New Parks & Recreation Director Talks 14 Years With the Town & Excitement For Upcoming Programs
Photographer: Amy Payne
Ever since he interviewed for a part-time job at the Richard A. Carlucci Recreation and Aquatic Center the day it opened in November of 2004, Brent Bangel has called Plainfield home. Growing up in Decatur Township, Bangel says he only visited Plainfield to shop the only Galyan’s Sporting Goods store in the region. Little did he know this community would become more than the location for his favorite sporting goods store, it would be the town where he’d grow as a professional and now grow his family of four and soon-to-be five.
“My brother worked as a lifeguard at Splash Island during its opening season in the summer of 2004,” Bangel says. “I brought him lunch one day and I didn’t even know the waterpark and the facility existed out here.”
Bangel kept that in the back of his mind as he searched for a job, after all, parks and recreation was right up his alley. Having played collegiate baseball for Marian University and obtaining his Bachelors in Sports Management and Business Administration, his background aligned well with what the Plainfield Parks and Recreation Department was looking for in November of 2004. Nate Thorne, the current Town of Plainfield Assistant Town Manager and former General Manager for the Parks Department, hired Bangel as a part-time Building Manager.
“We are incredibly lucky to have Brent join our leadership team,” Thorne says. “I can remember when Brent first joined the department having conversations in hopes that we could keep him for at least six months or a year, because I knew he was headed for greater things. A permanent position became available and promotions would follow. Brent knows an extraordinary amount about parks and the operations.”
Bangel was quickly promoted to Recreation Center Operations and Facilities Manager just months after he was hired. He was then promoted in 2008 and named the Parks Athletic Fields Manager which evolved into the position of Parks Facilities Manager. Bangel was again promoted in 2018 and named the General Manager of the Richard A. Carlucci Recreation and Aquatic Center before landing the Director of Parks and Recreation position in March of 2019. In total, Bangel continues his 14-year tenure with the Town of Plainfield, having worked in virtually every facet of the Parks and Recreation Department.
“It is always great to see employees work their way up the ladder within the Town of Plainfield’s organization,” says Town Council Member Lance Angle. “Brent is responsible for the management and operations of all divisions of Parks and Recreation including the 30-plus miles of Plainfield trails, all Town parks and the Richard A. Carlucci Recreation and Aquatic Center. The experience Brent has in the Parks Department is of great value. He lives and breathes parks and recreation. We are fortunate to have someone as passionate as him leading this department.”
Bangel enjoys the outdoors, where he can fish, hunt and spend time with his growing family. He has two sons with his wife, Sarah, and they have a daughter on the way. Bangel’s kids participate in Plainfield Youth Sports, and when they’re not at a park, they are in their own backyard with their chickens, turkeys and ducks.
“I am passionate about introducing my kids to nature and teaching them about the outdoors,” Bangel says. “It made me who I am today and has helped me tremendously in this career. I grew up on a family farm and we continue to go out and help my parents on the farm often.”
Bangel says he enjoys his job because with every day comes a new challenge. It also helps to work for a parks department in such a parks-centric community. Plainfield prides itself in having more than 30 miles of trails and big city amenities, such as Splash Island.
“We are very excited to work with Brent to continue to enhance our parks system as it is the catalyst of the superior quality of life in Plainfield,” says Town Manager Andrew Klinger.
Plainfield is constantly updating and increasing its parks inventory. Just last year, the Town of Plainfield opened Talon Stream Park. The Talon Stream Park Master Project began in 2008, after the Town of Plainfield recognized a need to redevelop the Shouse Landfill, also known as the Shouse Dump. Located just north of the Richard A. Carlucci Recreation and Aquatic Center and adjacent to White Lick Creek, an important waterway in Plainfield, the Shouse property was not only an eyesore but a liability to the environment. The large field had become an unrestricted dumping ground for all kinds of trash and chemicals. By working with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), the banks were re-enforced, hazardous materials cleared, the dumpsite was capped and topsoil was hauled to the site to make it environmentally safe to be used for a park. Talon Stream Park includes a trail, a shelter house and restful, shaded areas with spectacular views of White Lick Creek.
The Parks Department hosted its annual Halloween event, Sat-Terror-Day, at Talon Stream last year. It grew from just a three-hour event to a full-day free fall festival. These are the types of projects Bangel sees as the future of Plainfield Parks and Recreation.
“I look forward to celebrating the amenities we currently have but also growing and increasing those amenities as well as our programs and special events,” he says.
Hendricks Regional Health (HRH) became the latest corporate sponsor of the Richard A. Carlucci Recreation & Aquatic Center, in which Bangel is eager to roll-out programs to increase the value of memberships. One of the most exciting projects on the horizon is a bike-share program that HRH and Bangel are working tirelessly to roll-out to the community.
His hands are in many different buckets, especially with new land acquisitions. Just a few months ago, the Town of Plainfield acquired Sodalis Nature Park from the Hendricks County Parks. Sodalis, which is named after the endangered Indiana bat Myotis Sodalis, features more than 3.5 miles of nature trails, picnic areas and a 5.5-acre pond. Hendricks County Parks developed the park in 2010 under a lease arrangement with the Indianapolis International Airport (IAA). The Town of Plainfield purchased the park land as part of a larger 1,800-acre acquisition of land from the Indianapolis International Airport (IND) in 2018. The long-term vision for this land is to capitalize on the opportunity presented by the Sodalis Nature Park and provide additional recreational use by creating a larger regional park. The Town hopes it can also be an opportunity to educate people about endangered species in Indiana and help with methods for protecting them.
Bangel certainly now knows there is more than a sporting goods store in Plainfield. There’s an unprecedented quality of life here in Plainfield. From the Richard A. Carlucci Recreation and Aquatic Center and Splash Island Waterpark, the top-ranked Plainfield Community Schools, the Shops at Perry Crossing and the many projects that are underway in the community, he’s got his work cut out for him but he says he’s thrilled to be a part of all of it.