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Arlington hears promises about spray park for The Fort, again

 

It's hard to blame members of the Arlington Civic Council (ACC) for being skeptical when city officials come to their meetings and tell them a spray park is coming. They've heard it again and again and again and now one more time.

The first time was in 2008 when then Citiparks director Duane Ashley visited the ACC and told them Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said to make "The Fort" a high priority (Arlington eyes updates for The Fort including spray park, SPR 10/14/2008).

Seven months later, Ben Simpson, a landscape architect with J.T. Sauer & Associates, LLC, brought preliminary plant to the ACC. A phased approach for The Fort was suggested, considering there wasn't money budgeted for the project.

Mr. Simpson presented plans that included a spray park, green space, two pavilions capable of holding 100 people each, along with a trail network around the park and ballfield. The trail would include exercise stations designed with older adults in mind.

It was noted at the time that funding wasn't available in 2009 but might be possible in 2010.

Citiparks director Jim Griffin was next to promise a spray park at the Fort in September 2015 (Arlington spray park slated for construction, SPR 9/22/2015). Speaking before the ACC, the director said the entire project would be divided into three phases, with the spray park being the first phase and fully funded.

"We're committed to it...This is the most important project right now," Director Griffin said at the time.

The director returned to the ACC in June 2016 saying, "We promised you a spray park this year. I'm committed to that and I think it's going to happen."

"Our expectation is that someone is going to get wet in that spray park, even if it's in September," he later said at the meeting.

Demolition of one of the two buildings on the side began shortly after but little else was completed.

Last week the ACC asked for an update on the status of the spray park from District 3 Councilman Bruce Kraus and Andrea Ketzel, the project manager for the spray park from the city's Department of Public Works.

"The project is happening and it came in under budget so we're going to do a lot more than we originally thought we were going to do," Ms. Ketzel said. The starting date given was April 17.

Work has already been started on the exterior of the bath house although the interior of the building still has to be begun.

Since the project came in under the million dollar budget, additional improvements were added to the scope of the first phase including new steps and a handicapped accessible ramp from Fernleaf Street. Other stairs on the site that are crumbling will also be corrected as part of the project.

Additional work that has been added into the initial phase is removing some of the concrete on the site and landscaping it for additional green space.

Once the contractor gets started in mid-April, they will secure the site before beginning work. The swimming pool will be filled in and the spray park constructed on top of the former pool.

She said they should see additional demolition work before paving begins.

"It'll be a quick moving project," Ms. Ketzel said with phase one open by mid-September.

Mr. Kraus said the second and third phases are estimated to cost upwards of $1.5 million and do not include work on the ballfield. Currently, the addition phases aren't included in the city's budget.

Ms. Ketzel told the group that phase one was budgeted at almost $1 million, but came in under budget at about $600,000 allowing the additional work for the steps, handicapped ramp and landscaping.

Phase one also includes the renovation of the bath house – inside and out, the concrete water park and game areas with spray features, benches, shade structures, lighting, and landscape improvements.

Several members of the council questioned what happened to previous plans and their amenities that aren't included in the current incarnation. Mr. Kraus said previous plans were neither approved nor funded where the current plan has money in place.

He explained much of the work for the spray park is "underground" with filling in the swimming pool and running the plumbing. After the ground work is completed and the paving finished, "You'll be amazed how quickly a spray park pops up."

The councilman noted even with a September opening, the spray park will be able to be used this year as long as weather permits.

 

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