By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ELWOOD — City officials announced $80,000 in improvements to its parks system on Friday.
The improvements were focused in Callaway Park on the city's north side and include an entirely repaved set of paths, new volleyball nets and seven tons of new sand, new basketball goals and fixed fencing around the basketball courts.
According to Mayor Ron Arnold, the park has seen record attendance in 2013 and is a hub of community activity, including little leagues, the city pool and concerts.
Another issue Arnold considered critical when he announced the enhancements was providing water pits and electrical ports for vendors during upcoming events, namely the Glass Festival in August.
"We feel like there's lots of demand for vendor access this year, and that's one of the aspects we've expanded," said Elwood City spokesman Jeff Howe. "The parks system is really had an outstanding year and we wanted to get upgrades on basic things that were really in need of repair."
According to Howe and Arnold, the paths were especially in need of repaving in the park, and a new path allows access from the adjacent Community Parkview retirement home directly to the park amphitheater.
"I didn't make a lot of promises before I got elected, but one of the things I did say I'd do was give the folks at the retirement home access to the park. Now they can literally walk outside, walk over to the park and they won't have to leave a trail and can bring wheelchairs through," Arnold said. "We also think it's a great improvement for the Glass Festival, which is by far our biggest event. Many thousands of people come to that each year and we wanted to be ready."
The Glass Festival, which has been running for more than 40 years, runs from Aug. 16-18 and is a nod to the city's two art-glass factories. The event is considered a leading festival in the region, and Arnold said he expects the event could grow by almost 50 percent this year. With that in mind, the enhancements were absolutely necessary.
Arnold said he credits the availability of capital bonds from the state, which has allowed the city's parks department to focus on improving the parks rather than upkeep with basic infrastructure.
"They've really been able to do things with the park to make it better, and I'm really excited about it," Arnold said. "For a city our size, we're really blessed to have the good system of parks we have."
Like Jack Molitor on Facebook and follow him @aggiejack4 on Twitter, or call 640-4883.
Weekend activities in Callaway Park Fridays: Family-friendly movies in the park Saturdays: Gospel music Sundays: Concerts