|A screen grab from the recreation presentation shows a proposed bike/skate park in Tower Park. With input from nearby residents, planners may revisit ideas for the location.|
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by Robin Gee, city council beat editor
On September 15, Chris Manning of Human Nature and City Administrator Ron Dill shared a presentation outlining concepts and ideas for Fort Thomas parks and amenities with the city’s Recreation Committee and the general public. This committee has met several times over the last three years to refine the proposed amenities.
Generated by the city’s Comprehensive Plan, the presentation featured updates on projects underway as well as concepts for projects slated for the near future. Among the projects in the concept stage were two that have garnered the most interest from city residents – the proposed skate/bike park and the splash park (aka spray park).
Between 65 and 70 residents attended the meeting, many with interests in these two projects. Over the summer, the city shared ideas for the projects at Fort Thomas Farmer’s Market and at city events with the invitation to residents to weigh-in with comments.
The meeting also drew high interest from city council. Council member Jeff Bezold is chair of the Recreation Committee that also includes council members Lisa Kelly and Adam Blau, yet all the council members attended the meeting.
Location, location, location
|A preliminary plan for the splash park put it in Highland Hills Park. Also noted is a grand staircase to the disc golf area, improved practice fields and new trail connections. |
Overall, said Dill, the meeting went very well. Most people were generally in favor of the two projects, both of which came from discussions generated around the Comprehensive Plan. Yet half of those present expressed concerns about the location.
Residents on Sergeant Avenue and the surrounding streets near the side of Tower Park where the skate/bike park was proposed had concerns about traffic and safety. They said the area is already under pressure, and there is congestion whenever the soccer field is in use.
For the presentation, locations for a bike/skate park and the splash park were those that put them near associated activities. For the bike/skate park, that was in Tower Park as that is where there are popular bike trails. For the splash park, Highland Hills was chosen because of the proximity of the swim club.
Neither location was cut in stone, said Dill, but they selected based on what seemed to make the most sense based on preliminary research and the input received over the summer.
"What came out of the meeting was to look at other options for locations," said Bezold. "We decided to go back to the literal drawing board and look for other options that might offer a better solution. I'm not saying they won’t be there [where they are proposed] but we're looking at other options as well."
Taking another look
Blau said he had concerns about the locations going into the meeting. He shared some of his ideas at the meeting and then later followed up with a letter to council members, Manning and Dill. Basically, he said, he would like the city to consider switching the proposed locations for the two amenities.
"The plan I would like to see looked at is moving the skate/bike park to the bottom of the hill at Highland Park, and the splash pad would be moved to the main area of Tower Park. I would like to still see the two additional practice fields go behind the skate park at Highland Park along with fixing up the two we have on Sergeant," he said.
Making improvements to the soccer fields and moving the bike/skate park to a more central location in Highland Hills Park could alleviate some of the residents’ concerns, he said. Tower Park already has access to water, drainage, restrooms and a shelter in place so that would be cost effective for the splash park, he added. He also said he’d like to see a scaled down version of the splash park similar to what is in place in Cincinnati’s Washington Park downtown.
He said he felt the city is listening and will take his and all the other ideas shared at the meeting into consideration as they explore the options further. "This is actually a great part of the developmental stage because this is when the people come to you. When you’re digging, you may hit a big rock. How do you get around this rock?"
Now is the time to work together to find a way around, he said. "We have to work through those concerns to make sure we make the best choices for these particular projects. So we haven’t unearthed everything yet. People had some extremely valid concerns on this project but overall, it was extremely well-received."
"We not only came out of the meeting wanting to look at other options, but also we got a better understanding," said Bezold. "We are now more aware of that area, especially the entrance to that area. Even if we don’t put [the project] there, we now have the door open to spruce up that area."
Enthusiasm for other projects
|New pickle ball courts in Tower Park near the tennis courts is a welcome plan for enthusiasts and fans of the activity.|
One project outlined in the presentation is already underway. New playground equipment is being installed in Tower Park near the softball field and Shelter Three. Parking lot paving is also happening there.
Several people attended the meeting to express support for more pickle ball courts around the city. Two pickle ball courts will be added adjacent to the tennis courts, said Dill. That project should be underway soon, as well as some planned adjustments and redesign to the city’s disc golf course.
Improvements were outlined in the plan for the small Riverside Triangle Park at the intersection of Riverside Parkway and Sunset Avenue. A new basketball court will be added, as well as new pavers, benches, a drinking fountain, lighting and landscaping elements.
Another important and long-term project discussed was the Route 8 corridor (Kentucky Route 6335/Mary Ingles Highway). A large portion of the road has been shut off due to damage from mud slides. Residents on the road have expressed frustration in recent months with the pace of the project, but the presentation noted that much behind-the-scenes work has been underway. The city received a $50,000 grant to support evaluation and cost estimating to determine the best way forward.
|Plans for Riverside Park include a basketball court, landscaping, lighting, benches, a water fountain, pavers and more.|
The city will revisit ideas for locations for the skate/bike park and the splash park in the coming weeks. The hope is to have the planning completed over the winter to be able to hit the ground running in the warmer months. The Recreation Committee will work with city staff and Manning to do more research. They will bring revisions and new ideas back in upcoming meetings.
Public input has been and will be an important part of the process, said Blau. "These are truly just the beginning stages of this project, and we have these meetings to ensure that we have looked at these projects through the eyes of community that it will affect."
Dill said, "We were very pleased with the participation from our residents, and I think our committee of council and planning team like having that type of input. It’s an important part of that process. It helps guide us to a better project."