FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — “Franke Park is one of Fort Wayne’s most significant cultural and ecological resources.”

That’s what the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department said about the city’s biggest park.

And to bolster the park that has been around since 1921, the department is looking to put more than $20 million into the park.

On Tuesday, Fort Wayne City Council voted unanimously to approve the funding and bidding for Phase 1 of the project and will allocate no more than $22,881,344.60 to it.

“I remember going there for our class picnics and stuff,” said 3rd District Councilman Tom Didier who represents the area the park is in.

The nearly $23 million price tag, however, won’t be saddled onto the taxpayer, something that was a key factor for councilmembers.

“As you can see they raised $10 million, plus the 2 million dollars in ARPA, so they’re only bonding $10 million which is incredible,” Didier said. “Basically over 50% of this project is being paid through donation, which is amazing.”

Phase 1 consists of adding a new entrance to the park off Goshen Avenue and adding a new central pavilion able to hold up to 400 people.

However, the full master plan for what Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation has in mind for Franke Park could include seven phases over 15 years.

Here is what the current master plan entails:


The masterplan map side by side with a legend explaining each of the denoted areas

This is what the parks department came up with after thousands of online feedback forms received and multiple public meetings in 2018 and 2019.

The hundreds of changes coming to the park may seem overwhelming, but they all play to the same tune. At the onset of the project, the parks department created a set of eight guiding principles, a conductor to guide the sound of each change.

  • BALANCE ecology, recreation, and the built environment.
  • PROMOTE and support a variety of activities and uses that encourage active and passive recreation
  • CELEBRATE and preserve the cultural history of Franke Park and the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
  • ENSURE creative, sustainable, authentic, high-quality design and development
  • IMPLEMENT best practices for stormwater management, incorporating existing water bodies within the park
  • INCREASE connections between the park, the greenway, the zoo, downtown, and surrounding neighborhoods
  • PROVIDE, protect, and improve public access to Spy Run Creek, Shoaff Lake, and Frog Pond
  • PROTECT and manage existing woodlands and significant viewsheds

Beyond this ten-thousand-foot view, the parks department also broke down the proposed changes by park quadrant.


A graphic explaining the changes for the northwest section of Franke Park

There was one large concern for many residents who love Franke Park: whether the BMX track would survive the changes.

And the answer is a resounding yes.

The parks department recognized the value of the track in their plan, stating, “The BMX track draws hundreds of cyclists each year from around the state to compete and train.”

And their plan furthers the trend of cyclists coming to compete, as they are ready to add amenities to the track– including new signage and additional tracks that will “accommodate beginner through advanced cyclist use.”

The master plan identifies the cycling facilities within Franke Park as a priority and formalizes the City’s intention to provide support and resources for the maintenance and improvement of the trails, BMX, and cyclocross facilities. This would include updates and additions to trail signage, the addition of restrooms and changing rooms, access to drinking water, a bicycle repair station, and picnic shelters, as well as the implementation of planned updates to the BMX facility

— Franke Park Master Plan

In addition, the northwest quadrant will include features that you will see across all four quadrants. Improvement of the trail system (including a new bridge over Spy Run Creek) and improvements in water accessibility (as seen around Frog Pond).


A graphic explaining the changes for the northeast section of Franke Park

On the northeast side of the park, officials plan to make room for a future zoo expansion, as well as enhance Shoaff Lake.

Those enhancements include dredging the water while making aquatic shelves and native plantings, boardwalks and rock outcroppings for water access.

A new boat house would “facilitate Day Camp excursions and provide the general public to rent a canoe or kayak,” according to city documents.


A graphic explaining the changes for the southwest section of Franke Park

A new 20,000 square-foot building is planned to replace and consolidate the Long House and the Psi Ote Lodge buildings and the programs held there. The building will also be available to the community during the off-season.

The building itself will be designed to be a contemporary piece of architecture, city officials said.

A long-standing teepee in the area is not scheduled to be moved.


A graphic explaining the changes for the southeast section of Franke Park

A playground is slated to be located near the Day Camp facilities and will include “innovative and challenging play equipment to encourage children’s natural sense of adventure,” city officials said in the plans.

The location of this playground adjacent to the planned stormwater conveyance and constructed wetland areas also offers opportunities for nature-based play experiences using natural materials, according to the plans.

If you want to see all the details, you can see the whole master plan here.