Andover 40-acre park property still unnamed

The new 40-acre park in Andover will have to wait a little longer to get a new name.

With Councilmember Sheri Bukkila absent, the Andover City Council Nov. 19 decided to delay a decision on naming land it purchased for $305,000 last year from Legacy Christian Academy on the northeast corner of 161st Avenue and Tulip Street.

After reviewing 38 suggestions from the community, the Andover Parks and Recreation Commission recommended Pine Hills North Park to make it easier for youth football, lacrosse and soccer teams and fans to find. There is already a Pine Hills Park across the street that Councilmember Julie Trude said has a strong Internet search presence.

“We throw a new name on, it’s going to take a year to get onto Mapquest and Yahoo and Google,” she said.

On the other hand, Mayor Mike Gamache and Councilmembers Tony Howard and Mike Knight feel this new park, which will initially have three fields and someday could have many more amenities to attract the whole community, should honor the past.

Andover was once Grow Township before it became a city in 1974. Gamache said because it is a young community, it lacks ties to its history.

“I really think we should seriously consider tying some of these parks back to not just what the park looks like, but tying back to some of the people that started this city that were here when it was Grow Township,” he said.

Knight would like to hear about veterans who won medals and made significant contributions and honor them in some way. He said regardless of the name, the city should try to get a directional sign on Round Lake Boulevard (County Road 9) whether it means working with the county in its right of way or with a private landowner.

There was no rush to make a decision because players will not be on the fields anytime soon. City Engineer and Public Works Director David Berkowitz said the growth of the grass has been doing really well, but it would be best to wait until fall of 2014 to allow any games and a full allotment of football, lacrosse and soccer games would not be allowed until the spring of 2015 to give the grass time to really take hold.

“We don’t feel comfortable starting in the spring, but we believe there can be some activity out there starting in the fall. Maybe not full-time activity, but scheduling some games,” Berkowitz said.

The lights for the three fields are already up. Benches will be installed next spring and summer, he said.

Future phase timing uncertain

Trude said there will be hundreds of kids at the park when it opens full time, but not everyone will be there to play an organized game.

“We’ve found in our studies that the parks with the most fields get the most use because the families come with all the siblings and sometimes the parents have to split between being spectator and keeping the other kids happy and occupied,” Trude said.

Knight said, “As this gets going and developed, we’re going to need a major structure.”

Future phases do call for a playground and a multi-purpose building with concessions, restrooms and storage.

Other possibilities included in the master plan are 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.

When this might happen and how it will be paid for has yet to be determined. WSB & Associates earlier this year estimated the cost of the post-phase one projects could exceed $3 million.

The city was able to foot the bill of approximately $1.2 million to construct the first phase of this park mostly through $735,000 transferred from its capital equipment reserve fund over a two-year period and $300,000 the city received when a delinquent Jay Street road assessment was paid at the time that Walmart closed on the purchase of the old Pov’s Sports Bar property, according to City Administrator Jim Dickinson. The city also set aside $100,000 from its park improvement levy revenue.

In addition, the North Metro Soccer Association donated $40,000 and the Andover Football Association is planning to donate $10,000 spread over five years.

The city currently cannot use the park improvement fund, which is financed by park dedication fees paid by developers and a capital projects tax levy, because none of the 40 acres is legally defined as a park by the city, according to Dickinson.

Dickinson said the city is looking at a lot split to separate the fields from the more passive areas of the park so that the park improvement fund could be utilized in the future, but the council has not made a decision on this. Once land is dedicated as a park, it cannot be changed back.

Dickinson said Andover has a lot of young families now and the athletic fields may be there forever, but community demographics could change.

“It’s wise that the council is not backing themselves into a corner,” he said.

But even with this move, Dickinson told ABC Newspapers that 2017 or beyond would be the opportune time for the second phase of the 40-acre park to be constructed if the council wants to do it without significantly increasing property taxes.

What helps the city financially starting in 2017 is that the debt to pay for the construction of Fire Station No. 3 will be repaid by then, according to Dickinson.

The capital equipment reserve fund that paid over 60 percent of the first phase costs already has various other obligations such as parking lot maintenance, replacing playground equipment and replacing firefighter gear, and projected fund balances in the city’s 2014-2018 capital improvement plan budget fall below $100,000 in three out of five years.

The park improvement fund has larger fund balances projected, but the estimated end-of-year fund balances still only gets above $200,000 once in the next five years.

Reconstructing Rose Park in 2014 and Fox Meadows Park in 2017, paving the parking lot at Prairie Knoll Park and various other irrigation projects are some of the projected expenditures over the next few years.

Ted Butler, chairperson of the parks and recreation commission, said the parks capital improvement plan may project the next five years, but plans can change. There has not been any discussion on the parks commission level about how future phases could be funded.

“The parks commission hasn’t done more than make a recommendation that we move forward with additional phases as soon as it is practical,” Butler said.

 

Eric Hagen is at
eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

 
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