Jessica Cejnar / Friday, Feb. 19 @ 5:01 p.m.
City Council Approves Beachfront Park Application, Though Staff Says They'll Do 'Valued Engineering' To Whittle Down Project Cost
Though the Beachfront Park plan Eric Wier and his staff presented to Crescent City Councilors didn’t call for the full $35 million needed to include all the amenities everyone wanted, its price tag was still greater than the grant they hope to get.
On Tuesday the city manager and his staff showed Councilors a list of priority features that cost a total of roughly $9.09 million. Noting that the city has until March 12 to submit a grant application for $8.5 million in statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization dollars, Wier received the Council’s approval after saying he would look at adjusting the components of the plan’s features to save money.
“In this, it has the expansion of KidTown at roughly 20,000 square feet, and that came in at somewhere around $1 million,” he said, using the playground as an example. “If we took that and instead of doing 20,000 square feet, reducing it to an expansion of 15,000 square feet — which is pretty close to double the size of the KidTown we have right now — you could take the cost and reduce it by several thousand dollars.”
After conducting a series of public meetings, including one earlier this month that included cost estimates of the proposed features, people’s priorities included an amphitheater, Waterfront Plaza, an intermediate and advanced bicycle pump track, botanical garden and an area showcasing Tolowa culture, Recreation Director Holly Wendt said.
People also wanted to expand KidTown with a focus on making things accessible for special needs children as well as a park gateway and a one-mile pathway with lighting round the perimeter, she said.
“It’s a tough decision to try and pick these amenities,” Wendt said. “Everyone has their heart set on something and it’s really trying to figure out the amenities that reach the different populations — the younger kids with the play (area), the middle school and high school-aged kids with the bike park and all ages with the amphitheater and the plaza.”
In addition to going after the $8.5 million in 2018 Parks and Water Bond Act, or Proposition 68 dollars, there’s another grant opportunity through Prop 68 for $3 million, Wendt said.
A further non-competitive $200,000 grant is also available through Prop 68, Wier said.
During the Council’s discussion, one of its newest members, Beau Smith, asked if Crescent City can afford to maintain Beachfront Park once it’s built.
According to Wier, one of the things Council will be asked is to consider re-hiring part-time park maintenance staff that were laid off last year as a result of a budget deficit created during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city is hoping to hire two more park workers to maintain the park at a cost of about $17,000 for 4,000 hours of work per year each, Wier said.
With more pathways in the park, Wier said the city would need an extra three to four part-time workers to maintain it “at the level the community and the Council are going to want.”
“Those would be part time,” he said. “with parks, especially, you have growing seasons and summer seasons. Seasonal workers make a lot of sense when it comes to parks.”
Cathy Garrett, a consultant with landscape architect firm PGADesign, which put together the masterplan, noted that her firm worked hard to build a sustainable park that incorporates efficient light fixtures and water control, including limited or no irrigation. She noted that the park is meant to be an attraction to visitors from out of the area, not just locals.
According to Wier, the masterplan is also coming at a time when the city is conducting a feasibility study for using recycled water at its wastewater treatment plant. Recycled water and a new irrigation system could fit in with the Beachfront Park masterplan, he said.
Crescent City Councilor Blake Inscore, pointing to a provision in the Prop 68 grant application, said the city is required to have the funds to maintain and operate the park if it receives the $8.5 million it seeks.
“Councilman Smith is right, we got to ask that question and if we can’t with confidence say tonight that we are committed to maintaining this park, we shouldn’t make the application,” Inscore said. “If that means it’s a $17,000 part-time staff member, we need to be on board with that tonight. We believe in development with this park and the cost associated with doin git, which means that Ms. Wendt’s going to have to book ZZ Top or something in the amphitheater to make sure we can recoup some of those costs.”
The amphitheater and plaza has the potential to increase transient occupancy tax and sales tax revenues because of the visitors they’ll attract for events like the Fourth of July and Sea Cruise, Inscore said.
“We’re talking about multiple events that will bring people into our community,” he said. “I look at things like the Jaycees basketball tournament and the impact those have on the community.”
If the city receives the $8.5 million grant, it has until June 2025 to complete the Beachfront Park project, Wendt said.
Crescent City staff will find out if their application was successful by about November and will enter the design and environmental permitting phase in 2022, Wier said. Construction could begin in spring 2023, which gives the city a two-year window for completion, he said.