Rhinelander residents and other interested parties got their first look this past week at ideas generated by Justin Frahm of JSD Professional Services for the future of Pioneer Park. The Common Council authorized the hiring of the Weston-based company at its Jan. 14 meeting at a cost not to exceed $21,000. The firm is also studying Hodag Park and Sarocka Park.
The concept plan for Hodag Park is nearing the final stages and could be amended to the city's comprehensive plan as early as December, it was noted.
Frahm gave a presentation on his concept plan for Pioneer Park on Oct. 1, prior to a meeting of the city's planning commission.
Similar to the process used in creating the Hodag Park concept plan, Frahm said he spent the summer evaluating Pioneer Park and identifying elements that could be improved. He also talked to the various stakeholder organizations.
"When we looked at this park, a couple things we noticed right away," Frahm said. "It is a fairly unique parcel, it has river frontage, it's bordered by a number of fairly busy streets, it has a great little neighborhood directly adjacent to it. It's well-kept and heavily used by that neighborhood."
Frahm noted that access to the park by both vehicles and pedestrians can be a challenge. He also observed that Martin Lynch Drive, which dead ends in the park, is problematic as is the pooly defined parking.
"Access for pedestrians, the dog walkers, is there, but it's not really well defined," Frahm said. "There isn't really a path along the river."
In addition, there are a lot of regular users of Pioneer Park, including the Hodag Farmers Market, the fair, softball, and the historical complex to take into consideration, he noted.
"There were a lot of factors we had when we sat down at the drawing board for this initial effort," Frahm said. "You'll see some rather large ideas under this plan. We're moving a lot of the drive, that was a decision for the concept plan to look at how the areas could be, events and planning for higher activity areas, pavilion, playground, farmers' market, parking, vehicular access."
The concept plan also envisions more passive areas, including access to the Pelican River and in the area of the old pines at the south end of the park. That would be accomplished by eliminating Martin Lynch Drive in its present form.
Frahm said doing this would allow for a clear delineation between the more natural area along the river and the south wooded area.
"You'll see a number of scenarios, and really the two biggest items between these two concepts is access," Frahm said.
One concept has the access to the park moved to the lighted Kemp Street intersection. The second has vehicles entering the park at the Prospect Street intersection. The Kemp Street option was attractive because of the lights, but traffic turning into the park there would cause problems during times of high use or traffic flow, it was noted.
"So I want to stress that's a fairly significant design consideration," Frahm said.
Traffic will also be able to access the park from Barnes Street at the intersection of Eastern Avenue.
Regardless of which option is chosen, vehicle traffic would be funneled to the main activity area of the park. There, Frahm proposes a pavilion and a stage, an enlarged playground, along with an outdoor performance stage. A circular walking path would surround the park, while access to the Pelican River would be enhanced with a canoe launch. This is where the parking for park would be centralized.
This central area would be set up with the pavilion across from an open area from the stage. This area could also include a splash pad, an open seating and grilling area, and an expanded and improved playground.
"Right now, we know there are some bathrooms and other out buildings, but there really isn't a central place," Frahm said. "That was a big initiative, to create a central public space that could be flexible, it can be used by multiple user groups, and might be used by multiple groups at the same time. So this pavilion allows us to lock in a plan, it would be a central space with bathrooms."
The splash pad, or spay pool, is a feature that also appears in the concept plan for Hodag Park, however several people noted that amenity would be better utilized at the more centrally located Pioneer Park. It may also find its way into both parks.
"What location might be best for the community, for the neighborhood?" Frahm asked. "That is a unique discussion."
Frahm said his concept plan does not affect the Pioneer Park Historical Complex in any way other than being adjacent to the pavilion.
The museum complex "is preserved and protected, with additional parking areas that would serve (it)," he said. "Also space that in the future, if they were to add components to the museum... that they would have an expansion area."
Also included in the concept are eight pickleball courts located between a parking lot and the back of the stage.
"That may not be the best location, that is a location that is served by parking, and has open space area," Frahm said.
He explained that these are just initial sketches to give an idea how the park could be improved.
"It is still a concept plan, it's not a final plan by any means. And this evening, we're only here to get input," Frahm explained. "This is just the first discussion point."
As the discussion continued, suggestions were written on sticky notes and placed on the drawings.
"I am interested in hearing from you and getting as much feedback and input information as possible," Frahm said.
It was the pickleball courts that drew the most feedback and input from the assembled crowd. It was pointed out that the area where the old tennis courts were recently removed is where the group fundraising for the courts was assured the new courts would be constructed.
Moving the courts there would mean more room for the stage, which would enhance many of the other uses of the park. But it would put them closer to the houses on Oneida Avenue, with noise being a consideration, it was noted.
While the overall reception to the concept plan was positive, the issue of funding was mentioned as a concern.
"Is there monies available? Is this a 10-15-year plan?" a woman asked. "Because we're hoping to do the courts in the interim."
Frahm indicated the project could be completed in phases, allowing time for additional fundraising between phases.
Alderperson Lee Emmer asked where would the money come from for the reconstruction of the street infrastructure in the park.
"Has the city already planned that?" he asked.
"That's way in the future," Frahm replied.
A young woman in attendance with her two children asked Frahm to look at the park from her perspective. What is needed is an area where children could "run themselves down outdoors" away from traffic danger such as a parking lot, she said.
She also said Pioneer Park would be a great place for a splash pad, but making the playground and park accessible for people with handicaps was also high on her list of suggestions.
"More benches because there never seems to be enough for the parents who want to sit on the edge and watch their kids," she said.
Another woman asked that the restroom facilities be designed to be "woman friendly" by including more capability in the women's bathroom to cut down on lines.
Another person suggested incorporating renewable energy sources into the structures. Upgrading the park lighting and overall electrical and water capabilities were also suggested. This would also support the stage, which would be smaller than the one planned for Hodag Park.
The placement of the pickleball courts came up again near the end of the public discussion, as proponents of the sport made up a sizable contingent of those in attendance. They expressed concern that if the courts are placed at the location show in the concept plan it would delay their construction beyond next summer.
Another speaker noted that the pickleball club is a third of the way to their goal.
"That is something that we can accommodate," Frahm said.
Frahm noted that the public can email their input on the concept plan to city administrator Daniel Guild, who would pass it along. After the suggested tweaks are made, another public feedback session will be held, he added.
Links to the concept plan drawings for both Hodag and Pioneer parks can be accessed from the city's website, www. rhinelandercityhall. org.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at jamie@rivernews online.com.
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