The Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Commission analyzed the parks master plan's top 10 priority projects during a work session Wednesday.
Commissioners focused heavily on improvements at Community Park, which is listed as the top priority in the parks master plan draft — which outlines goals to improve the Jefferson City parks system during the next 10-20 years. The master plan calls for new restrooms, three spray ground play features, side-by-side zipline racers, a climbing tower and wall, and use for an outdoor amphitheater at Community Park.
"Community Park has the ability to impact its surroundings and it will be a draw (to the community) the way we have designed it," said Shannon Gordon, senior landscape architect with Landwork Studio. "It's very new, modern, and it will be one of the best parks in the state."
Commissioners showed particular interest in the side-by-side zipline racers, which would not be a hook-on zipline but one where children sit in seats and slide down the lines. As a parent, commissioner Lindsey Rowden said she was worried about children getting hurt; but Shannon said there would be artificial turf that is the "best material right now."
The estimated cost for Community Park, at 725 Marshall St., is $2.5 million-$3 million. Gordon emphasized these are planning estimates. When planning these projects, he added, he tries to over-estimate in case there are unexpected costs.
Todd Spalding, director of the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, said the department has almost $4 million in its fund balance that could go towards renovating the parks, along with $500,000 annually from capital improvement tax. The Jefferson City Cultural Arts Foundation also has been fundraising money for a splash park at Community Park.
The Parks Department first would need to clean up the area and remove some of the play equipment that could be used elsewhere to make room for new amenities.
When commissioners asked which suggested features were priorities to add to Community Park, Spalding emphasized "everything needs to be done."
After the meeting, Spalding told the News Tribune improving Community Park should be the commission's top priority due to its state of disrepair and the highly populated area it serves.
"I don't think there's a close second (priority project), to be quite honest," he said. "It's in an area that is in our core area and is heavily populated — it's next to the greenway, it's next to schools, it's next to Lincoln (University), it's next to downtown — and we have done hardly anything to it in what appears to be a long, long time.
"Part of the master plan is to find out what you're doing good and what you're lacking in and use that as a road map, and it clearly shows that that area was by far the biggest gap in service."
Besides Community Park, the master plan also lists East Miller, Hickory Adams, Park Place, Ellis-Porter Riverside, Memorial, McClung, Binder and McKay parks and Oak Hills Golf Center at Hough Park as other top priorities.
The plan calls for improving several of the parks' playgrounds, adding features like sound gardens and aquatics, and making the trails and equipment ADA-accessible.
One feature the commission focused on was replacing the community amphitheater at Ellis-Porter Riverside Park, which would have seating for about 2,000 people with room for overflow.
Shannon said this should be a top priority as the current amphitheater is unsafe, even suggesting the city stop holding events there until the new one is constructed.
"I'm trying to be realistic here," he told commissioners. "It's scary there, and it's not ADA-compliant. It's not something we're trying to hide under the rug because we're trying to address it in this plan, but it should be a top priority."
He estimated the amphitheater would cost approximately $2.5 million. Total renovations for Ellis-Porter Riverside Park are estimated at $23 million-$35 million.
The Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department has not had a formal master plan since 1952, according to the draft master plan. The most current long-range plan for parks and recreation was in 1996 as part of the city's comprehensive plan update.