Build a park, not just parking

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The Team McEuen public presentations of their "McEuen MASTER" was shown with many wondrous amenities - things many of us would love to see.

Just one problem ... we aren't getting the things most people are expecting to see. We are not getting an upgraded park... we are getting a very expensive under street Parking Garage and mass phase I grading - which will reshape the entire area ... forever. (Come to think of it .... we don't remember Parking facilities, boat launch removal, a maintenance shop for city vehicles as being part of the slideshow photos or questions on Team McEuen's you?)

What happened to all of the actual park items? Those items are now on a separate "a la carte" list to be possibly completed "later" as the budget allows or as donations or corporate sponsors develop.

The mayor has stated several times: it is a master plan, a "50 year" plan ... well we don't think the residents that were shown a beautiful upgraded park should have to wait 50 years for the actual "park" amenities to materialize.

The city is in a hurry - they must spend all of the available tax money collected by LCDC in the Urban Renewal Lake District by the time it closes in 9 years. There is only so much money in that bucket.

Well then ... let's first focus on those items that were shown to be most attractive to those of us who attended the public meetings, most notably the items for the enjoyment of the residents. Wouldn't it be better to take that pot of money and spread it around a little, to cover more "park" items? Why spend it all on the parking garage? A garage which does not increase the number of parking spaces - but will primarily benefit a handful of developers along Front Avenue - will cost approx $16,000 per space?

Here is our alternate plan - the OTHER plan:

1. Additional parking. Add the parking by City Hall presented in the current plan, it will greatly help the parking shortage on the east end of Front Avenue. This area could be designed for overflow boat parking on the weekends when it will not be as heavily used by the weekday workforce, library patrons and city hall visitors. Purchase additional pocket lots around downtown and later build the parking north of Sherman on the property LCDC has already purchased for this purpose.

2. Existing parking. Reconfigure the existing city lot surface parking by removing some to create a multi use pavilion area and re-landscape the entire area! Currently the city lot is rarely full, it really just needs a facelift.

(Another idea would be to drop the surface of the existing surface parking a few feet - more on level with the existing boat launch parking; this would allow views across to the lake rather than at the vehicles - without creating a 10 ft drop as shown on the Team McEuen plan.

3. Boat launch. Improve the boat launch by moving the entrance, the congested entrance is the only current problem. (This is and will always be the best launch on the lake)

4. Baseball. Improve the American League ball field with real grandstand seating and concession ability.

5. Playground. Improve the child's play area - it would be a great draw. Look to Fort Sherman at City Park for inspiration. How about Paul Bunyan Playland or Steamboat Playland?

6. Skate park. Build a skate park where the east most softball field is now. These kids have waited long enough, give them somewhere decent to go and they will prove to you that it was a great decision!

7. Green space. Keep as much undeveloped, green, open, multi-function grass space as possible to be used for Little League, soccer, frisbee golf, kickball, flag football, farmers market, concerts, etc.

Why is our plan advantageous?

n We get a park instead of "park"ing.

n Adds additional parking without starting a "Big Dig."

n Less risk of making a huge mistake and less dollars up front; saves more than $5-6 million right off the top for the boat launch and American Legion ball field replacements. For the price of the parking garage we can have almost every most popular park feature on the Team McEuen plan!

n Keeps the existing amenities that currently bring people downtown. Why do you want to take away the two things that bring thousands of locals and visitors downtown, baseball and the boat launch?

n Creates an active park utilized by residents and mostly notably youth, rather than a passive park designed for resort visitors and retirees.

n The city will gain experience at managing large projects so that if and when it is decided to do the 'big' things you will have built up the competence to do them successfully.

n The city will build the support of the community.

Let us utilize the urban renewal funds for what they were earmarked for: higher utilization of McEuen Field. The "most uses for the most people," but within the remaining 9 year time frame, not in the coming 50 years.

Our plan does not include all of the items on the Team McEuen plan ... missing are pickle ball, bocce ball, a sledding hill on the side of Tubbs, street closures, expensive flower gardens or a $2.3 million fountain. These are the low priority and less popular items that should be on an "a la carte" to-do list to be completed later as funds and sponsors are found. We are sure the local bocce ball and pickle ball leagues are busy fundraising at this very moment.

The city needs to build support from the community for the McEuen plan - and they will do that by taking care of the residents first and everything else will fall into place.

We have asked from the beginning for a voice and an alternate plan, one that is fiscally responsible and retains the legacy of Mae McEuen Play Field, a plan that retains the historic charm of this gem we call McEuen Field.

Rita Sims-Snyder and Julie Clark are members of Friends of McEuen;

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