With new sky rises in development, construction downtown, and some of the most beautiful parks in Indiana being developed through collaboration, it’s clear that Mishawaka is on the rise.
Phil Blasko, superintendent for Mishawaka Parks, is no stranger to this type of growth. After serving five years as Recreation Superintendent for Valpo Parks, he moved back to his hometown to become a focal component of Mishawaka’s growth.
“The job for superintendent opened up in Mishawaka and it was always my goal to become one. Lo and behold, it was in my hometown, so it worked out perfectly,” Blasko said.
For Blasko, working in a city where connections are strung to his roots has worked in his advantage.
“Being able to be a Superintendent in my own town is quite a unique situation,” Blasko said. “I’m able to give to the city that has given me so much—it’s huge.”
Today, there are 27 parks in Mishawaka which have started to create the foundation for Mishawaka’s future endeavors.
“If you just take a walk in our parks, you can see the reality behind the power of parks,” Blasko said. “Our central park and river walk truly transform our downtown.”
Blasko mentioned that there is more construction now than ever in the history of Mishawaka’s downtown area. With a multi-unit housing development on the way, sky rises going up, and new restaurants coming into town, Mishawaka Parks has been developing their side to prepare for the expansion of the city.
“The transformation of our parks has really helped encourage the initiative of more businesses coming and more development,” Blasko said.
Blasko stressed that all the city’s endeavors revolve around the park systems themselves, as businesses and construction are aiming to develop around them.
Over the last three years, the Mishawaka Parks Department has been reinventing themselves and have already seen exponential growth.
“Three years ago, we had two athletic programs and only six special events,” Blasko said. “In 2019, we have 54 special events planned and over 15 athletic programs through our Parks Department.”
Through this reinvention, the Parks Department took their relationships with businesses in the city a step further by creating a platform for them get involved. Center for Hospice Care, the state's largest nonprofit hospice provider, has become a significant and strong partner of the department, playing a vital role in the success of the fitness park installment in Central Park.
The outdoor arena includes over 26 different workouts that can be used by downloading the compatible app for the fitness court itself.
“The fitness court was our first project where the community rallied around the idea of investing their money into building a park amenity,” Blasko said. “That was our first accessible project where tax paying dollars were not used to build the fitness court.”
Center for Hospice Care is Central Park’s next-door neighbor, and the fitness court sits right outside their back window.
“The fitness court was their first sponsorship for us, which has spring boarded into a relationship where we partner closely on their fundraising events, such as Bike Michiana for Hospice," Blasko said.
This summer, the Mishawaka Parks Department is kicking off their first-ever farmers market in Central Park, and Center for Hospice Care's parking lot will be made available for overflow parking if needed.
“We are continuing to find ways for us to connect and expand,” Blasko said. “Center for Hospice Care’s events are large, but we are always trying to find out how to make them larger. It’s only the beginning of our fruitful relationship.”