18 November 2011

Community Debates Future of Fontenelle Park

The future of Fontenelle Park was considered at a community meeting held November 17th at the park pavilion to discuss a master plan and pending changes from the Clean Solutions for Omaha! project.

"Tonight is an opportunity for everyone to have input," said Ben Gray, a member of the Omaha City Council, during one of the many times he spoke.

Parks officials did not propose any features or suggest changes for the 108-acre park. CSO representatives did present options - larger lagoon, retention basins and wetlands - that have been used elsewhere to reduce the extent of stormwater flows and to improve the water quality.

Some of the comments made during the meeting were:

  • "manicure of the golf-course has gone downhill"
  • "more trees need to be planted"
  • improve walkways and provide benches
  • would like to see something pleasing to the eye
  • Provide soccer fields if no golf course
  • make the ponder bigger (this lagoon will be renovated in association with the stormwater separation project)
  • provide a larger playground for the kids
  • provide gender-neutral and age-neutral uses in the park; there are wonderful opportunities for the park that are not golf-centric
  • maintain the natural beauty as it was designed in the original park; would not support uses that degrade the artistic design - these comments were from a member of the Fontenelleview Neighborhood Association
  • develop a prairie area on the east hilltop (a neighborhood association has received funds from a mayoral program to establish a prairie setting in Fontenelle Park, as well as in Benson Park)
  • wetland are a beautiful theme
  • repair the basketball court to help youth activities at the park

The golf course situation received particular attention, as it is no has enough revenue to pay expenses, with about $80,000 lost last year, said Melinda Pearson, director of Omaha Parks and Recreation. The number of rounds played yearly has consistently dropped from 13,757 in 2009, to 11,145 in 2010 and 10,470 this golf season, she noted, adding that the extent of golfing has declined for the past ten years.

If the golf course is to remain, it must be self-supporting, officials stated.

Additional meetings will be held in the next few months to develop community-based plans for park amenities and features for future decades.

The next meeting will include a discussion of Northstar Foundation and the Omaha Home for Boys role in community improvement west of the park. Several dilapidated apartment buildings were recently demolished near 48th and Sahler streets by the Northstar group. There is also a community garden in the immediate vicinity.

The goal is to complete the park's master plan by spring, said Pearson.

About 35 residents attended the meeting along with about a dozen officials with the city and architectural firms were also present. There were two television stations and a reporter for the local newspaper. Several different advocacy groups were represented.

Fontenelle Park is one of Omaha's oldest - property was first acquired in 1893 - with the renowned park planner Horace Cleveland involved in its original design.