19 December 2011

Future of Fontenelle Park Considered at Public Meeting

A design charrette held the evening of December 15 at the park pavilion was the second opportunity for community input on the future of Fontenelle Park in north Omaha. About 55 residents, concerned citizens and others gathered along with government officials to continue the planning process started at a previous meeting a few weeks earlier.

The officials spoke first.

There is a "98% probability" that the lagoon will be expanded, according to introductory comments. Questions or concerns about the future of the golf course - which is currently losing money - were prominent in the comments prior to the charrette process.

Representatives of the CSO! Omaha project were present, though they did not make any statements, nor provide any details about the sewer/stormwater runoff facilities currently in the park.

Ben Gray, a member of the Omaha city council, spoke about activities westward of the parkland and how it could be related in a "holistic" manner to the park. The Northstar group has razed several buildings between the park and the campus of the Omaha Home for Boys, and has "outward bound" activities on the east side of their campus. The park lagoon could provide a place for canoeing or kayaking activities.

Gray would like to connect the Northstar activities with future park features, and create a local destination from the park westward to 52nd and Ames avenue.

There is a community garden also present in this area, which was active during the 2011 growing season. There are plans for improvements, Gray said. The "park and nearby environs should be attractive to city residents," Gray said during his time with the microphone.

After introductory remarks — including some extended comments by a couple of individuals from this area the city — each table of attendees was given about thirty minutes to discuss among themselves their goals for the park, and indicate them - using colored markers - upon an aerial map of the parkland, which did not indicate in detail features of the park now present.

Following the discussions, a representative of each group then presented a brief summary to the entire gathering, with their interests conveyed in about three minutes, due to time constraints.

There was a variety of comments given, with differing items of particular emphasis:

Group 1: keep the golf course, and maybe lease it to another group so it could be operated without a financial loss to the city; add practice putting greens
Group 2: keep the golf course and add a concession stand to help promote golfing
Group 3: This group presented a "naturalist approach," being proponents for adding native vegetation plantings, including a park-prairie on the hilltop at the southeast corner, with native plantings continuing northward, which would also reduce maintenance requirements and costs; establish plantings to buffer the park's green space from the adjacent urban setting, especially in the northwest corner of the park; establish an all-season walking trail through the area; visually connect the park with the Northstar effort and community garden to the west; keep sport facilities in one focused area; encourage forest trees; expand the lagoon with an area which has varying depths to promote aquatic flora; establish a creek from the south side of the park and into the lagoon, with a bioretention garden, bioswale or wetland at its south end. This group did not want to have a disc golf course at the park.

Depiction of suggestions for the future Fontenelle Park.

Group 4: enlarge the lagoon and have an extent of water suitable for water-based activities such as boat races; develop a virtual golf facility where the current maintenance buildings occur; have a wildlife area in the southeast corner of the park, which could "incorporate an appreciation of nature for kids."
Group 5: establish a nine-hole "walking golf course, and use "dead space" within the park to add to the current extent of the course.
Group 6: this group presented a "bunch of questions" regarding park features and their future; they suggested having the pavilion developed into a community center similar to the A.V. Sorensen center in Dundee; develop parking on the west side of the park to increase accessibility; provide naturalistic aspects at the southeast hilltop; develop a plan for safety, which could include improvements in lighting
Group 7: this group was "not for golf" as they said when presenting their comments; would like to have an indoor sports complex; provide a walking trail suitable for bicycling; create an outdoor amphitheater on portion of the park eastward of Fontenelle Boulevard; have a community garden; improve the basketball court which is currently present.

A subsequent meeting in latter January or early February will be held to present the details developed during this meeting, and to allow additional discussion of the plans for this urban park area.

Comments related to creating the future features and setting at Fontenelle Park can also be submitted via email to fontenelleparkideas@gmail.com.

Any construction of features is expected to occur in a few years, in association with the CSO project of Omaha, a major reason for this meeting.