A Walk in the Park
Brownsburg Parks Director Talks Importance of Parks As a Resource to the Community
Photographer / Amy Payne
While studying recreation services at Ball State, Travis Tranbarger, now Brownsburg Parks Director, worked for the university’s rec services, managing the gym, fitness center and intramural sports. After completing a post-graduate internship that helped him learn more about event management and overall facility management, he joined the Indianapolis Parks & Rec department where he managed Brookside Park on the east side of Indy.
“I enjoyed the transition from campus to public recreation,” says Tranbarger, who has learned a lot about risk management, establishing policies and procedures for facilities management, and how to navigate local government. “There were definitely different budgetary constraints and I like dealing with different demographics.”
Tranbarger has worked with the Brownsburg Parks since 2010, becoming the Parks Director in 2017. As director, Tranbarger works with a six-member park board and 19 full-time employees. He oversees the parks department and works closely with the town management on day-to-day operations. The department also typically hires 40-60 part-time seasonal workers during the peak park season, which runs from late spring until early fall.
The department is split into divisions. The parks division manages park grounds, trails, facilities and amenities such as shelters, the splash pad, and the dog park that is scheduled to open this summer. The recreation division oversees youth services programs, adult programs, fitness classes and special events. The administrative division oversees customer service and business matters.
“What I like about my career is that it involves a little bit of everything,” Tranbarger says. “Often parks & recreation employees are jack of all trades, master of none. We have to know a bit of everything but don’t specialize in one specific thing other than managing public spaces, programs, activities and events.”
Brownsburg Parks manages more than 300 acres, many of which are undeveloped or land banked for future development. They are tasked with being stewards of the towns’ natural resources, meaning that they are diligent about maintaining open space, woodlands and wetlands. Brownsburg Parks also manages more than 18 miles of trails, a plethora of facilities and amenities, and four developed parks: Arbuckle Acres, Williams, Stephens, and Cardinal.
“We try to design each park property to be its own entity because we want it to have its own recognizable amenities and facilities and take on its own characteristics,” Tranbarger adds.
Arbuckle Acres, which Tranbarger calls the “gem of the park system,” is likely the most recognizable as it’s located in the core of downtown. It’s where many of the larger annual events take place, such as the Fourth of July extravaganza put on by the Lion’s Club and the Chamber of Commerce Festival of the Arts. In addition, the parks department hosts the summer concert series in Arbuckle Acres Park.
Williams Park is not as well-known as it’s tucked back into a neighborhood, but it’s the town’s largest park with 77 acres. It has a nature trail, the Watermill Splash Pad, and an outdoor classroom to help with nature education services.
“Many people refer to Williams as Blast Off Park because of the Blast Off playground, a large wooden play structure,” Tranbarger says.
Stephens Park is a smaller four-acre neighborhood park situated not far from Williams that has a picnic shelter, swings and playground.
Cardinal Park is the town’s newest park. Last year, during Phase I, they added a trail extension along Hornaday Road as well as 50 parking spaces that will become the B&O’s main trailhead. Phase II is scheduled to open this year and includes a dog park and year-round restroom facility.
Over the last several years, Brownsburg Parks worked with the town manager, park board and town council to establish the Department’s first-ever park district bond, which allocates money specifically to several park projects that have been in concept for many years but have never moved forward due to other priorities. Therefore, a number of new developments are now on the horizon. For instance, construction has begun on the first phase of White Lick Creek Greenway, which will stretch from the business district on Northfield Drive all the way to Arbuckle Acres. The trail under I-74 is already complete, and the first phase of the Greenway will connect to the trail.
“It’ll be a beautiful trail that will include a boardwalk and will eventually connect with the Town of Avon,” Tranbarger says.
Another project that will come from the bond is renovations to Stephens Park, which will add a restroom facility, update the playground, install outdoor fitness equipment and put in six pickleball courts. That project is finishing up design this summer and has a target opening date of late spring 2021.
Tranbarger is quick to point out that the park system’s success is due to the talented team they have assembled.
“They come from many different areas and bring their own expertise,” Tranbarger says. “I’m proud of our team’s momentum as well as the support that we have from the town manager, assistant town manager, the park board, and the town council. They’re all making quality of life a priority for the town.”
July is National Park and Recreation month. In a typical year, the Brownsburg Parks would host a number of fun activities and events in July to celebrate the last hurrah before school starts. This year, however, Tranbarger asks people to remain flexible as the COVID-19 situation remains fluid. For a time, the future will look different from what they had originally intended. This may mean putting on smaller events and forgoing fairs & festivals. Nevertheless, one thing remains unchanged and that’s the healing power of nature and its ability to improve both our physical and mental states.
“Even before the coronavirus, we would hear daily how people love the parks, trails and programs we put on,” Tranbarger says. “During this pandemic, it’s been great seeing people discover or rediscover what they had, in some cases right in their backyard.”
He’s glad that the governor and local authorities recognized early on that open space and trails were important to public health and didn’t shut them down.
“I’m proud of the way our staff stepped up and continued to ensure the parks stayed clean and safe for people to use in this time,” says Tranbarger, who, along with his wife Keisha, their daughter Kendyl, son Trevan, and Labrador retriever Miles, likes to take advantage of the outdoors every chance they get by going to concerts, hiking and visiting water parks. Tranbarger also enjoys golfing and mountain biking. He hopes to get back to all that soon. For now, he’s just happy to help provide a valuable service to the community.
“Though the Parks Department can’t be everything to everyone, we try to be that conduit to recreation, leisure time and overall quality of life,” Tranbarger says. “It’s fulfilling to know that we are playing a part in setting up this community’s quality of life for many years into the future.”