Thanks to the Building on Basics 2 tax that was recently approved by Fort Collins voters, there’s a fair bit of funding currently available for some City Park upgrades. The Parks staff is only in fairly early stages of thinking about a redesign, but the changes could be anywhere from simply upgrading what’s currently there to radically rethinking how the park is organized and accessed.

At the “City Park Tomorrow” meeting held at the Lincoln Center on March 7th, four concepts were presented to residents. One involved an upgrade to what’s there. The other three each involved crafting a redesign around one particular focal point — a trolley garden, the lake shore, or the play areas. In each of the four designs, changes would be made to parking, through streets, and facilities for bicycling and walking. In fact, one of the key concerns that’s driving the redesign is safety issues, particularly for pedestrians accessing the City Park Pool.

The City Park project goals as explained at the meeting on March 7th.

The City Park project goals as explained at the meeting on March 7th.

Three of the ten project goals include transportation (not including the kids’ train). Safety and connectivity are important concerns.

City Park has changed quite a bit since it was first purchased by the city and opened to the public in 1912.

City Park has changed quite a bit since it was first purchased by the city and opened to the public in 1912.

I’m really used to City Park the way it is. So the idea of wiping out streets and moving trains, playgrounds, and other facilities was a lot for me to take in at first. But with a little nudge from the idea boards, I began to see the advantages of starting with a blank slate and rethinking the park. One important item to note, though, is that the beautiful big trees that are a defining feature of the park will stay. Any rearrangement of streets, walkways, shelters, playgrounds, or trains and trollies will take into account the trees that are already there.

The City Park “Existing Improved” Concept

The "Existing Improved" plan involves the least change.

The “Existing Improved” plan involves the least change.

The “Existing Improved” plan would keep most areas of the park largely the same with some upgrades along the waterfront and some other areas. But it would include two key changes — the kids train will be moved and a small section of the street in front of the pool would be blocked from having through traffic.

In every single scenario, the kids train will be moved. The old, historic train that has been running on the tracks between the irrigation ditch and Bryan Avenue since 1950 has been permanently retired. (I’ve heard rumors as to why this is the case, but I think the upshot revolves around safety.) The new train that the City is looking at would run on a track that is twice the length of the old track (if I heard correctly during the presentation that was given). So it won’t fit in the old location.

Blocking through traffic between the pool and the play areas is also a change that you will see in every one of the four concepts that the City has presented. Again, the issue is safety. So in the “Existing Improved” plan the streets remain in the same location as they are now, but there will no longer be car traffic passing in front of the pool entrance. Bikes and peds, on the other hand, may still have a way through, but that was not detailed in the preliminary plans.

Close up of Existing Improved line drawing of concept.

Close up of Existing Improved line drawing of concept.

Note that the hill and soccer/bike polo/lawn areas all remain the same as they are today.

The City Park “Park Center” Concept

The "Park Center" concept would be another level up in terms of the amount of change to streets and the location of park amenities.

The “Park Center” concept would be another level up in terms of the amount of change to streets and the location of park amenities.

There are two notable changes to the park in this concept. The first is that the tennis courts would be moved from their current location over towards the fire station on the west side of the park. The other is that City Park Drive, from in front of the pool over to Sheldon Drive, would be removed entirely. This would provide safe and easy access from the park to the pool and back again. This is especially important given the number of young children that enjoy both of these amenities. Because of the loss of parking along City Park Drive, a new parking area would be added near the tennis courts. And there could be a more natural edge along the lake on the east side (similar to what’s currently along the west side).

Close up of Park Center line drawing of concept.

Close up of Park Center line drawing of concept.

In this concept, everything to the east of Sheldon Drive would again remain the same as it is today.

The City Park “Lake Shore” Concept

Even in the "Lake Shore" plan, a street would be removed.

Even in the “Lake Shore” plan, a street would be removed.

One of the project goals is to give the park an improved sense of place. As well loved as the park has been for over a hundred years, its never really had one main focal point. It’s hosted play areas, horse racing, baseball games, camping, swimming, ice skating, “parking,” field sports, and many, many other activities. If anything has served as a focal point, it would be Sheldon Lake, along the southern border of the park. The Lake Shore concept focuses on that idea, building the lake up as the nucleus of the park. The play areas and shelters would connect with the promenade along the northern shore, which could be expanded and improved with creative lounging areas and improved landscaping.

City Park Drive would be shifted north, with the train, trolley, and picnic areas between City Park Drive and Oak Street. (Note that the tennis courts are moved in this concept as well.) But this plan would also involve removing the section of Bryan Ave between the pool and the pottery building. This would affect anyone that uses Bryan to get from Mulberry to Mountain or Laporte (which has been a frequent detour route lately as the City works on an irrigation bridge along Mulberry) and it could lead to slightly longer response times for the fire department in reaching properties to the north (though the fire department has seen all of these plans and given a tentative OK to them all).

Close up of Lake Shore line drawing of concept.

Close up of Lake Shore line drawing of concept.

The City Park “Trolley Garden” Concept

The Trolley Garden concept is probably the most creative of them all.

The Trolley Garden concept is probably the most creative of them all.

The trolley used to be a very common way for residents to get to City Park. In fact, the line was extended into the park when citizens clamored for closer access to the lake and to Club Tico. So the Trolley Garden concept builds on that idea by making the trolley a more prominent, and even a year round, feature. A structure would be built about where the north end of Sheldon Drive is today. The trolley would be stored there when not in use, and park visitors would be able to see and appreciate this historic city artifact throughout the year. Gardens and sitting areas would be build around the trolley building and many park amenities would be located off of this central feature.

Notice that again a large section of City Park Drive would be removed in order to create a safer, more comfortable pedestrian area. And in this concept, the play area and train would be located in among the trees near the pottery building while the shelters and restrooms would be moved away from the trees and out into sunnier areas. One particularly innovative idea would be to take advantage of the trees and build tree houses with connecting walkways a la Ewok Village in Star Wars.

Close up of Trolley Garden line drawing of concept.

Close up of Trolley Garden line drawing of concept.

And again, the tennis courts have been moved for this idea.

Funding

Building on Basics 2 is the chief source of funds for this project. The kids train was funded through BOB2, improvements to Club Tico came under a different line item in BOB2, and about $1 million was set aside for up a “park refresh” under yet another line item. Depending on which of the concepts is chosen, the renovations could cost more than the amount allotted under this source of funding, though, in which case it’s possible that the City Council could allocate some other funds to the cause. Given that City Park is not just one of the oldest parks in Fort Collins, but also one of the most frequently used (even becoming a regional destination on the Fourth of July), both the City Council and the voters have shown their support for sprucing up this beautiful community asset.

No timeline has been drawn up yet for the work at City Park. There is also a Southeast Community Park in the works. But that is a much larger project including not just a park, but a community center and several other major amenities as well. The cost of the Southeast Community Park is an order of magnitude greater than the costs for these changes to City Park. So it is likely that the City Park improvements will occur before the Southeast Community Park gets underway.

What’s Next?

The City is looking for as much feedback on these ideas as possible. They held a meeting on March 7th that was advertised through social media, the newspaper, and various other means, and yet it was fairly poorly attended. (While I would have expected a lot of young parents to come, it looked to me like most of the people were closer to grandparent age.)

So if you have thoughts on this project, I’d encourage you to be watching http://www.fcgov.com/parkplanning for information from the meeting as well as ways to send in feedback.

And spread the word. Despite the City planning for a large turnout at this preliminary feedback meeting, they didn’t get much of a response. We’re looking at some significant changes to a well beloved feature of our City. It’s important that residents be involved and aware of possible changes that might be coming to this historic Fort Collins’ gem.

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