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West side park to see first phase of improvements

Public invited to give input at March 27 open house

NORTH LIBERTY– Plans for a new public park in North Liberty are now in full swing.
At its March 12 meeting, the North Liberty City Council approved plans, specifications, form of contract and cost estimates for improvements to a 40-acre green space acquired by the city in 2009. The space near the intersection of Jones Boulevard and St. Andrews Drive was used as farm ground until last year, and is now ready for its first phase of development.
The park’s progress has been spurred by two recent developments. First, the annual North Liberty Blues & BBQ event was in need of a new location, as its former home around Liberty Centre pond has been increasingly turned into commercial development as per the original intent for the area. Second, the city’s parks and recreation departments have been dealing with an ever-pressing need for more softball and baseball fields, prompting the Parks and Recreation board to meet with the council to determine the best place for new youth recreation opportunities. The east-side Penn Meadows Park won out as the still-ideal location for a community ball complex, and the west side park has been designated as a great place for wider public uses.
“We see this area as a traditional community park, with ample green space for hosting events, shelters, a stage, a climate controlled shelter or event center, with unique playground equipment for all ages, perhaps a splash pad, trails and a veteran’s memorial,” said city administrator Ryan Heiar.
But for this first wave of improvements, the major change will be the addition of 700 feet of concrete, the beginning of the drive that will eventually traverse the entire 40 acres. Other phase I improvements include grading the area and digging the retention pond.
Costs for phase I improvements are estimated at $330,000. The contract for design services was awarded to Shive Hattery. Bids for construction of the project will be let prior to the next council meeting, scheduled for March 26.
Before making any further plans for the park, the city would like to hear from its residents first.
Heiar encouraged people to attend a public open house on March 27, from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m. at the North Liberty Community Center. There, information on major upcoming projects will be displayed for people to view and discuss, and city officials will take questions and feedback on all the planned projects, including future development of the park.
“We would like to hear what people think about the concept and what ideas they might have to enhance it,” Heiar said. “It’s safe to say that we do not want ball fields at this park; rather, we want this to be a traditional community park. If there are ideas out there, specific or general, we want to hear them and see how we may be able to incorporate those ideas into this concept.”
The city council and administration has put a placeholder in North Liberty’s Five Year Capital Improvements Plan each year, anticipating on-going development of the green space.
“This park will not be developed overnight,” said Heiar. “In fact, we see this project taking multiple years to complete. When completed, we hope to have a one-of-a-kind park for our residents and visitors to share.”