The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

July 9, 2013

Trail path options: Parks panel also discusses paddleboats, EJRT

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — City staff are preparing options for how $2 million will be spent on trail extensions and could present some findings to Enid City Commission soon.

Assistant City Manager Joan Riley told Enid Park Board the city commission gave a directive to spend $2 million primarily to bring the trail downtown.

“Probably what’s going to come back to the council next will be what kind of cost is associated with that,” she said. “It’s frustrating because if you want to do what we want, the money goes very quickly.”

Riley said commissioners want to see an impact, and staff want to make sure that happens. Ward 3 Commissioner Ben Ezzell noted in the Park Board’s meeting Tuesday the trail renovation budget ballooned for a specific reason.

“That’s why that number got big. We want to connect to downtown,” he said.

One of the problems the city faces by building a downtown spur is the high concentration of landowners. That means there inevitably will be more property owners to negotiate with for right-of- way access.

“If you go to head downtown, you’re not going to see much. It may take us two or three years, even at $2 million, to get some concrete laid,” Riley said.

Riley said a leg of the trail heading to Meadowlake Park is ready to go and probably will be completed quickly. Another option to head into the city, a proposed trail along Grand toward Garriott, is trickier.

That land lies along the railroad tracks on one side and unsightly industrial warehouses on the other, Park Board Chairman Matt Davis said.

Before beginning any work on a trail there, he said, the city may have to acquire some of the property.

“I will continue to advocate we’ve got to clear out some of those houses,” he said, noting that he’s seen pit bull dogs tied to chains in the area. “The first kid that gets his face ripped off by a pit bull — that whole stretch of trail’s dead on arrival.”

Riley said the city might be able to work out a right- of-way clearance to avoid taking any houses along Grand. If anyone is displaced, though, she said the value of the property may not be enough to put that resident into another house.



Paddleboats

A persistent issue Davis hears about is the likelihood paddleboats will make a comeback to the city.

“I get it all the time,” he said.

A single paddleboat costs about $600, he said, and would be covered under the city’s insurance policy.

Riley wondered whether it would be a public or private enterprise.

“Are you looking at something like Parks and Recreation operating it, or are you looking at something like our miniature golf, where you lease that out?” she asked.

One option is for the city to construct any boat docks and amenities, then allow a private contractor in to manage the fleet.

Park Board member Mark Keefer recommended the city explore ways to add paddleboating to Meadowlake Park.

“Meadowlake and Government Springs are our flagship parks, and we ought to do what we can to add to them,” he said. “And if the people want paddleboats, we should give them paddleboats.”

The recommendation passed unanimously and will be forwarded to Enid City Commission.



No sports takeover

The city of Enid is not taking over community sports programs under the Enid Joint Recreation Triad, City Manager Eric Benson told the Park Board.

“Our goal is the infrastructure, not the management of the processes or the sports,” he said in a meeting Tuesday. “We know we’re not manned for that; we have no intention of taking that over.”

There has been some concern and rumors among EJRT stakeholders about the city’s intentions, Benson said. Their plan, he noted, is to simply take over the management of the fields and let the EJRT plan the sports functions.

“The focus of this is to make this process both institutionally and infrastructurally better. We realize there are a massive amount of — and this is Enid’s personality — the rumors on any item get proportionally blown out of context, especially based on their emotional attachment,” he said. “And this is one of those.”

Even now, though, the city will remain largely hands-off until next year. Riley said the city always has owned the sports fields and until July 1, the maintenance responsibility belonged to EJRT. After the summer sports finish their run this year, the Parks and Recreation Department will take over striping and other maintenance.

“We are not taking over, and that was never our intent,” Riley said of the budgetary shuffle that created the standalone parks and rec folio.

“We were wanting to get back to a point where we were maintaining and doing an equitable job on all of our fields,” she said. “It got out of whack. Some fields were done really well and some, they didn’t have the money to do really well. The group itself, there’s no reason for it to go away unless it wants to go away.”