Landscape designer Justin Frahm of JSD Professional Services attended last Tuesday's meeting of the Rhinelander Planning Commission to present updated drawings illustrating how he incorporated community input into his concept plan for a reimagined Pioneer Park.
The commission also reviewed the master plan for Hodag Park, which is expected to be presented to the City Council for final approval in early 2020.
In presenting his updated designs, Frahm noted that the feedback he received during an October open house on the Pioneer Park project was incorporated into the new drawings.
Frahm's company was hired by the Common Council Jan. 14 at a cost not to exceed $21,000. Under the contract, work on redesigning for Pioneer Park will cost $4,500 while the work on revisioning Hodag Park, which started in January, will cost $9,000.
Similar work on Sarocka Park will cost $3,500 when it is studied later.
When Frahm's initial designs were unveiled on Oct. 1, they included a pavilion, amphitheater, splash pad, pickleball courts and the elimination of Martin Lynch Drive. Under the original design, vehicle traffic would enter the park at either Kemp or Prospect streets, with a second entrance into the park on Barnes Street at the intersection of Eastern Avenue.
It was pointed out at that first public input session that while the intersection of Kemp Street and Oneida Avenue is lighted, traffic entering or exiting the park there would cause traffic problems particularly at times of high park usage. The design Frahm presented Tuesday showed traffic entering and leaving via Prospect Street.
That was just one of a number of tweaks made to the design after public comments started.
"I prepared a summary of the open house comments that were received, they were quantified and that will be provided to city officials for digital consumption," Frahm said. "I won't touch on each and every one of those, but I will touch on the key, critical items that I think drove the revision that we've made and some of the key decision making on the design process based on the update."
Pedestrian safety was also addressed in the updated design.
"One of the major safety concerns with the park that we had heard was addressing folks either in the activity areas, passive areas, picnic areas crossing traffic routes to get to facilities," Frahm said. "We have additional parking areas that have been reallocated in our plan that would move this driveway."
The amphitheater has been repositioned so it is no longer facing directly at the pavilion, and the "gathering area" in front of it is more clearly defined and enlarged. This move also helped in making the core activity areas of the park more accessible without having pedestrians cross the access drive, Frahm said.
He said another takeaway from the open house was that the natural areas of the park are used extensively by both neighborhood residents and others. Because of that, those areas were further defined in the new design.
"A couple of the organizations that we spoke to, both at the public open house and in follow up to this plan, the county fair association noted that the large open space areas need to be maintained," Frahm said. "There is a desire for additional storage improvements as well as potential parking and lighting upgrades to support the county fair."
The area where the softball diamond is currently, and where the fair rides are normally set up, would eventually see the diamond and its fencing removed, enlarging the open space for the fair. This wouldn't be done until the two softball fields at the Hodag Sports Complex behind Rhinelander High School are ready to be used in the spring of 2021.
A second open space has been identified in the natural area through which Martin Lynch Drive currently goes through.
Another major concern that was repeatedly raised during the open house was that the design include space for future expansion of the Pioneer Park Historic Complex.
"We have thus pulled the core of the improvements slightly away from the museum complex to maintain the balance of, I think, eight to 10 different path sites for future exhibits," Frahm said.
Included would be a circular route that would service those new exhibits or buildings and better defined parking to serve the museum.
"Currently, the museum has parking that works, but it is very important to access to the museum area and that those parking areas are in direct relation to the museum," he said.
Frahm said that currently there are about 110 loosely defined parking spaces throughout the park.
"Currently in the concept plan, after all of the adjustments are made, there are 116 stalls," he said. "So there are slightly more than what was on the plan previously."
The pavilion, in addition to providing much needed additional bathrooms for the park, is intended to be a four-season facility. This would help drive more winter use of the park's ice rink and the trails if there was a place where people could go in and warm up.
"I think certainly this building is a vision for that," Frahm said. "This building, as we discussed at the open house, it really is designed for a multitude of uses to serve the county fair, open play, two different flexible areas so that if two groups wanted to use it at the same time wanted to come in and rent the facility as an income stream source could do so without having to compromising the use by others. That has been enlarged by gathering those sentiments (public comments)."
Frahm did say that there are some features shared by the designs for both parks that may end up being determined to be "a better fit" in one over the other.
City administrator Daniel Guild said getting the designs for both Pioneer and Hodag parks right is important because both parks play an important role in the lives of area residents. He told the commission that he felt the revised design for Pioneer Park struck an "excellent balance."
"Park land, public space in our city is at a premium and we do not have an infinite supply, and yet we have balanced larger events, integration into the neighborhood, the park can accommodate and expand and be more heavily utilized."
Guild said the city has received a lot of feedback on how important the historical complex is to city residents. That makes the allowance in the revised plan for future expansion of the complex "a smart move and an improvement."
Also praised in the revised plan was including a sidewalk running the entire length of the park's frontage with Oneida Avenue, which would allow for access to the parks network of paths and trails from any point.
Mayor Chris Frederickson said it has been great watching the positive public participation in the refining of both park designs.
"I believe, as a city, that we are really going to enjoy, as we have for a long time, when it comes to having our history there at the same time future uses and at the same time future preserving the features in parts of the park that make it such a great park," Frederickson said.
Frahm also offered an update on the work transforming the Hodag Park concept plan into a master plan to be added to the city's comprehensive plan.
The original goal was to have the work completed in time for council action in December.
However, to ensure there's enough time go over the designs with the different user groups that have a stake in the park, to ensure their concerns are fully acknowledged, Frahm said he now expects the master plan will not be finished until February.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at jamie@rivernews online.com.
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