(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY STEVE PAGE)
The Turner family wanted to go fishing on Sunday.
Kay and Colton and children Katrice and Kyhran knew where to go: Southwestway Park.
“We like it because it’s outdoors and actually big, with numerous trails,” Kay said as the family prepared rods, reels and the rest of their equipment. “Some parks just have a one-way trail. These trails are all over the place. I’ve been here the most. I’ve walked the trails and stuff.
“This will be the first time we’ve fished here. But we’re ready.”
The trails and fishing along the White River are just two of the amenities presented by Southwestway Park.
Nearby, hikers hiked the trails and cyclists rode their mountain bikes up and down the hilly terrain just west of the White River.
And that’s just on one side of Mann Road.
On the opposite side is a large, grassy field with several soccer goals. On Sunday, those fields were full of soccer players competing in league contests, complete with officials.
While they played, families and friends watched and other players waited their turn.
Building a history
The third-largest park in the city of Indianapolis, adjacent to Decatur Township on the city’s southwest side, dates back to the 1950’s.
According to Wikipedia and other sources, the Indianapolis Parks Department began to develop large regional parks in each quadrant of Marion County. Southwestway emerged when the department obtained 150 acres of farmland between Mann Road and the White River, 100 acres of which were developed in 1968 into a 9-hole municipal golf course.
In 1968, the city bought an additional 167 acres on both sides of Mann Road north of the golf course. An area that had been used for off-road motorcycling gave way to environmental concerns and so changed into hiking trails.
In late 1984, the city obtained another 40 acres between Mann Road and the White River, north of the 1968 purchase. The total acreage at that time was 357 acres, including the golf course.
By 2004, the golf course, now known as Winding River Golf Course, had been expanded into an 18-hole, par-72 facility with a driving range, covering 175.8 acres of its own. The park itself had now expanded to contained 210.7 acres.
Later, the Indianapolis Parks Foundation and the city teamed up to buy 101 more acres, north and adjacent to Southwestway Park and along the White River. That brought the total size of the park, including the golf course, to 487.5 acres.
About those amenities
In addition to the walking and mountain-biking trails, there are also designated horseback riding trails.
Just down the hill from the trails entrance is a large playground. There’s also a shelter.
On the same side (east) of Mann Road, there are athletic fields, including baseball and softball diamonds. In the fall, the area gives way to youth football teams.
The park also boasts some outstanding geological features, including a floodplain forest, an upland forest, Cottonwood Lake, and of course, the White River.
The Franklin family, meanwhile, set up shop of sorts near the soccer fields on a Sunday busy with competitive soccer matches. The father also serves as one of the referees.
“This is what we have to sell,” said the elder daughter, pointing to a large cooler containing small bags of ice cream.
The family uses real fruit to make the ice cream, filling small bags with many flavors, including vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and coconut. To enjoy the ice cream, you bite a corner of the bag, and the ice cream comes to you. It takes a bit of practice, but the flavor is well worth on it, especially on a warm Sunday afternoon.
“We sometimes sell food, but today, we have ice cream,” she continued. “A lot of people buy ice cream, especially when they’re done with their soccer games. Sometimes, they buy a lot to take home.”
Just one more reward for a visit to Southwestway Park.