The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 28, 2012

Commission to view proposed parks plan at special meeting

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — A large community park at 30th and Randolph will be the crown jewel of a proposed master parks plan, the result of a major study by city officials.

The city would pay for the parks plan by asking Enid voters to extend an existing bond issue and temporarily increase sales tax. The city of Enid has more than 30 parks with about 400 acres of dedicated land.

The new $50 million plan would change that configuration and the utilization of some parks. The master trail plan is incorporated into the parks plan and eventually will connect to all city parks, as well as downtown.

The proposal, which has not been seen by four Enid city commissioners and has not been approved, will be introduced to the full commission during a special city commission meeting tonight. It will be discussed during the 5 p.m. study session in the lower level conference room at the city administration building, 401 W. Garriott.

The plan calls for a total change in the city parks system, taking away ball fields and other fields at South Government Springs Park and incorporating them in the community park on 30th; adding improvements to nearly all other city parks; separating some services; and providing administration for parks and recreation facilities in Enid.

The east-side community park will include an outdoor water park with a number of water features, including a lazy river and large swimming pool. The swimming pool would replace the deteriorating Champlin Pool. New ball fields also will be part of the community park, while the number of soccer fields and softball fields will be determined by community demand. The park also will include new youth football fields, parking, tennis courts and a skate park.

An indoor community center will include basketball courts, a multipurpose center and a gymnasium.

Assistant City Manager Joan Riley said the community center will not be a fitness center, but a multi-use center designed to house a number of activities. Riley and City Manager Eric Benson said it will not compete with Denny Price Family YMCA, which had been the subject of some concern.

A walking trail will extend around the entire park, and the park will be designed so additional ball fields can be added as needs grow. The new soccer fields would supplement current soccer fields around the city to keep up with the growing sport.

Most of the parks in Enid have not been improved for 30-40 years, Benson said. This plan will bring nearly all of the parks up to date, including the small neighborhood parks.

The first phase will take about five years and will include community parks Government Springs South, Meadowlake, Crosslin, a new community park, Enid Soccer Complex, Government Springs North, Kellet and a new central park. The central park could be established in the green space south of the Enid Event Center. The first phase also includes neighborhood parks AMBUCS, Champion, Champlin, Champlin Pool, Don Haskins, Glenwood, Hoover, Lions, Phillips Southern Heights and a new northwest park.

Phase two would include community parks Government Springs South, Crosslin, a new community park and Government Springs Park. Neighborhood parks in the second phase would be Champlin Pool, Don Haskins, Glenwood, a new northeast park, Frisco, La Mesa, Meadows, Monsees, skate park and Weldon.

Phase three would be construction of the new community park on 30th, neighborhood parks Champlin Pool, Oakwood and the water plant lake, and the north leg of the north connector of the master trail.

Benson said the plan is preliminary and is subject to change by the commission. There also will be further public hearings, he said.

“This is a preliminary proposal, and it will morph and change,” Benson said.

City officials have been working with three city commissioners, Ward 1 Commissioner Ron Janzen, a former member of the Enid Park Board; Ward 2 Commissioner Mike Stuber; and Ward 5 Commissioner Tammy Wilson.

Benson proposed two potential methods to pay for the park improvements, which he believes are a large quality-of-life improvement for the city.

The measure could be paid for in a number of ways, including an extension of a current general obligation bond issue that was passed for construction of bridges. That would fund $30 million of the project. The other $20 million would come from a five-year, half-cent sales tax. The parks plan, as proposed, would be a 10-year project.

In the event funding is needed, Benson said there is $10 million in city coffers that is unaccounted for because of a line of credit being used for Enid Renaissance Project.

Benson said the reason for using the sales tax, in addition to the GO bonds, to help fund the project, is the bonds will affect only property owners, while the sales tax affects everyone who shops in Enid.

“The GO bond extension of seven mills over 20 years would bring in $30 million. There are other funding opportunities that would require the support of the community,” Benson said. “A very attractive option given the economic circumstances is an increase in sales tax.”

Enid currently has the lowest sales tax “among our sister cities,” at 8.35 percent, Benson said. The increase would push the rate to 8.85 percent for five years.

Staff resisted raising the sales tax because they did not want to stifle retail opportunities, he said. However, retail sales have boomed during the past two years, and economic indicators show that will continue for several more years, Benson said.

A GO bond must be identified for a specific use, while a sales tax is less restrictive, he said. The bonds could have a range of applications, including quality of life, which would include building roads, sidewalks, parks and improving community parks and other things, Benson said.

The 30th and Randolph location was chosen because the property was available and is close to U.S. 412, which is a gateway into Enid. As people approach Enid from Interstate 35, they will see the large park with water features. That will be their first impression of the city, Benson said.

The property is 217 acres in size, but only part of it would initially be used. Two parcels are available. Benson also said the park will draw development on the east side of Enid.

“It will mirror the westside development on the east side,” Benson said.

Benson made the comments Wednesday during a special editorial board meeting with the Enid News & Eagle, along with Riley and Joe Howell, of landscape architect firm Howell & Vancuren, which conducted a city parks survey and is making recommendations to the city.

The survey asked about funding opinions, and respondents provided the following results: user fees (66 percent for, 30 percent against), bond issues (52 percent for, 31 percent against) and sales tax (49 percent for, 42 percent against).

Benson said he hopes to have the measure approved in November. The measure must be approved then, because the Oklahoma State Election Board must be notified in December if the city plans a vote along with the city commission election in February.

A survey performed by Howell & Vancuren and Management Laboratories went to 5,000 Enid residents, and received about an 8 percent return, Howell said. He said that is within the range for an accurate response.

Part of the plan for the parks came from the survey, which performed a needs assessment for parks in Enid.

Survey responders discussed a number of issues involved with the parks. Those issues include condition of facilities, Americans With Disabilities Act accessibility, restrooms, security, maintenance, administration and play fields.

The recreation survey revealed areas of importance included maintenance (97 percent), restrooms (91 percent), walking paths in parks (90 percent) and lighting (88 percent).

The measure will be the only subject on the study session agenda, and Benson said the four commissioners who have not yet seen the plan will review it for the first time.