LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Our Plan Will Truly Help “Save Our Park” And Create A Lasting Legacy


Over the past 20 years, the “Save Our Park” crusade has been used to dissuade improvements to Wesselman Park, ranging from new softball fields to indoor tennis courts. Those opposed have demonstrated a tremendous passion to protect the 200-acre nature preserve now known as Wesselman Woods, which is located on the far north end of the Park.

The history of the Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve (WWNP) is fascinating, but also a good lesson to guide our actions going forward. When the McCallister and then the Sherwood Family owned the land, intentions were for their private use as well as allowing rail lines to be constructed through the forest. 

We should all agree that the actions of the State of Indiana and the City of Evansville is what truly “saved the park” and not only designated the old-growth forest as a protected nature preserve but created a broader area for park and recreation purposes.

Unfortunately, the park has fallen into disrepair and is in desperate need of an upgrade. It’s ironic that the only improvements have been inside the nature preserve with the new playscape, while the surrounding park has lost amenities such as the batting cages and old par 3 courses.

Since taking over the Department of Park & Recreation, my primary goal has been to invest in and improve our existing parks while bringing forth new amenities that will bring residents back outdoors.

In the Fall of 2021, I was introduced to a new sport called pickleball, by a passionate group of residents that pleaded for outdoor courts in Evansville. I quickly learned that pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the country, with leagues and recreational play happening in schools, gyms, church basements, and community centers. In our area, there is a staggering average of 60,000+ residents playing pickleball every year and the age of players ranges from young to old.

Following numerous meetings and discussions with stakeholders, the idea of building pickleball courts next to the existing tennis courts in Wesselman Park was developed. Put simply, there is a synergy in this location for expanded local (free) play, recreational and competitive leagues, youth programming, camps, tournaments, and management of new courts in the vacant green space that once was the location of softball fields.

Over the past year, the City has met with the Wesselman Nature Society, the Good Samaritan  Home, Wesselman Neighborhood Association, the YMCA, the Convention & Visits Bureau, the Evansville Pickleball Outdoor Courts (EPOC) and conducted public meetings for the Parks Department’s 5-year Master Plan. Significant planning, time and resources have gone into the current pickleball project, but there is a difference over previous proposals for Wesselman Park. An overall plan now exists for Wesselman + Roberts Park that includes a new destination playground that is fully accessible, basketball, and sand volleyball courts, a parkour course, dedicated trails for pedestrians, and a new main entrance off of Boeke Road.

The concerns over traffic congestion impacts to wildlife, noise, and loss of green space have all been addressed in the plan that can be found at

evansville.in.gov/wesselmanmasterplan. We all recognize the importance of the WWNP and have sought the guidance of the professional staff at Wesselman Woods.

It is also important to note that the proposed pickleball courts have been discussed and debated in an exhaustive number of public meetings over the past year, with votes of approval from the Parks Board of Commissioners and funding by the City Council. 

Even so, a common suggestion is to simply move the pickleball courts to the former Roberts Stadium location. 

When Roberts was demolished, land use experts agreed that the best use for the property would be green space. Mayor Winnecke continues to agree, and the plan is to develop the area into festival grounds with a pavilion, trails, more shelters and a lake next to the Lloyd Expressway. An important piece of the overall plan is to reforest the old par 3 courses so that it will over time become part of the WWNP. While the opposition to any change is loud, we should not lose sight of the overall plan that will add 50+ acres of new green space and forest to the nature preserve. Combined with all the other park improvements including pickleball, our plan will truly help “save our park” and create a lasting legacy for future generations.

Steve Schaefer

Deputy Mayor / Interim Parks Director

FOOTNOTE:  The City-County Observer posted this  “Letter To The Editor” without bias or editing.


  1. Counter point: First off paragraphs 7-8. They did not meet with all stakeholders, namely the citizens of Evansville who will fund the bonds. You see the list…no citizen public meetings took place. The appointed Park Commissioners (3 of 5 by Mayor Winnecke) voted to approve this project June 1, 2022 and there were NO public forums prior to that. 5 year master Plan meetings took place well after that date. Exhaustive 1 year of public meetings? Again the news of the plan took place June 1, 2022…hardly a year ago.
    As for adding green space. Again untrue. The plan take away green space. Closed par3 -already green. Meadow to be paved – green space. Roberts property- green space. Truth is they are taking away green space by paving the green meadow in Wesselman Park. Foresting the Par 3 (unfunded) has no bearing on paving inside W P. Those trees will take decades to be of use. Roberts is and has been a “ghost” plan for 12 years now. Winnecke will be out of office and only hopes the next mayor will develop Roberts. Finally “saving our park”? Anyone who visits EVV parks knows this administration has turned its back on all of our parks. Missy Mosby has made a point of showing what has gone wrong the last 12 years.

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