The city park nearest my home is a few minutes’ drive away, where Grandview Drive and Fox Hill Road intersect on Indianapolis’s Northwestside. Driving by, it seems small — a tennis court, a playground, a community building. But behind it are 41 acres of trails and soccer fields.
Juan Solomon Park was built in 1971 but didn’t get its name until 1973. Mr. Solomon was not only a community leader, but a neighbor — he lived across the street from the park when he passed away.
My young sons and I spent many happy hours here, me on a bench watching while they ran and played. This park was usually packed with children. My older boy made friends with everyone. My younger boy seemed content to play alone, but was always clearly delighted when his older brother called him into the playgroup.
And then in about 2010 the city tore down the playground. My sons were older by then and we didn’t visit anymore, but it made us sad just the same. And it didn’t make sense to us, given how popular the park remained.
What we didn’t know was that the city had innovative plans for the site. Much of the Northwestside was built before the city annexed it in 1970. Thousands of homes were built without city services, and their aging septic systems were leaching waste into the waterways. The city was aggressively building its sanitary sewer system out to this part of town and compelling homeowners to connect to it. I was one of those homeowners; read about my experience here, here, and here.
Pumping stations would be needed to manage this much waste, and one would be built at Juan Solomon Park. But the building would also become a community center, and a brand new playground would be built. And when it was done, it was beautiful.
Here’s the pumping station and community center just after it was completed in 2012. I love how the building features a sod roof.
This building is a wonderful subject for black-and-white film. The dark glass and white framing create lovely contrast.
Most of the time I visited Juan Solomon Park with a camera, it was to take advantage of the abundant color and detail on the playground. The playground’s surface is made of innovative, cushiony squares that can be replaced when damaged. When they were new, their colors were vibrant.
The grounds are full of interesting shapes, forms, and lines.
My favorite thing to photograph at Juan Solomon Park is shadow. The sun has free reign over the playground and casts shadows at nearly all times of day.
Now that the rebuilt park has been open five years, color is fading from the play surface. But the rest of the facility is remarkably free of vandalism and graffiti. It remains a shining destination for this solidly middle-class neighborhood.
And I’m going to miss it when I move later this year. But there will, I’m sure, be new favorite subjects to find where I’m going.