Revitalization of historic riverfront park draws praise for Vincennes University

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August 30, 2017

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LINK to general photos of Kimmell Park grand opening, click HERE

VINCENNES, Ind. - “Amazing” was the term cited most often by leaders about the all-new Kimmell Park during its grand opening on Tuesday. The ceremony celebrated the completion of extensive improvements by Vincennes University to the recreation area, which is adjacent to its Vincennes campus and the Wabash River.

“This park will be the envy of many communities around the state that are trying to take advantage of their riverfronts and make them community assets,” said Cameron Clark, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.  “To do what you have done, how you did it, and the period of time you have done it, is simply amazing. I can’t tell you how impressed I am. And, frankly, what it means from an environmental standpoint, to do what you’ve done - take out so many invasive species, beautify the area, reinforce the shoreline, and give it back to the people - is really impressive.”

“We hope this will be a great asset, not only for the community of Vincennes and Knox County, but also for Vincennes University,” said VU President Chuck Johnson.

Calling the park “absolutely amazing,” Vincennes Mayor Joe Yochum said Kimmell Park is already drawing rave reviews from visitors.

“We’ve had people from outside the community here that looked at this and said this is probably the prettiest area along the Wabash River in the State of Indiana - and I absolutely agree,” Yochum said to the applause of a large audience.

Referring to VU’s leadership and staff, Yochum said, “You have taken this park and made it absolutely amazing and kept it a public park. What you see could have never been accomplished by the City. This goes to show that whenever everybody works together, good things can happen,” Yochum said.

Phil Rath, vice president of VU Financial Services and Government Relations, also cited cooperation as the key to accomplishing so many improvements to the park.

“It took the City Parks Board to see the vision and it took the City Council and the Mayor to have the strength to take it on and get behind us,” Rath said.

VU also needed to coordinate plans with the Department of Natural Resources, Army Corps of Engineers, and Utility Services Board before the staff of VU’s Campus Planning and Architectural Services could begin working with contractors and VU Maintenance and Grounds staffs to complete the mammoth project.  “I can’t say enough thank yous to everyone. I think this is going to be a tremendous park,” Rath said.

Joining city and VU officials in the ribbon-cutting Tuesday were Aaron and Jim Garrett, two great grandsons of Joe Kimmell, a former Vincennes mayor for whom the park is named.

A partial listing of improvements to Kimmell Park include:

* 70 new light poles
* More than 107,000 square feet of new sod grass
* More than 1,500 loads of new fill dirt and top soil
* Raised elevation near entrance by over 13 feet
* About 14,000 pounds of grass seed planted
* More than 200 new trees planted that include Swamp White Oaks, Bald Cypress, Shellbark Hickories, Butternut Hickories, Black Walnuts, and Sweet Gums
* More than 850 lineal feet of new hand- and guardrails
* More than 4,000 cubic yards of new concrete
* New restroom facilities
* Existing 1930s-era shelter house received a new roof, lighting, masonry repair/cleaning, and fireplace renovation
* Masonry repair and cleaning to the 1930s-era Works Progress Administration monuments and walking entrances
* More than 1,600 lineal feet of new articulated concrete block riverbank stabilization mats
* About 2,300 lineal feet of new concrete roads
* Entrance to the park widened from original 18-foot opening to 100-foot dynamic entryway that reveals a panoramic view of the Wabash River and the surrounding scenic resources


In the 1930s development of Kimmell Park was funded in part by President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration jobs program. Following the construction of an attractive shelter house and other park facilities, the city park attracted families from southwest Indiana and became a tourist attraction. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

With the goal of revitalizing the park and capitalizing on the riverfront, the City of Vincennes, Vincennes Parks Board, and VU worked cooperatively in 2015, with all parties agreeing to transfer ownership of the 8.5-acre Kimmell Park and its 54-acre woodlands to its neighbor, VU, with covenants to ensure that the property remains a public park. VU pledged to lead efforts to make major improvements and enhance security using its VU Police Department.


Kimmell Park is located between Oliphant Drive and the Wabash River, beginning at the intersection of St. Clair Street on the south and ending at the University’s baseball complex on the north. Kimmell Park will be a key focal point of a planned riverfront walking and bicycle path that will connect downtown and the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park to VU.

VINCENNES UNIVERSITY - Indiana’s First College

VU is state-supported with campuses in Vincennes and Jasper and additional sites such as Indianapolis, Lebanon, and Gibson County. A leader in developing Early Colleges statewide, VU also offers instruction at military sites throughout the nation.

In addition to offering a wide range of associate degree and certificate programs, VU also offers bachelor’s degree programs in technology, homeland security, nursing, secondary education programs in mathematics and science, and special education/elementary education.

VU enrolls students from throughout Indiana, 35 other states, and 17 countries. Tuition and fees are the lowest among Indiana campuses with residence halls. VU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Founded in 1801, VU is Indiana’s first college and is the only college in the nation founded by an individual who would later become President of the United States. William Henry Harrison, the ninth U.S. President, founded VU while serving as governor of the Indiana Territory. More information is available at