The Last Word - January 2019
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The Last Word with…
… Lori Hazlett

By Deborah L. Vence

Lori Hazlett grew up in the country surrounded by cornfields and green space. She moved to Indianapolis right out of college, got married and started her first job at a nonprofit. It was that job that sparked her interest in nonprofit work, and she loved Indianapolis.

"I worked in several nonprofits through the years, and found that I enjoyed health and the environment," said Hazlett, who is the president of the Indianapolis Parks Foundation, an organization that works to develop and sustain Indianapolis parks, trails and greenways. "When my children were born, I wanted to work part-time. There was a position open at the Indianapolis Parks Foundation and I applied. In my research, the Parks Foundation mission fit my desire for health, environment and play. Growing up in the country and now living in a city, raising my children here, it is very important to me that there are safe places to gather, recreate or simply sit in a green space. My position grew as my children grew and I get to work every day to better my community through parks and recreation."

When asked about her greatest achievements as foundation president, Hazlett said that in 2011 she worked with community leaders, city leaders and donors to start an 8-acre farm that sits on park land in Indianapolis and works to alleviate the crisis of food insecurity in the community.

"Each year, this farm harvests more than 35,000 pounds of organic produce equating to 200,000 edible servings of food, all of which is donated to local food pantries. This model of taking park land that will never be used as a traditional park and using it to take care of a need in a community is very satisfying," she said.

Another achievement is in "Working with a dedicated team of staff, securing more than $30 million to support Indy Parks' capital and programming needs," she said.

As far as her goals as president of the foundation, she noted the following: "Elevate parks in Indianapolis to the level our community deserves; provide equal access to recreation and programming; and make parks the 'third place' of choice."

When asked about her personal interests in recreation, Hazlett said, "Recreation makes me happy and reduces the stress of everyday life. I love to be outside with my family. Exploring, hiking, swimming and stand-up paddle-boarding are my favorite activities."

Other information about the Indianapolis Parks Foundation revealed that in 2018 the foundation created the Greenways Partnership, a public-private partnership to explore program opportunities on the Indy Greenways.

According to information from the website, "The partnership created preliminary programming for the greenways that provide opportunities for users of all ages to engage with the greenways. The partnership's efforts are based upon the premise that providing broad opportunities for residents to engage with the greenways helps to build lifelong advocates, support and demand for continued investment in the greenway system."

The Greenways Partnership is a collaboration between the Indianapolis Parks Foundation, the city of Indianapolis and Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group, which is a private firm that provides program development and facilitation. Programs have been developed in the areas of health, fitness and wellbeing; cultural enrichment and community engagement; education and awareness; and commercial engagement.

What's more, a variety of parks projects have been completed in Indianapolis. One is called Colts Canal Playspace, which is "accessible and engaging to all age groups and backgrounds, with a particular focus on interactivity and engagement for young children and families." The site for the playspace was chosen for its accessibility, adjacent to the Canal and its close proximity to the Glick Peace Walk along the Cultural Trail.