After years of residents complaining about Community Park, they will see improvements to the park soon.
During a special meeting Tuesday, the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Commission approved directing Kansas City firm Warner Nease Bost Architects to bid out improvements to Community Park.
"Community Park is our No. 1 (park) that needs to take shape," commission President Brad Bates said. "It's a collection of rusted out equipment from 35 years ago. To say it's our most critical need right now is not an overstatement."
WNB Architects, which is the architect of record for the project, created design charrettes for Community Park and is ready to bid the project, Bates said. The commission may review the bids in December and the bids will most likely include those from local businesses, said Todd Spalding, Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department director.
WNB Architects and Landwork Studio listed the 3.5-acre park as the No. 1 priority in the parks master plan, which lays out improvements to the Jefferson City parks system over the next 10-20 years.
The master plan suggested several changes to Community Park, at 725 Marshall St., including spray ground play features, a large pyramid climbing structure and climbing wall, side-by-side zipline racers, interactive play sculptures, toddlers' play mounds and climbing logs, and more parking spaces, among other items.
The commission plans to direct the WNB Architects to also include splash park design recommendations from the Jefferson City Cultural Arts Foundation, which fundraised money for a splash park at Community Park.
After pushing for improvements at Community Park for about a decade, commissioner Denise Chapel said she was pleased to see the Parks commission take a step forward on the project.
"It's nice to see it's getting the attention it needs," she said. "The community will be well-served, and Jefferson City will be well-served."
The estimated cost for all recommended changes to Community Park is $2.5 million-$3 million, according to the master plan.
The commission plans to pursue $11 million in bonds to pay for some of the projects outlined in the parks master plan.
Commissioner Bill Plank said Community Park is "absolutely critical to Jefferson City" as it is in the "heart of our city."
"That is a park we need to greatly improve, regardless of bonding," he said. "That's not just a priority — it's a 'Yes, we're going to do this.'"
During Tuesday's meeting, the commission also listed McClung Park and Ellis-Porter Riverside Park as its second and third priority projects, contrary to the parks master plan.
The master plan lists East Miller Park, at 916 E. Miller St., as the second priority and Hickory Adams Park, at 503 Hickory St., as the third priority.
Ellis-Porter Riverside Park, at 300 Ellis-Porter Drive, is No. 5 on the priority list and McClung Park, at 930 McClung Park Drive, is No. 7.
The master plan priority list was based on WNB Architects' and Landwork Studio's preferences, not the parks commission's, Bates said. Commissioners noted while the East Miller and Hickory Adams parks may need repair, McClung and Ellis-Porter Riverside parks serve more people and are in need of more improvements.
At the 45-acre McClung Park, the master plan calls for an 80-foot Capitol viewing tower, splash pad play area, upgraded playground and renovating the dance hall.
The estimated price tag for all of the suggested changes and additions is $5 million-$7 million, the plan notes.
For the 62-acre Ellis-Porter Riverside Park, the plans call for a new community amphitheater, destination play structure that is ADA accessible, community gardens, shelter improvements and aquatics venue.
The total renovation estimated cost ranges $23 million-$35 million, according to the plan.
Commissioners said they do not have to do all of the recommended changes at once but would rather address the large needs first.
Before moving forward on these two projects, the commissioners want to speak with city officials to decide whether it can use professional service teams outside of WNB Architects. Commissioners said they wanted to have more local entities involved in the projects.
The commission plans to discuss this further at next month's meeting.
Other projects listed as priorities in the parks master plan are: Park Place, Memorial Park, Binder Park, McKay Park and Hough Park. The plan also suggests improving, adding and connecting greenway trails.