TC Park set to break ground in November

FLAGSTAFF -- The countdown has begun as Coconino County inches closer to the groundbreaking of the first and only Tuba City County Park, scheduled to begin construction in November.

With nearly 147 days left, the excitement can certainly be felt in Tuba City, as well as in Flagstaff as the project management and engineers at the Coconino County Parks and Recreation's Department begin their final process of designing and planning this long overdue project in Tuba City.

The park will provide a safe environment for the community for education, exercise, family gatherings and recreation. Public support from the young and the old prompted the county to plan this project in close cooperation with the community.

The new park will be built near McDonald's on Main Street and Moenave Road. County staff received a lot of feedback from the community, which they said helped tremendously in creating the detailed plans for the site.

The feedback provided the parks department with a list of the most important park elements, which includes a BMX park, a skate park, a large group pavilion, small ramadas, basketball courts, walking trails, restroom facilities and playground equipment. Parks department staff said they tried their very best to incorporate all the ideas that the community suggested, but unfortunately, some things weren't included because of limited space and funds.

"With no doubt, the most popular facility planned is the skate park, designed by one of the top-rated design firms in the United States," said Tom Dresler, county construction program manager. "The current design includes 'bowl' and 'streetscape' features and will challenge the best skaters up on the Colorado Plateau. The separate BMX dirt track will challenge the bike riding crew and provide lots of opportunities to catch some serious 'air'É The design plans will be completed this summer."

As the project moves closer, the county parks and recreation department plans to step up their press releases to the public in order to gain even more support for this project. Cynthia Lovely, parks and recreation planning and acquisition's manager, said that she would like to increase the community's involvement in the project as well as communicate the park's updates to the entire community, as well as the county.

Todd Graeff, parks and recreation's department director, said that two concerns, regarding the flooding issue and the need to establish an advisory board, have been discussed and are currently being strategized.

A one-hour meeting on June 23 with the Coconino County Parks and Recreations department at Fort Tuthill County Park in Flagstaff provided some answers to some longstanding concerns. Dresler, Lovely and Graeff were interviewed in hopes to satisfy some critics of the park project.

Graeff elected to address the concern of the lack of communication with the community liaison and defended the lines of communications as being excellent and productive. Ron Brown, the community's liaison with the parks project, has been the main point of contact for Graeff and his team.

One community concern was the difficulty in contacting and meeting with Brown who is kept very busy as a police officer with the Navajo Nation Law Enforcement Agency. Attempts to contact Brown have been unsuccessful.

In addition, Graeff explained that there is a long list of other Tuba City community members that have been instrumental in this project as well and a lot of people don't understand the groundwork that was accomplished up to this point.

"I commend Coconino County Supervisor Louise Yellowman and Ron Brown for spearheading the project," Graeff explained. "If it weren't for Louise Yellowman, this project wouldn't have gotten off the ground as soon as it did."

Lovely explained that she has been periodically involved with the community and that she coordinated six feedback meetings in Tuba City. Lovely provided a list of accomplishments and project related information that she compiled. She said that the parks department distributed surveys in August 2003 to determine what facilities children would like to see in their park and 1,778 surveys were returned.

Lovely added that she is extremely excited about the project and she said that the Tuba City parks project has had a lot more community involvement than any other parks project that she has been involved with. Several meetings have been conducted since, and she said she does her best to inform the community of any updates. Lovely creates and distributes a newsletter specifically for the Tuba City Park's project.

As for community input, many questions and answers have been addressed during the initial community feedback meetings that were held six times since 2003 according to Lovely. The establishment of an advisory board was one main concern that many community members have recently and repeatedly aired.

Graeff explained that instead of having an advisory board, the county will organize a group of community members that will be referred to as the 'Friends of the Park.' This group will manage the park and keep the lines of communication open so that the county will know what is going on. The group will also be responsible in organizing the community policing with guidance of the Navajo Nation Police and with direction from the county.

Dresler addressed the flooding issue and said that the engineers and construction crews have taken this problem very seriously.

"Our civil consultant has done an excellent job in designing this phase of the park project," he said. "Part of the project is flood water management, and all that has been addressed."

He said Plateau Engineering out of Flagstaff was selected to head the engineering of this parks project.

"We know of this site and what is fairly unique is that Tuba City opposed to other communities is that there is a lot of off-site storm water that dumps onsite," Dresler said. "Typically, storm water is not managed in this way. Normally, owners of the property are responsible for storm water management. There is a lot of drainage that is coming off from McDonald's for example, so we have taken that into serious consideration in the design of the park.

"We are addressing it with large detention basins, which is a process where you hold the water for a period of time, before it soaks into the ground."

Also, green building and retaining rain water was a suggestion and idea that was discussed before and we are certainly exploring those options."

The land that the park will be situated on is former Babbitt land, which was privately owned land on the Navajo Reservation. The park's land was purchased from the Babbitts with county funds.

Lovely stated that during the first two public meetings, the right location was discussed frequently. Land availability and readiness were the main factors in selecting this parcel. The county needed something right away, and so they chose this area. The county officials were told that tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs bureaucracy would have certainly been a challenge in acquiring other sites in and around the Tuba City area.

Graeff stated that the Babbitts donated $100,000 towards the project, which may have been deducted from the purchase of the land. Attempts to contact a representative for the Babbitts were unsuccessful.

"We are working hard to capture additional funding for construction, and anticipate our grant requests will be in hand by the fall of this year," Dresler said. "By then, our design building firm will be ready to get the dirt flying.

He said he expected to start construction in November of this year and it should take less than 12 months to complete the entire park so the grand opening is anticipated by fall 2006.

"To make this successful, we need everyone to participate," Dresler said. "Please look at the plans that we are developing and make sure we have not missed anything. Visit the web page of the skate park designers (Site Design Group) and make sure these guys have included all the features you want.

"As a team, we will build the best park possible! Get involved, offer your comments and ask how you can help. Let's all make this happen and build a park that you will love!"

Graeff explained that money will be allocated specifically for the operation of the Tuba City Park and that it will remain under the county parks and recreation's department centralized in Flagstaff. He said that the department will hire someone to keep up the daily maintenance of the park and that the individual will be an employee of the county. The main department in Flagstaff will take care of any heavy maintenance projects when needed.

For more information about the Tuba City County Park project, please contact Supervisor Louise Yellowman's office in Tuba City, 49 Maple St., at 928-283-4518 or Cynthia Lovely at the Parks & Recreation's office in Flagstaff at 928-774-1955 (e-mail: clovely@co.coconino.az.us).

To learn more, to comment, view the designs or to be added to the mailing list, visit the county's website at www.co.coconino.az.us./parks/.

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