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Parks board approves vision plan for Allandale park revamp

Monday, January 31, 2022 by Willow Higgins

Allandale’s favorite park has major improvements headed its way. Planners involved with the Beverly Sheffield Northwest District Park presented their vision plan and final draft concept for the historic neighborhood park to the Parks and Recreation Board last week.  

The 31-acre park, which was acquired by the city in 1955 but last planned in 1987, is currently equipped with baseball fields, basketball and tennis courts, a pool, a pond and greenspace including a hiking trail along Shoal Creek. The vision plan for the park stems from various requests to update the space, including improving the trail system, rehabilitating the pond, replacing the pool, and updating park infrastructure like the sewage line. 

Each element of the plan was designed with robust community feedback in mind, which was evident at last week’s meeting.  The vision plan serves as a way to coordinate the numerous improvement projects, which will be taken on in three phases, all scheduled to be completed by 2026. The project is anticipated to cost from $4.6 million to $6.1 million, not including the cost of the pool, which is a separate project with separate funding. 

The first phase of the project is to improve the park’s playscapes. Two play areas, one geared for 2- to 5-year-olds and another for 5- to 12-year-olds, will see enhancements. Both play themes will be nature-based, per community feedback, made primarily from sustainable, rot-resistant wood.

Allandale parents expressed concern about the two playscapes and the new bike park being in close enough proximity that parents can have them all in eyesight simultaneously. The vision plan has the two playscapes located side by side and the bike park nearby.

Parent Julie Hayes spoke at the meeting in support of the proposed location of the bike park.

“In the current vision plan, my three kids could play on three different playgrounds and I can safely supervise all of them at the same time,” Hayes said. “From all of the outnumbered parents out there, please build structured playscapes like the bike playground for our children, and please keep the playgrounds together.”

The project’s second phase includes better pathways throughout the park, a boardwalk and expansion of the pedestrian bridge, improvements of the historic pond and landscaping of the greenspace. 

“The pond, a beloved amenity, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and talking about it with stakeholders and community members and consultants,” said Drew Carman, the director of planning and design at RVi, who presented the vision plan to the board.

The vision plan includes short-term recommendations for the pond, like aerating the water and increasing vegetation. Long term, the group recommends a comprehensive study for improved knowledge of the biological and ecological systems at work in the pond so they can proceed accordingly.

David Riskin, a retired ecologist who has lived a block from the park for almost 40 years, agrees that the pond needs much more care than it currently receives.

“We’re pleased to see the revised approach is to essentially retain the current pond and its associated habitat,” Riskin said. “It’s vital to conduct several lines of investigation very early on; among them, the symmetry of the pond, what are its contours? … What should be removed to restore and maintain the pond to its initial design? All of these really relate to the water quality, the quality of the experience and the quality of the habitat and the pond as well.”

Phase three of the project includes architectural improvements like new restrooms, monuments and shelters, and the addition of two pickleball courts and the bike park. The bike park is a highly anticipated element of the revamp; 10-year-old Zoe also spoke at the meeting in support of the bike park as a safer alternative to riding in the street.

After some discussion, the board recommended the vision plan with the following contingencies in mind: The Parks and Recreation Department will continue to solicit community feedback when 30, 60 and 90 percent of the design is complete; PARD will preserve the integrity of the pond; and lastly, PARD will commission several studies and assessments of the pond to ensure its health and quality.

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