BENSON — The need for improvements to Lions Park and discussions on how to move forward with projects at the park dominated Benson’s City Council meeting Monday.
City Manager Vicki Vivian outlined a list of projects for council’s consideration, to include replacing and relocating playground equipment, bringing a splash pad to the park and looking at whether the city should make improvements to the park’s existing configuration or pursue an alternative configuration.
“This item is on the agenda to allow Council to discuss all aspects of the park improvement as noted on the agenda,” Vivian said. “Staff is currently talking to our on-call engineer who looked at two previously approved master plans and provided information about both options.”
One master plan was compiled in 1989 and the other in 2008. While the 1989 plan would bring more improvements to the park through a major reconfiguration process that involves developing an area west of the park, the cost is something council members will need to consider.
Regina Beem of Psomas — an engineering firm in Tucson — went through both master plans and made recommendations to the city.
In the 1989 plan, which includes developing the west side of Lions Park, Beem noted “significant realignment” to a wash. In addition, the plan would require new utility lines to service ball field lights and other amenities. She noted that site costs to develop the area would be more impactful than the 2008 plan.
While the 2008 concept requires new restrooms, the 1989 concept would bring a large concession facility central to a softball field complex with lights, as well as a new parking area.
If funding and budget constraints create potential challenges to the city, Beem recommended that the council consider a “more encompassing master plan” by focusing on improvements to the east side of the park.
Vivian said Beem is advising the city to hire a landscape architect to provide guidance as a starting point while the council considers how it wants to move forward with the list of projects.
“We did go back and look at the 1989 plan, which had an estimate to develop the entire park, and it was roughly $900,000,” Vivian said.
When translated to today’s costs, Vivian said that amount comes out to about $2.1 million.
Councilmember Barbara Nunn expressed concerns about the safety of children who are playing on playground equipment close to ballfields. She and other council members want the equipment moved to a safer area of the park as a priority.
While discussing the playground and upgrading equipment, Vivian told council members that a new tunnel has been ordered to replace a cracked tunnel, at an approximate cost of $1,000.
She also noted that staff has gathered information about the cost of a splash pad, a popular amenity that families want for the park. Currently, there is $300,000 earmarked for the splash pad to cover that cost. Vivian also investigated how much splash pads cost to operate and maintain, with that amount coming in less than $5,000 a year. The amount is lower than what it costs to operate a pool, she added.
“We need to get started on the park improvements,” Mayor Joe Konrad said. “We have some money allocated.”
Information about a dog park, pond and pickleball court are other possible additions to Lions Park that Vivian touched on.
When questioned about the cost of a landscape architect, Vivian was told it would come in between $4,000 and $6,000. The landscape architect would provide the best estimates for estimated costs for different improvements, Vivian said.
Between $300,000 earmarked for a splash pad and an additional $900,000 in bond money, the city has about $1.2 million to spend on park improvements.
“I direct staff to come back to us with some answers from a landscape architect no later than the first of May with a direction that we can move in and actually start executing some of this,” Konrad said.
“We need to get something in front of us that we can look at and make some decisions to move forward with some of this.”
Konrad also noted that he wants priorities set so the city improves the park with the best use of funding.
As far as potential development of the west side of the park, depending on what the landscape architect finds, that may be developed in phases.