Warsaw Parks Board Asked To Honor Pickleball Enthusiast

Winona Lake Town Council President Rick Swaim asked the Warsaw Parks and Recreation Board Tuesday to help him honor Mike Metzger by naming the pickleball courts at Kelly Park after Metzger.

The Park Board instead agreed to consider putting a plaque up at the courts recognizing Metzger.

Metzger, of Warsaw, started and ran Pickleball Phanatics in Warsaw and was an enthusiast for the sport. He died Jan. 14 at the age of 79.

Swaim said Metzger’s passing was unexpected and tragic. He said he sent a letter to Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer and there was talk about recognizing Metzger in some way. He came up with the idea of naming the pickleball courts at Kelly Park after Metzger. Lettering would start at a cost of $250, according to a quote Swaim got, and could go up from there.

Swaim said he was asking the Park Board to “recognize a community leader in so many areas, particularly this area,” by naming the courts after Metzger.

Park Board President Steve Haines said in the past, they have not allowed courts to be named after people. Swaim said as a Winona Lake councilman, he understood that and it’s something you don’t want to do on a regular basis. Swaim said he’d be happy to raise the money for the sign, but if Warsaw was not willing, Winona Lake is getting pickleball courts and they could honor Metzger there.

Parks Superintendent Larry Plummer said Metzger was instrumental in the local pickleball scene and recruiting players and “we wouldn’t be where we’re at” without Metzger’s guidance. Plummer said he’d be happy with putting a plaque in Metzger’s remembrance out at the courts rather than something on the court. He also didn’t want to name the courts after Metzger.

Swaim said he’d be OK with a plaque. “Anything there to recognize him. Without him, we probably wouldn’t have pickleball” in the area, he said.

Larry Ladd, Park Board vice president, asked if there were a sign or plaque out there now with the names of the K21 Health Foundation and The Dr. Dane and Mary Louise Miller Foundation. Plummer said there was a sign on the fence that said the foundations funded the courts.

Haines said he didn’t think a plaque would interfere with that at all.

“I just want to recognize Mike and the hard work that he put in,” Swaim said, adding that pickleball provides camaraderie and fun.

Park Board member Noemi Ponce said a plaque was better than nothing, especially if pickleball was what Metzger was known for.

Ladd said if Plummer was fine with a plaque recognizing Metzger’s contribution, then he was OK with it. He said they’ve got to be careful and cautious about having people’s names on plaques all over the parks.

Haines said they could table it a month and then let Swaim come back next month with the wording and design, which Swaim and the Board agreed to do.

Board member Jill Beehler asked who would pay for it, but said it was a wonderful idea. Haines said Swaim already said the pickleball players would raise the money for the plaque. Swaim estimated it would be $500-$800 for the plaque and might include Metzger’s photo and the history of what Metzger has done.

The matter will be reviewed again at the March meeting.

The bulk of the rest of the meeting involved Plummer giving a review of 2020.

He said 2020 was an interesting year that brought a lot of challenges. It altered the way “we normally do things, cancelled events, restricted play, affected our work force, affected our rental facilties and revenue, but through all of that we wound a way to provide the best recreation COVID-19 would allow.”

Under collaborations, he said Wright Tree Service collaborated with the Park Department, allowing for training for training for Park employees while providing necessary decaying tree removals in the park. The Park Department worked with the Street Department and Wastewater Department on the drainage and construction of the asphalt parking lot at Hire Park and collaborated with the Art Commission to install the art sculpture memorializing Mary Ellen Rudisel at City Hall.

Working with the Stormwater Department, the Parks accomplished additional shoreline stabilization at Pike Lake and revitalized the pond at Kelly Park. The Indiana State Department of Health was provided a testing site for COVID-19 at Central Park.

Plummer said they were able to have the Pete Thorn Center exterior cleaned and power washed. Employees sealed the entire brick building with block sealer, and all exterior metal doors were sanded and painted.

The Indiana Street parking lot was repaired, and the north and south lots at the Pete Thorn Center were patched, crack filled, sealed and striped. Roof repairs also were made to the Pete Thorn gymnasium.

The cameras at Central Park were updated, with new cameras installed at Glover Pavilion and Biblical Gardens.

At the Senior Center and offices at Pete Thorn Center, carpets were cleaned.

The city contracted with Design Collaborative to have the schematic design and constructive drawings done for the new maintenance/office facility and the remodeling of the Center Lake Pavilion. The city is looking at the build-operate-transfer process and possible funding for the facility.

Plummer reported the Park received a grant for $3,000 from the Kosciusko County Community Foundation to purchase 30 trees. An additional 12 trees were bought for a total of 42 trees planted at nine parks. A donation of $2,992.75 was received from Indiana American Water for a water drinking fountain for Ker Park. It will be installed in the spring.

In-house projects included reconstructing the flower beds at several parks. Plummer noted they are struggling with the downtown beds due to citizens using the beds for animal restrooms. It’s difficult to grow plants and trees in a contained area with limited water, let alone the soil being used as a pet bathroom.

Park employees removed the 8-year-old light poles at Richardson Dubois Park. The poles have not worked for years and the bulbs and glass lenses were broke due to vandalism. Park employees also repaired the concrete block mortar joints, stained the restroom building and painted all the doors on the Central Park restroom building. Other restroom doors were improved at Beyer and Krebs trailhead park.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new amphitheater at Lucerne Park was held in the summer; park employees continued yearly updates to the campground; and employees reconditioned all the floating piers at the campgrounds. A split rail fence was installed at the new Kelly Park sledding hill parking lot and at Kiwanis Park. An inchworm climber was installed in Kiddieland, and a protective covering was installed over the chain link fence at Kelly Park pickleball courts. The new swing set was installed at Kelly Park, while major work was done at Ker Park in 2020. Remodeling in the Senior Activity Center kitchen was completed.

Park employees repaired and leveled the concrete wall and pavers in the Central Park Plaza and the Glover Pavilion, eliminating trip hazards. For the holidays, park employees installed the Christmas lights at Central Park.

New equipment purchased last year was listed.

Even with the pandemic, Plummer noted park employees collected 73 tons of garbage and 120 doggy bags on the Beyer Trail.

“I personally would like to thank the Park Board, the City Council and the mayor” for their continued support of the parks, Plummer said.

Looking at financials, Plummer said when the pandemic hit, the campgrounds were restricted to three permanent residents. The rest were not welcomed back until the July 4th weekend. He also reviewed revenues, which were down, for the sawhorse tables, shelters, plaza and other rentals.

In total, the Parks Department lost $35,747 in revenue to the pandemic.

“It was a tough year, but it could have been worse,” Plummer said.

On programs and event attendance, the total was 4,477 participants. Many events were cancelled or limited due to the pandemic. Total revenue including non-reverting programs and events, monetary sponsorships and donations and grants was $31,005.45.

Plummer said the figures were low, but still good considering everything that happened in 2020. The Parks Department is always looking for sponsors.