By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Planners are wading deeper into the proposed Liberty Hill swim center, with Parks and Recreation Board members getting the first look at conceptual designs.
City staff and Parks Board members are hopeful that the concepts brought forward at the last board meeting by Brian Binkowski of Halff Associates will speed the pace of making a swim center a reality in City Park.
“This has been in the plans for three years,” said Parks Board Chair Mary Lyn Jones. “I’m finally beginning to see where something is going to happen. I know people are wondering, ‘When is that going to happen?’ We’ve had to be patient.”
Binkowski shared two options for the swim center – with a proposed budget of $1.2 million – the only primary difference being the pool’s shape, with the remainder of the plan focusing on bringing in the elements identified previously as priorities.
“We met with city staff, and we met with Greg (Boatright) to get some initial feedback,” Binkowski said. “We asked how the facility would be run and operated, which effects how the pool house should function and some of the amenities within it.”
The plan includes a roughly 1,300 square foot open-air pool house facility with restrooms, pavilion area and changing rooms. There would be no heating or air conditioning.
As plans were drawn up, the option was included to have restrooms and a potential vending area accessible year round for park users, even when the pool is closed.
“We revised a floor plan, and came up with a pretty good concept that will allow the restroom to be used anytime throughout the year,” Binkowski said. “The exterior doors can be locked and accessible only from the inside of the pool area during the summer, then you lock the interior doors and open the exterior doors for year-round use.”
The pool itself would be about 4,800 square feet, with a zero entry grade on one end and reaching a depth of five feet on the other. This allows children to play in the shallower end more easily, and creates greater ease of entrance for everyone. It also creates an opportunity for some water features to be included in the pool itself.
“The idea is to have a zero entry, which does allow for accessibility to roll straight in, but it would have to include a hand rail and or a chair lift to accommodate mobility impaired people,” he said. “There are options with these pools to do bubbler jets. It’s not a huge expense because you have circulation already within the pool system itself.”
Plans also include fencing, shade structures, landscaping and grass areas surrounding the pool deck.
“We’ve found that there is a lot of value to adding a perimeter fence with grass space,” Binkowski said. “A lot of people really want a grass area.”
A parking lot with approximately 60 spaces, along with an improved entrance on County Road 200 and the decomposed granite half-mile trail around the southern half of the park are also included. Addressing parking issues at the park has been high on everyone’s list.
“Parking has always been an issue, and we’re adding 60 parking spaces, but then also where the drainage comes in, we’re going to have a place to cross over and have parking by the football field,” Jones said. “I’m excited about that, because when you go out there on the weekend, there are cars everywhere.”
Cost estimates have been higher recently, with similar projects Binkowski has seen coming in at as much as $300 per square foot versus $200 per square foot as recently as a year ago.
“Within the last year we’ve seen a lot of increase in costs, especially in park development, because this is specialized type construction,” he said. “You’re having to mobilize different specialties to do certain things because there’s not a lot of buildings or big buildings.”
The Parks Board was pleased with the design options, but Jones said she wants to see plans that include a splash pad together with the swim center.
“I just think being a city pool, we need to provide more opportunities for kids of all ages,” she said. “I’d even like to see the lift chair just because we’re serving the public and I think we need to make sure they know we’re addressing everyone.”
Splash pad options on the same site will be brought back for consideration, but budgetary constraints and space limitations do pose a challenge. Binkowski said such a feature can be single pass, where new water is continually run through it, or it can be capture and reuse, which is much more expensive to recirculate and treat but uses less water overall.
“The budgetary constraints are one of the things that concern me about the swim center. We may have to scale back and do it in phases,” said City Administrator Greg Boatright. “The good thing about doing things like that, whether it’s splash pads or swim centers, is that there is so much offseason that you can come in and not disrupt things and schedule it out.”
The addition of the splash pad is expected to push the price tag up, meaning it would most likely come later.
“I’m not overly concerned it would come in over budget and we’d be in a quandary as to what to do,” Boatright said. “I’m very comfortable moving forward with the parks projects, whether it’s the trails, swim center, splash pad, parking, whatever it will be, because our park is functional now and I know our Parks Board is very eager to get the swim center out to bid and completed.”
The trail, planned to wind around the south end of the park from the swim center on the east side and back up to the existing pavilion and playscape on the west side, has been a priority for everyone involved, which is why planners asked Halff Associates to include it in this proposal.
“Getting the trail in was one of our first objectives,” Jones said. “When we first started looking at it, ideally we wanted the trail to go all the way around, but there were some logistical issues – drainage and property lines – so we decided we’d start with this. We are going to look at continuing the trail around the football field, but that will be later.”
The trail would be made of decomposed granite and is slated to be eight-feet wide.
A few questions remain, though, on the east side of the park along CR 200, where drainage issues are yet to be resolved completely in conjunction with the planned widening of the road.
“I have some concern about spending money on a trail on that side of the park where the drainage is going to need to be addressed, then have that drainage effect the trail,” Boatright said.