After decades sitting idle, a basketball court and the yard next to it in Pershing will be made into a playground for children.

“We’ve never had a place for the kids,” said Steve Mills, Pershing Town Council president.

The work to make 0.165 acres next to the former Pershing school into a public park is expected to cost about $118,000. Work could start late this spring, Mills said.

Mills believes the town has a good shot at getting $50,000 from CreatINg Places, a program of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

Grants up to $50,000 are funded by Patronicity, a foundation, matching the amount raised by government bodies or nonprofit agencies. Miller believes approval to participate should be received by early 2024.

If approved, the fundraising campaign will last 60 days, probably in early spring.

Wayne County’s Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program has promised to fund half the local $50,000. That leaves another $25,000 from the online campaign. The town has funds on hand for the remaining.

Funding will pay to rehab the concrete pad, replace a deteriorated basketball goal, add new playground equipment and build a picnic shelter in the yard. The lot will be fenced.

The Golay Community Center has donated basketball goals that were removed when it built a pickleball court, Mills said. An anonymous donor has already pledged $1,000 to be given during the fundraising campaign.

The Western Wayne Schools board in December gave approval for donating the town an easement on the grass lot and basketball court on the east side of the school. Mills credited Superintendent Andy Stover for his assistance with the project, even helping arrange the Golay Center’s donation.

The school has sat mostly under-used for about 30 years, since being consolidated into Western Wayne Elementary School.

The school corporation administrative office had been there until recently and athletic teams practice in the gym.

Two years ago, the Wayne Bank Boys & Girls Club unit began operating its after-school program there. Those children will be able to use the new playground.

It’s part of an overall community improvement plan that also includes repairing sidewalks along U.S. 40 through town and installation of new controls at the wastewater treatment plant.

Existing sidewalk will be repaired where possible and new sidewalk will be laid where there is none now. That project’s cost is estimated at $64,000, with about $52,000 coming out of the American Recovery Plan Act funds allocated to the town for COVID-19 relief.

Another $44,000 is allocated for updating controls at the wastewater treatment plant. The county will pay about $21,000, Mills said.

“We’re also looking at grants for streetlights,” Mills said.

Town Council hopes to install solar-powered lights and has put up a light next to town hall to see how it works.

Council also is interested in cleaning up some properties.

“We’re just trying to bring Pershing up a little bit,” Mills said, hoping it might encourage people passing through town to live there. “We’ve got to give the public something to come live here, something that attracts them to even look.” 

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A version of this article appeared in the January 3 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.