The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 5, 2012

Parks planning gets public look at meeting

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — A small but supportive audience heard a city presentation of the preliminary parks master plan Monday night.

Ten members of the public and six city officials attended the meeting at the city administration building. Whitney Box, assistant city planner, outlined the city’s desire to improve neighborhood parks, complete the master trail system, update North Government Springs and Meadowlake and add a large community park at 30th and Randolph.

The park renovations will be phased in over a 10-year period at an estimated cost of $50 million. Box told the audience the final plan has not yet been completed, and officials hope to include some of the comments from the public hearings.

Essentially, the plan would close some parks and improve the remaining ones, and allow construction of a large park at 30th and Randolph, which will include a new water park and several new softball and soccer fields for both youth and adults.

The first phase will take about five years and will include community parks Government Springs South, Meadowlake, Crosslin, the new community park at 30th and Randolph, 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, the new park at 30th and Randolph, 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, the skate park and Weldon.

Phase three would include 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.

The project would be financed by a 20-year extension of general obligation bond issue approved for bridge work and a five-year, half-cent increase in sales tax. The first phase will cost an estimated $20.8 million. The remainder of the expected $30 million total will be phased in as needs arise, officials said.

More public hearings are scheduled, and the Enid City Commission will vote on the issue in December.

Box told the group Champlin Pool will be decommissioned and replaced by the water park-type feature at the new community park.

“The lifespan of an Olympic-size pool is about 40 years, and Champlin Pool is going on 60 years old,” she said. “Champlin Pool has reached the end of its life.”

Assistant City Manager Joan Riley said there would be five new softball fields built to replace those removed from South Government Springs Park at the new community park, along with a championship field. In addition, there will be four youth and four adult soccer fields, football fields, basketball courts and a walking trail.

Enid developer Bob Berry cautioned city officials about moving too quickly with the project. He asked about the cost of the additional stormwater system for the parks. Discussing the project with Riley, he estimated it would cost about $1.5 million a year. Riley said there are studies to determine what the costs will be.

“I think it’s a great idea, but it’s not set up to pass,” Berry said.

Box said infrastructure needs and other contingencies are part of the plan. Berry again asked why the project is moving “on a fast track.”

Riley said the project is a phased plan, and the infrastructure will be phased in as each portion is done. Berry said the city is asking for $50 million at once. City Manager Eric Benson told Berry the $50 million included work for quality-of-life aspects that include all of the things he is talking about.

“Let’s ask the people,” Benson said.

Berry asked why the city did not take 30 days off before proceeding.

Ben Ezzell, an Enid resident, said he likes the idea and wants to see it happen. Ezzell lives near Glenwood Park, on Randolph between 17th and 19th, which would benefit from a number of improvements. Glenwood, like some other parks in Enid, has not had significant improvement in many years. Ezzell said he has a young daughter, and it would be nice to be able to take her to the park in the evening because it is so close.

“I love it, and I would like to see it happen. I’ve been to two meetings and read the plan,” he said.

Ezzell said the plan is complicated and urged the city to present it to the people in the right way. Ward 5 Commissioner Tammy Wilson, who is a member of the three-commissioner committee that worked on developing the plan, simplified the question.

“It comes down to we can fix the parks or not,” Wilson said.

Benson said he believes the city can convince the public the plan is a good one. He wants to try the election.

Enid resident Jon Ford said he loves the master trail system, and thought the plan seems like a good one if presented in the right way.

Several members of the public made comments about ways to help the issue pass.

Riley said she has met with the mothers of girls softball players in Enid who are concerned there is no place for them to play, and always have to go out of town because the fields in Enid are in such poor condition.

Several members of the public suggested improved ball fields would be an economic development issue.

Ken Rapp, executive director of Denny Price Family YMCA, said he likes the idea. A parks director, he said, could work with EJRT and other youth organizations to schedule use of the fields. Rapp said he was hopeful the park would not duplicate any services currently available at nonprofit organizations.