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Members of the Martindale-Brightwood community, along with officials from the city and parks department, recently discussed the history of Frederick Douglass Park and the possibility of building a new family center.

There isn’t an exact price tag on a new family center, but it would likely cost at least $15 million.

Frankie Casel, president of the group Friends of Frederick Douglass Park, said $15 million is a years-old estimate. She guessed the cost would be more like $20 million now.

The current family center is 65 years old.

Casel spoke as part of a panel that included four other people who are either longtime residents of the Martindale-Brightwood area or at least grew up using Frederick Douglass Park.

The meeting, held Jan. 23 at Little Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, was part of an ongoing series of community events hosted by The City League, a men’s basketball league that hosts an annual tournament.

Frederick Douglass Park, which is 99 years old, has been part of the foundation of the community, especially because of the swimming pool and golf course.

Casel said the park was a “home away from home” for her and her three children, who moved into the area in 1971.

Elizabeth Gore, who serves on the Indianapolis Public Schools board and said she’s lived in Martindale-Brightwood for more than 50 years, was on the panel and remembered her children learning to play tennis on the tennis court.

“The park has meant so much to our family,” she said.

IUPUI anthropology professor Paul Mullins gave a presentation about the history of segregation in Indianapolis and why Frederick Douglass Park — the first Indianapolis park for African Americans — was often times a central piece in the struggle for equality.

Deputy Mayor David Hampton was one of a few elected and appointed officials who spoke at the meeting.

“We have to put the love and investment into Frederick Douglass Park,” he said, “because it’s one of our historic parks.”

Gerald Trotter, one of the community members on the panel, asked why the type of fundraising effort it will take to get a new family center seems to always be left up to the community, even though it would go to benefit a public park.

City-county council member William “Duke” Oliver explained capital improvement for parks isn’t part of the city budget, but he said he would work with Friends of Frederick Douglass Park and Indy Parks Foundation for a possible fundraising collaboration.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

Amina Pierson, executive director of the Martindale Brightwood Community Development Corporation, moderated a discussion about the history and future of Frederick Douglass Park on Jan. 23 at Little Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. (Photo/Tyler Fenwick)

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