Bloomington has one more thing to add to its already-long list of attractions. Switchyard Park, which opened last year, is a draw for locals and tourists alike.
The 65 acres of land was formerly the McDoel Railroad Switchyard, and once the regional hub for railroad activity and commerce from 1892 until 2000. But the last train left the switchyard in 2004, when CSX Railroad made the decision to phase out its services.
Switchyard Park, the largest park project in the city’s history, features an outdoor performance stage and “Grand Lawn” that can accommodate up to 5,000 people. There is an 11,000-square-foot pavilion which can be rented for banquets, festivals, and special events. The pavilion has indoor/outdoor space, with overhead doors running the length of the building which can be raised up for open-air events.
There are be plenty of fitness activities available, including pickleball, bocce ball, basketball, and fitness stations. There’s a skate park with 30 different obstacles/events, and a dog park with two fenced areas totaling 4.7 acres.
The massive playground includes hillside slides, climbing net, balance beam, interactive music play equipment, and face-to-face parent/child swings. And in warmer months, the splash pad has water spray features with shaded seating and a picnic shelter nearby.
Horticulturalists will appreciate the community gardens, which feature 39-foot by eight-foot raised garden beds available for rent.
Switchyard Park’s past as a hub of railroad industry involved a significant transformation of the site, including environmental mitigation and “daylighting” Clear Creek that was once buried in culverts. There are several positive environmental impacts of the daylighted stream, and of the hundreds of native trees, flowers, and plants that have been and will be planted in the park.
The City of Bloomington purchased most of the land that is now Switchyard Park in 2009. A vision carried forward over four administrations, the TIF-funded $34 million project approved by the Redevelopment Commission was designed by Rundell Ernstberger Associates, an Indianapolis-based landscape architecture firm, through a months-long master planning process to collect input from city residents, stakeholders, interest groups, environmental advocates, and neighboring property owners.