Wicked Winter, May Macroburst Spell Double Trouble For Parks Dept. Budget

The wicked winter and the May 9th macroburst have put the budget for Evansville's Parks and Recreation Department in a real bind, officials said. Now, officials are trying to find creative ways to pay for the unexpected costs.

The wicked winter and the May 9th macroburst have put the budget for Evansville's Parks and Recreation Department in a real bind, officials said. Now, officials are trying to find creative ways to pay for the unexpected costs.

The May 9th macroburst -- packing winds topping 120 miles per hour -- snapped or toppled some 60 trees at Fendrich Golf Course. Helfrich Golf Course lost more than a dozen trees and McDonald Golf Course lost some trees as well. However, that's just part of the problem, officials said.

The prolonged and downright difficult winter also killed off some of the Bermuda grass at the city's golf courses.

"About once every 10 or 15 years, it's going to get cold enough to kill the Bermuda grass. I think the last time that happened was 1996," said Parks Board President Gary Shetler. "It's done pretty good for 18 years without a problem but all of the sudden, this year got us."

Boy, did it ever.

Up to three acres of grass will need to be re-sprigged at both McDonald Golf Course and Fendrich Golf Course. Both courses will have money in the budget to cover the costs, according to Denise Johnson, the executive director of the Parks and Recreation Department.

However, the damage is much worse at Helfrich Golf Course on the city's west side. The course superintendent estimated that up to 25% of the course's fairways will need to be re-sprigged. The Parks Department might to have to seek additional funding to cover those costs, Johnson said.

Re-sprigging just one acre costs somewhere between $1000 and $1200, officials said.

That's not all.

Up to 14 acres of the playing surface at Goebel Soccer Complex on the city's northeast side will need to be replaced.

"That is pretty much all of it," said Clayton Dame.

"We're still looking at budget items and where we can pull money out of but we may have to seek a finance ordinance that's basically for emergency purposes to take care of this,"' Johnson said.

City officials say this winter wreaked havoc out on the golf courses. As if that wasn't enough, officials now how to deal with the costs associated with the May 9th macroburst.

"With the macrobrust taking out trees, combined with the winter damage, we are looking at what I would consider a large expense to get it back to where it should be," Johnson said. "It wasn't the perfect storm of events because it was so far apart but it was exactly what we had."

One way of helping to mitigate the costs is a program the city has done only one time before, officials said. The Parks Department will allow the public to go to city parks --especially Wesselman Garvin Parks -- to collect firewood free of charge. They're still working out all of the details but the program should be up and running for the long weekend, Johnson said. Those who are interested have to sign a waiver.

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