A New Day at Sunset Park

Evansville’s Downtown riverfront is getting more than a new skate park and cascade water feature.

An overhaul is planned for Sunset Park, the three-acre green space separating Sunset Avenue and Veterans Memorial Parkway. ADA-accessible walkways, a playscape, a pollinator garden, and more are in the works, says Debbie Goldman, a co-organizer and retired pediatrician who, with her husband Bob, has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years.

Park organizers — the core group includes Downtown resident Amy Hayden and Master Gardener Marsha Alexandrovich — are campaigning for a matching grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority to complete the park. Twenty-five thousand dollars are available through IHCDA’s CreatINg Places grant program if Sunset Park reaches its own $25,000 by July 16. An additional $5,000 then would be available from AARP Indiana through its CreatINg Livable Communities Partnership with the IHCDA.

City Arborist Shawn Dickerson, the Southwestern Indiana Master Gardener Association, and Wilde Horticulture have joined efforts to reshape the park.

“A unique feature is that this is one of the only common spaces Downtown that is landscape-able,” Goldman says.

The park is owned by the City of Evansville and managed by its Parks and Recreation Department. Goldman says the Old Evansville Historic Association has long worked with the city on the Sunset Park project. Goldman says Deputy Mayor and Interim Parks and Recreation Director Steve Schaefer “is fully on board and wrote a lovely letter of support.” So far, the city has donated 10 park benches and plans to contribute sandstone to the project.

A large part of the renewal is a pathway, which will be funded by the Welborn Baptist Foundation. Sunset Park organizers want it to be accessible for people with disabilities and has consulted with Evansville City Council member Ben Trockman and Easterseals. Wilde Horticulture found a composite to use instead of gravel that Goldman describes as more attractive than asphalt or concrete, looks similar to terra cotta, and is smooth and soft underfoot.

The park’s playscape will have a berm with steps to climb and a slide. The playscape must be installed before the pathway, with a groundbreaking tentatively planned for late this summer.

Space for the pollinator garden has been prepped and weeded. Beds have been started, with applying compost next on the list. Sunset Park is consulting with Tim Thompson at the Southwestern Indiana Pollinator Club on next steps, and the University of Evansville’s pollinator club has donated seeds for plants that will be installed on the north side of the park. These plants will attract bees, birds, butterflies and moths. Goldman says the hope is that monarch butterflies will lay eggs on some of these plants and that they will spread naturally over the next few years.

“The park is visited by a lot of birds, and we want to offer habitat options and food for them,” Goldman says.

Two azalea beds were planted in April by Medxcel during its Earth Day project. A few cypress trees have been planted and will grow together and form an arbor at one end of the park. Organizers are leaving space open for activities such as flag football, and music.

Sunset Park has a gardening committee that will meet about every two weeks in the summer to weed, water, and clean the park. Volunteers are welcome to donate anything — time, plants, funds, supplies — and encouraged to contact Goldman at goldman3366@gmail.com.

Goldman says nearby Haynie’s Corner Arts District residents and business owners support the project, including Samantha Buente, owner of Haynie’s Corner Brewing Co; Doc’s Sports Bar owner Josh Pietrowski; and Scott Schymik, owner of Schymik’s Kitchen and Sauced. The latter two even held February’s Spaghetti Bowl football game at Sunset Park to raise funds for the staff at the Peephole Bar & Grill, which was closed at the time following damage from a vehicle collision with its building.


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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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