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Belmont Beach pop-up park opens in Haughville along the White River

Belmont Beach.JPG
Posted at 8:12 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 23:35:33-04

HAUGHVILLE — The land nearby a once segregated beach along the White River in Indianapolis is now being transformed into a gathering space for the community.

A half basketball court, a stage, fire pits and picnic tables are part of the new pop-up park at Belmont Beach in Haughville on the city's west side.

A Wi-Fi hub, nature trailer with information about wildlife, and an art trailer with space for a resident artist will also occupy the park.

Belmont Beach basketball court
Community members in Haughville are enjoying the new half basketball court at the Belmont Beach pop-up park.

"The residents that are part of this came up with all these different ideas and they are all on trailers and mobile and the idea was even though it's temporary it's not disposable," Robert Negron, Co-Project Manager of the Belmont Beach Project said.

Belmont Beach WiFi Hub
A WiFi hub is available for resident use at Belmont Beach along the White River.

The park officially opened on May 8 and will remain a space the community can enjoy until October 31.

Part of the goal is to get invested residents involved in the future of Belmont Beach. It's one of the key elements of the White River Plan to revitalize the river.

Negron is also the artistic director of Indy Convergence, which connects artists, communities, and their environment to create and inspire solutions and lasting changes. He's already been working on the shores of the White River.

Through the initiative A Rising Tide, Indy Convergence has performances along the river. Starting in September, their programming will take place at Belmont Beach.

According to Negron, the funding for the Belmont Beach Project came from Visit Indy which received a $100,000 grant from Lilly Endowment. Visit Indy is partnering with the Arts for Learning Workshop at School 63 and Indy Convergence.

Part of Negron's role was to create a resident committee for the project that he can eventually step back from.

Belmont Beach Team
Members of the Belmont Beach project team gather for a photo on opening day.

"Whatever happens on this river is what's going to affect our neighborhoods. If it's something big and shiny and huge we may be looking at some gentrification issues," Negron said. "So part of our concept and idea is the more than our neighborhood begins to live out loud more with all of the culture that happening here the more we are going to find residents that want to move back who are from the neighborhood or residents who want to opt in to the culture already here instead of creating their own culture on top of it."

Negron said it's part of what really attracted him to the project, being able to do this from the ground up and put it all in resident hands and under resident control.

Teddrick Hardy is part of the committee. He was raised in Haughville and is now a community leader. "I've always been passionate about bringing people together," Hardy said.

Mike Chappel is also on the committee. "Originally this was property that was owned by the Indianapolis Airport authority and it was just sitting here. The dam broke and somebody had a great idea and was like let's use that space for the community. We were in need of something new and different and this was the idea we all came up with."

"It's in my neighborhood," Olgen Williams said. "What goes on in Haughville I like to know what's going on and I represent the residents I need to know what's going on so we can share the information. I think it's a great project a great idea."

No swimming at Belmont Beach
According to the Belmont Beach Project, the White River at the beach site is generally safe to play along, dip your feet in, and even paddle on, but is not safe to swim in or have the water splashed in your face.

Those who are a part of the committee say this is a prime example of how partners, like neighborhoods, can come together to guide and lead change while promoting connections to the river.

While everything on site at the park is just temporary, the team says all of the materials will go to the neighborhood for use in other neighborhood spaces.

Click here to learn more about the White River Plan