West side regional park under consideration
The city has $3.5 million burning a hole in its pocket, all of which must be spent on new parks and recreation within an allotted timeframe, and the clock is ticking.
The first $450,000 must be spent by the end of this fiscal year, and $631,000 by the end of next, or the impact fees will go back to the developers.
Up for primary consideration is the Ron Wood Ball Park at 6000 West and New Bingham Highway, which was first established back in 2000 as a baseball park, with the second phase designed for softball.
“We have been waiting for several years to actually receive the park impact fees we needed to actually construct that, and we finally have that, but you should know that we have a design completed,” Public Works Director Wendell Rigby told the council on July 25. “But I know there’s been some concern expressed about the purpose of that park, so we wanted to put that before you.”
A 37-acre field lies to the north of the currently completed phase 1 Ron Wood Park, which was originally designed for softball, but city staff has since reconsidered the idea, thinking the community might prefer a regional park as opposed to softball fields.
To give an idea of size, the park within the loop of Veterans Memorial Park is only 21 acres.
“If council’s direction is to turn this into a community park, it would be a park similar to Veterans Memorial Park, where we could have a lot of amenities there - basketball courts, volleyball courts, a walking trail around it, pavilions and playground areas,” Public Services Manager Jim Riding said. “Those kinds of things similar to what we have here that perhaps might be used by a wider variety of the neighborhood than just the softball fields.”
Although the upfront costs would be born by the impact fees, there would be ongoing maintenance costs, including the hiring of two full-time and two part-time personnel.
When the Ron Wood Park was built, the plan was to remove all city baseball fields to the Ron Wood location.
“The plan has changed so much since the original concept back in the late 90s, when baseball ended up not being moved,” Mayor Melissa Johnson said.
Now the city has competing needs for all different kinds of organized sports, with football players saying the space at Constitution Park is insufficient, soccer players worrying they will lose their fields if the city’s lease isn’t renewed, and rugby and lacrosse players having no fields at all.
“There are so many opportunities, and I don’t think we plan to duplicate Veterans Memorial Park and I don’t think we plan to keep the softball fields’ original design,” Johnson said. “Are there more people that want soccer? Are there more people that want a splash pad? A skate park keeps coming up again and again.”
She also wondered if this was the location, since the city has property in a couple other locations as well.
“I think we need to have a couple of community meetings to find out what the people who will be most benefitted by having a regional park, what they will see their park looking like, with the understanding it means increased maintenance,” she said.
Councilmember Clive Killpack recalled a lot of conversations he had a couple years back with parents wondering if the city would ever have softball fields. He especially remembered the girl enthusiasts who really pushed for an opportunity to play.
But they have since moved on to play at other cities.
He agreed with getting community feedback, but felt that if $450,000 needs to be spent this year, it’s something that needs to be done soon.
“So I would like to see the pursuit on a more timely basis than what’s been done in the past,” Killpack said.