City Manager Bob Bolz presented an update on the progress of Main Street Park during a city council meeting Monday night.
Bolz said phase one of construction on the park is about 40 percent complete. The city broke ground on the current phase mid-June after awarding the $1.4 million contract to TW Phillips Grading.
This phase consists of grading, grassing, curbing and paving the 18 acres behind city hall and the Food Lion. A walking trail will be constructed and infrastructure will also be placed as part of this phase.
Bolz said the estimated completion date for the work is sometime in November, depending on the weather.
While that work is being done, Bolz and city staff have been working to design playgrounds, a restroom and a plan for landscaping and fencing.
The city will also be working to determine staffing and operational needs for the park.
The playground design process will include deciding on a theme and selecting the components of each playground, which Bolz said will designed to be inclusive to all abilities as well as cater to different age groups.
“We have talked with seven playground companies and have two more that we’ve scheduled to talk with,” Bolz said. “They are to go back and send us recommendations and designs and we were going to try to pick three designs, bring them to ya’ll and see which one ya’ll like the best.”
Once the design is selected, the work will be put out to bid.
“All three will be all-inclusive, where special needs people would be playing right alongside whatever age group is playing on that set,” Bolz said. "We’ve instructed each designer not just to make it ADA accessible but to make it inclusive. Every piece can’t be inclusive, but the idea is they won’t be separated from their playmates.”
City staff has also asked a landscape architect to design landscaping in phases.
“Basically when we finish phase one, she comes in and landscapes behind phase one. We finish phase two, she comes in and landscapes behind phase two so it doesn’t sit there and look barren and ugly and erode and wash for months until we do all the landscaping at one time,” Bolz said. “As soon as the grading and the grassing and the curbing and paving is complete we can go ahead and start with some of the landscaping, plants and beauty strips and things like that.”
Phase two will consist of installation of street lighting along the new portion of Main Street. Georgia Power gave the city an estimate of 19 lights with an estimated cost of $70,000.
This phase will also include the playground installation, with a target completion date of January 2019, Bolz said.
“To get the playground we want, to make it all-inclusive, to reach a number of age groups and really make it something nice, sort of like a destination playground, estimated cost is around $300,000,” Bolz said.
Construction of a restroom and concession facility similar to the one in the middle of Rock Creek Park where concessions can be sold would cost roughly $325,000, Bolz said.
There will also be a fence installed on the circumference of the park, so that when the amphitheater is being used, the city can control egress to the park.
Also part of phase two will be developing a plan for the amphitheater, which Bolz said could potentially hold up to 1,000 people. Figuring out what kind of artificial turf or ground treatment would be used for the amphitheater would also be part of the design.
“There is a lot of excitement and desire to use the amphitheater,” Bolz said. “The challenge comes in what we put on the ground to protect it where it doesn’t get muddy and wash away. As we've been meeting with the playground people, a lot of them also do amphitheaters. So we’re traveling around this week to look at some playgrounds and amphitheaters that some of our vendors have recommended we go look at.”
Bolz said that if the council members wanted to have Astro Turf or a similar artificial turf installed in the ground instead of grassing the area, now would be the time to make that decision.
Bolz also recommended the council consider contracting a management company when the park gets up and running.
“I know that Mayor Eason and councilman Tolson have already met with one company that is interested in managing, that would probably be the best way to go at least initially, because they market it and it's sort of a turnkey operation,” he said.
Finally, phase two would also include design of picnic shelters along trails and installation of benches, picnic tables and related amenities.
The park would really get up and running during phase three, with the development, construction and installation of the amphitheater amenities, including staging and power and the ground cover. The cost is estimated to be between $300,000 and $350,000, Bolz said, with a target completion date of spring or summer 2019.
Picnic shelters would cost around $150,000 to erect at this point, depending on how many the city decides to install. The city would also have a dog park designed, bid out and constructed in phase three.
Other work during this phase would include deciding where to install exercise stations at various points along the trail as well as design of a splash pad.
After that, Bolz said it just depends on what the council wants to do with the rest of the park.
“I’ve heard pickleball, I’ve heard parking shelters, we’ve got that area in the north corner where there was sand volleyball and a skate park, I’ve heard we don’t want to do that so we’ve got that area to consider and then the area south of the road,” he said. “Currently we’ve got a green area, two pickleball courts, two bocce ball courts and a small restroom facility, so if we don’t want to do that and we want to do something else, now is the time to start thinking about it.”
When he got to phase four, Bolz reminded the council that the plans for the park are all funding-dependent.
“All this is dependent on available money, we don’t have a tree that we’re pulling money off of,” he said. “SPLOST is going to be great and money is eventually going to have to come into play.”
The exercise stations could be installed at this point as well as the splash pad.
The city would have to request additional funding in future SPLOST for the remainder of the park; the pickle ball, bocce ball, restroom and other facilities, Bolz said.
Mayor Mike Eason told the council that they needed to start thinking about any possible changes they wanted to make to the plans.
Bolz said he had identified one big potential issue: Parking.
“We have a limited space for the amphitheater itself, we were thinking 5-800 people, maybe a 1,000 at the very outset,” he said. If the event includes the sale or consumption of alcohol, the city would not be allowed use of the nearby Board of Education parking lots, he said.
Eason asked staff to do an inventory of the available parking that could service the amphitheater.