Andover moves on first phase planning for new park

The Andover City Council Feb. 19 asked city staff to begin finalizing the first phase plans for a new 40-acre city park on the northeast corner of 161st Avenue and Tulip Street.

The first phase could include three full-size fields for football, lacrosse and soccer that could be divided into smaller fields depending on the sport and age of players using the fields at the time. There may only be lights on the one field on the south side of the park in the first phase.

Including a gravel parking lot for about 180 vehicles, the first phase could cost $1.3 million, which is well above the $800,000 the city budgeted for in its 2013-2017 capital improvement plan.

Some neighbors would like to see the parking lot paved to cut down on dust, no overnight lights in the park, a gate at the main entrance that could be closed overnight, security cameras at different areas, a larger parking lot at Pine Hills Park and a crosswalk on 161st Avenue to clearly mark where people parking in this lot should cross the street, no parking signs on the 162nd and 163rd lanes cul-de-sacs east of the park, plenty of trash and recycling bins and more restrooms.

Bonnie Dehn highlighted these requests from the neighborhood. She loves that this area will be turned into a park, which will allow the Andover youth teams to practice more in Andover rather than in surrounding communities.

She proposed it be called Bennett Park. Bennett is the last name of the previous owners who farmed this property and they are Dehn’s parents. She said they bought the property in 1950.

“The park itself is very welcome in this community and in this area,” Dehn said. “It’s very important that we look at something in-house that will continue this type of atmosphere not only for our children, but our children’s children.”

Marc Angell says he sees problems with dust being kicked up by vehicles in the Prairie Knoll Park parking lot, which is where Andover youth football practices. Angell, who was wearing an Andover football sweatshirt, told the council that he feels bad for those neighbors and would not want the same issues in his own neighborhood. He implored the council to pave the parking lot.

Angell also would like the park to close after dusk unless youth football, lacrosse or soccer are using a lighted field, and he wants to see all lights shut off after people leave the park. He loves seeing the night sky and does not want light pollution ruining it.

He would also rather see the city find a way to get the whole park project done now while construction prices are lower.

“Let’s do this thing right,” Angell said. “Let’s make this a community showpiece.”

Beyond the three fields in the first phase, the master plan for this park calls for a multi-purpose building with concessions, restrooms and storage space, a gazebo, a large community play area, a small tot lot, a game court for half-court basketball, four square and hopscotch, sand volleyball court, nature trails or an elevated wooden boardwalk, prairie grass and wetland demonstration areas, three frisbee disc golf baskets, a sledding hill in the winter and a storage building for public works and athletic associations.

The price tag for everything in today’s dollars could exceed $3 million, according to a city estimate.

Councilmember Julie Trude said the city would have to consider a voter referendum at that point and asked Angell if he would support a referendum. He said he would. City Administrator Jim Dickinson said going through the referendum process would delay the start of the project.

By comparison, Andover voters approved a $2 million referendum in 2006 for the city to purchase high quality land to protect it from future development.

The city’s plan was to request donations from the three youth sports associations that would benefit from this project and utilize existing parks revenue sources to cover the $800,000 budget for the first phase.

With the first phase already $500,000 over the projected budget, the council was set to start discussing its options at a Feb. 26 workshop meeting. To this point, the parks and recreation commission and members of the sports associations that served on an athletic facilities task force have been the ones in deep discussions about this project.

City Engineer and Public Works Superintendent David Berkowitz told the council members that as they start discussing the project more, they can look at what could be scaled back or how to handle such requests as not having the parking lot lights on overnight. He said the city practice has been to keep lights on for security reasons.

“I think we have an excellent plan,” said Ted Butler, chairperson of the parks and recreation commission. “Now it’s just a matter of figuring out how it’s going to happen in a reasonable time frame.”

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]