Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Deputy Director Planning & Development
Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Public Information Officer
Keri VanVlymen RATIO
A Message from the Mayor
As Fort Wayne continues to grow and prosper, it is impossible to overstate the love this community has for its park system. Strong parks make for strong cities, and Franke is one of Fort Wayne’s grandest and most-visited parks. Home to Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, the Foellinger Theatre, and its annual Day Camp – Franke Park continues to delight residents and provide a place for all to relax, explore, and recharge. As usage has continued to increase, the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department has identified the need for a comprehensive master plan for Franke Park. The following plan is the result of nine months of work and outlines a vision to carry this important park through the next 25 years and beyond. I am pleased to present the Franke Park Master Plan.
Hon. Tom Henry Mayor of Fort Wayne, IN
View the Master Plan Document:
Franke Park is one of Fort Wayne’s most significant cultural and ecological resources. Established in 1921, the park has served the recreational needs of the community and the region for nearly 100 years. In 1926, Arthur Shurtleff created a “General Plan” for the park featuring curving boulevards, gently meandering paths, open lawn areas, sites for several prominent structures, a lake, and an area for native animals featuring deer, elk, bison and bears. While the plan was never fully implemented, portions of it have formed the park we know today - in particular, the preservation of significant wooded areas, Shoaff Lake, and the creation of one of the finest zoos in the United States.
A Treasured Resource and Valued Legacy Since the development of Shurtleff’s plan, the park has enjoyed tremendous success as a recreational resource and home to several of the City’s most important programs, entertainment venues, and recreational assets. The Children’s Zoo is the most visited cultural resource in the City of Fort Wayne, drawing more than 600,000 visitors per year and fueling the local economy with millions of dollars. Foellinger Theatre has a capacity of 2,751 and hosts 6-8 concerts per year of major name acts. Franke Park features the largest hiking and mountain bike trail system in the region, drawing cyclists from 2-3 hours away. The Day Camp program has been in operation since 1946 and has served several generations of Fort Wayne families. The Fantasy of Lights event each November and December draws over 20,000 people to the park for a seasonal display of lights, raising money for Blue Jacket, an organization that provides training and opportunities to anyone with a barrier who is striving to earn gainful employment. Finally, the BMX track draws hundreds of cyclists each year from around the state to compete and train.
Challenges In spite of its tremendous success, the park suffers from a number of challenges. Periodic flooding damages infrastructure and buildings. Circulation is not well defined, wayfinding is haphazard, and the Day Camp pick up and drop off sequence could be much more efficient. Parking is not well organized and lacks efficiency and clarity of circulation. While there is an abundance of trails, there is not a logical network of paths that serves those who may wish to circulate through the park on foot or in a wheelchair on a stable solid surface or accessible route. A well-conceived path system would also facilitate movement of day campers safely to various venues within the park. Most people who visit Franke Park arrive by car; we’d like to create connections to neighborhoods so that users can walk or bike to the park instead. Ecological improvements must be made to wooded areas, Shoaff Lake and Spy Run Creek. The Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department knew that these challenges must be addressed through the development of a master plan so that the community may continue to enjoy Franke Park for the next 100 years.
A Thorough Process The master planning process occurred from September 2018 through April 2019 and was directed by an Advisory Group consisting of major park stakeholders. In addition to advice and guidance from the Advisory Group, the process included a robust public input component. The planning team conducted interviews with more than 60 individual stakeholders, an online portal to the process was created that disseminated information about the planning process and resulted in more than 1600 responses to two separate surveys, and two public open house events drew more than 150 residents. Out of this process, a community-driven master plan emerged that aligns with the plan’s guiding principles and provides a solid foundation for future improvements while also providing flexibility in the timing of its implementation.
Plan Highlights Notable highlights of the plan include:
The establishment of an organized and thoughtful vehicular circulation system
Additional parking for Foellinger Theatre and the Zoo that will create greater efficiency, fit into the landscape, and be safer to circulate through
The creation of over 5 miles of new pedestrian paths creating enhanced connectivity between venues within the park and adjoining neighborhoods
Additional cycling amenities like showers, shelters, improved wayfinding and bike maintenance facilities
An emphasis on the landscape as an important part of the park experience
New vehicular and pedestrian gateways into the park that improve access and circulation and create a sense of grandeur for such a prominent destination
Two new playgrounds
New shelters, a boat house, a Day Camp building and Community/Nature Center
Ecological improvements to Shoaff Lake and Spy Run Creek
If you are a Fort Wayne resident, this is your plan, and you made it possible. Thank you! The remainder of the document details the process, the outcomes, a timeline for implementation, and how much we think it might all cost. We hope you are as excited as we are about the future of Franke Park!
Steve McDaniel Director Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department