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City considers building 20 parks

The funding would come from a proposed sales tax extension.
Sunday, August 21, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:40 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The city could buy land for and develop as many as 20 neighborhood parks over the next several years, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said at a Thursday meeting.

Hood spoke after a public hearing held by the Parks and Recreation Commission, which is considering amendments to the city’s master plans for neighborhood parks and for trails and greenbelts. He outlined how the city intends to spend taxpayer dollars if voters approve two sales tax proposals on the Nov. 8 ballot that are targeted at parks needs. Both propositions would extend a one-eighth-cent sales tax for parks that is scheduled to expire March 31.

Hood said the tax money would pay for projects identified in the overall 2002 master plan for parks, specifically for neighborhood parks, trails and greenbelts.

“If approved, Proposition 1 would raise an estimated $12 million by extending the tax for five years,” Hood said. “About $2.2 million will be designated for neighborhood parks, with $1.5 million set aside specifically for acquisitions.”

Since the master plan was approved three years ago, the department has acquired property for six of the original 18 neighborhood parks it set out to establish. At the Thursday meeting, Mike Griggs, Park Services manager, said the department hopes to identify eight more neighborhood parks, increasing the total number of prospective parks to 26.

Proceeds from the five-year sales tax extension also would provide an additional $4 million for trails and greenbelts and $4.4 million for improvements to existing parks.

“Some people have asked why we are changing the master plan, and I tell them that we need to continue to update it,” Griggs said. “It is a living document, and there is so much rapid growth and development happening in outlying areas that needs to be addressed.”

Proposition 2 would extend the one-eighth-cent tax for two years, generating an estimated $5 million to pay for an ice rink and a multipurpose recreational facility that would double as a permanent home for the farmers market.

Hood said the ice rink was estimated to cost about $2.5 million several months ago when the commission began discussing the ballot issue.

“The way costs are going these days, there have been impacts to the whole development world, and construction costs are rising rapidly,” Hood said. “We think $2.5 million could build the ice rink, but it could be some time down the road before the actual building process starts. And the economy is changing fast.”

The rink would be built on 19 acres of city-owned property at Ash Street and Clinkscales Road next to the Activity and Recreation Center. The rink would have a limited number of restrooms and locker rooms and a rink with one sheet of ice, he said.

“We’ve toured several facilities built as metal structures, and we have found that it is a less expensive way to build than using brick or stone,” Hood said. “We are trying to get the most return for our investment. It is our challenge to see how creative we as a staff can get with designing.”

Hood also responded to commission questions about how a $25 million appropriation from the federal government might affect the park system. The money is intended to pay for improvements to the city’s sidewalks, bike paths and trail system.

“The money is for an alternative transportation system,” Hood said. “It would be used to build things such as sidewalks, pedways and bicycle lanes connecting key areas of the city such as businesses, schools and transportation hubs. A purely recreational trail would not qualify. Any trail, such as our MKT trail, which serves dual purposes for transportation and recreation, could be eligible.”


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