by SOPHIE BIRD
Officially opened in November, Switchyard Park is the city’s largest park—more than 65 acres. The facilities include an amphitheater, 11,000-square-foot event pavilion, skate park, splash pad, playground, dog park, and community gardens, as well as fitness circuits, electric car-charging stations, and several sports courts.
“New York has Central Park, and this is kind of our version,” says park General Manager Hsiung Marler. “This is one of the largest city parks in the state outside of Indianapolis.”
Named for the former McDoel Railroad Switchyard, active at the site until 2004, Marler says Switchyard Park will revive what was once a Bloomington focal point.
“This has taken something that was the heart of the town—the switchyard—and been able to bring it full circle,” he says. “Once again, it’s kind of a hub for the whole city.”
Situated along the B-Line Trail at 1601 S. Rogers St., with parking off of West Grimes Lane and South Rogers Street (and future parking available off of South Walnut), the $34-million park also aims to remediate the surrounding environment after years of industrial use.
By summer, Switchyard Park will contain 357,000 square feet of native plant restoration, 644,000 square feet of grass, more than 600 new trees and 2,000 new reforestation seedlings, and 1,000 square feet of new native plants.
The park is also eco-friendly in other ways. The event pavilion—which can be rented for classes, workshops, wedding receptions, and other events—is solar-powered and collects rainwater, which is stored on the property and can be used to water the community garden.
Although the park is substantially complete, there are some warm-weather features that won’t be available until summertime, such as the splash pad and dog park.
“All of the features that would normally be open at this time of the year are open,” Marler says. “But as the summer turns, it’s only going to get better.”