Parks History

1864. Governor Oliver P. Morton donated the land now known as Military Park for use as a recreational area. The city had its first park.
Late 1800s. City Council launches program for park purchases
1870. City purchased Brookside Park.
1873. City acquires Southern Park (now known as Garfield Park).
1919. New park law transfers recreation from the city's health department to the public parks department.
1920s. Parks system grew to include 24 parks and parkways covering 1,900 acres. Parks offer year-round programs, classes and special events
1930s-1950s. Park usage flourishes. Parks began charging for services like swimming and golf, making them self-sustaining.
1960s. Population begins to shift to the suburbs. Parks department shifts its focus from downtown to suburban parks.
1970s. Creation of UNIGOV expanded the Parks Department to include all of Marion County. To fulfill the needs of a larger, more diverse population, the Parks Department began experimenting with new programs and small, special-use parks. Many central city parks were renamed for notable local and national African-Americans.
1980-1990s. Smaller, inner-city parks phased out in favor of larger, natural-setting parks and linear parks. 1980s saw increased usage due to city's focus on amateur sports, but 1990s were characterized by decreased usage and public apathy.
1991. Indianapolis Parks Foundation was founded as a 501 (c)(3) entity to provide private support for parks in Marion County.
End of 1999. Parks system had grown to include 73 properties, 16 community centers, 13 pools and 12 golf courses.
March 2004. Indy Parks facilities and amenities included 167 park properties; 10,461 acres of greenspace; 57.7 miles of greenways and trails; 23 family, recreation and nature centers; 23 aquatic facilities/pools, including 6 indoor pools and one beach; 13 golf course; 116 playgrounds; and 428 sports fields, courts and tracks.
2005. Indy Parks is one of 44 municipal parks and recreation agencies accredited in the country.

As of January 2011, Indy Parks facilities and amenities include:

  • 207 parks
  • 21 aquatic facilities/pools
  • 58 miles of greenways
  • 25 family centers
  • 3 nature centers
  • 13 golf courses
  • 2 ice rinks
  • 3 dog parks
  • mountain bike trail
  • conservatory
  • arts center
  • velodrome
  • skate park
  • BMX complex
  • 127 playgrounds


615 N. Alabama Street, Suite 119 | Indianapolis, IN 46204 | 317-860-3250
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