What’s New in ’22 and Highlights From 2021
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photography Provided by Amy Payne & Washington Township
Ask people in Hendricks County what they know about Washington Township and you’re bound to get a wide variety of answers, because they do a wide variety of things.
Washington Township provides essential services including fire and emergency medical services response, township assistance, public safety education, community engagement, prevention, programming, and cemetery care. And yes, they are in charge of the Washington Township Park, but did you know they also have four other parks, totaling approximately 340 acres? These include Pecar Park, Creekside Park, Murphy Aquatic Park (scheduled to open in May of 2022) and Pock Park, which just opened in November 2021 and provides 36 acres of hiking trails. They also have four fire stations, the newest of which just opened this spring.
While Washington Township is not responsible for the roads nor the schools, they regularly partner with the Town of Avon as well as the Avon Community School Corporation. In fact, in 2022 they will partner with the Town of Avon Parks and Recreation Department to host several large community events.
The township leadership consists of Don Hodson (township trustee), Britt Woodard (deputy trustee), Dan Smith (fire chief), Lora Helmick (park director), Ashley Black (human resources director), Bobbie Vickers (township assistance director) and Karen Utley (community engagement director). The Township also has three board members including Shane Sommers (board president), Amanda Babinec (board secretary) and Steve Blacketer (board member).
During the course of 2021, Washington Township employees stayed busy making Hendricks County safer and more enjoyable. For instance, they built a new 3,000-square-foot fire station that houses eight firefighters. Station 144 was built at 1481 North County Road 900 East because, as they do long-range planning, the two main factors they consider are population growth and response time.
“That area near 900 East and 200 North is pretty heavily populated and it was an area that took the most time to get to, so our deployment study suggested this was the best location,” Smith says. “We’re hoping the location there will provide quicker response times to the highest populated area we have.”
The Murphy Aquatic Park, scheduled to open on Memorial Day weekend, has come together in record time. According to Helmick it generally takes 14 months to build pools, so to construct the water park in the midst of a global pandemic is impressive. Murphy Park will include a wave pool – one of only two in central Indiana. Besides offering loads of fun, this water park has a large emphasis on inclusive play as it will include the first-ever central play feature accessible in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition, both bodies of water include a zero-depth entry.
“We had some anonymous donors who donated wheelchairs for adults and children that can actually wheel right into the water and float around,” Helmick says.
They also plan to open early in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays for their sensory program.
“We recently unveiled our pricing for general admission, rentals, season passes and sensory days,” Helmick says.
In 2021 Washington Township saw a record number of children enroll in their camp programs.
“We were proud to provide a safe, interactive camp program to the community,” Helmick says.
Last year Washington Township began holding joint workshops with the Town Council in an effort to build a stronger community. To that end, Washington Township hired Utley as community engagement director, and her major responsibility is to improve communication with community residents.
“In the last six months we have tried to be consistent on social media platforms to better educate the community about the things going on in the township,” Utley says.
This includes upgrading their website to ensure greater transparency and having available any information people might need. In addition, they have launched a monthly e-newsletter called the Township Times that provides general information about Washington Township. The fire department and parks department also have their own e-newsletters that provide information specific to their areas. To subscribe to any of these e-newsletters, visit washingtontownshipindiana.org.
“We’ve recently started live-streaming our township board meetings so that if you don’t want to come in person, you can watch virtually via our Facebook page or YouTube channel,” says Utley, who has also added a Community Connections segment where she conducts brief video interviews with people in the community who share information about their nonprofits or other organizations.
“People can share about an event or fundraiser, or just information about their program or the resources they have,” Utley says. “Go to our website to schedule a time slot.”
One factor that Washington Township leaders like to make people aware of is the township assistance program, which is designed to help people who are struggling financially.
“Township assistance is distinct from all other public assistance in that you have an opportunity to have a one-on-one interview, and talk about what’s going on in your life and why you may be having trouble making ends meet,” Woodard says.
This is not just an application where you tick boxes, but rather a holistic interview with the township assistance director.
“We know there are a lot of obstacles facing our community right now, and we are here to help make sure you can pay your rent, keep your lights on, and keep your kids fed and clothed,” Woodard says.
Anyone who needs assistance can email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an interview.
According to Woodard, Washington Township has given out $125,000 in direct aid since April of 2020.
Hodson is pleased with the amount of positive feedback the township gets on a regular basis regarding all of their efforts. Recently the greatest amount of buzz has centered around the new water park, located at 753 South County Road 625 East.
“There’s been quite a bit of chatter even in Brownsburg with people chiming in,” he says. “It’s been widely received through this whole area.”
On a weekly basis, Smith receives positive feedback from the public about the job the fire department crews are doing when they are out on runs. They also get a lot of compliments on their public education division as the department provides a junior academy camp each year, along with an adult fire academy in the fall. Plus, they do safety and CPR training in schools and day-care facilities, which the public always appreciates.
The Washington Township Government Center offices are located at 311 Production Drive in Avon. For more information, call 317-272-1835 or visit washingtontownshipindiana.org.