22 March 2012

Final Fontenelle Park Plan Misrepresents Public Input

The final design plan presented for Fontenelle Park misrepresents the expressive input provided by people advocating for change at three public meetings.

A primary feature included that was strongly suggested by one person, and that was at a non-public meeting hosted by the Parks Department, was a disc-golf course. This is being included because of decisions not representing public comment. Providing this precludes other items which had a much greater public interest.

The lagoon is being increased in depth and size, as was a stricture given at the start of the public meeting process. Nothing was said about removing the island, which is not shown in the lagoon.

Improving fishing is an intent, which will be accomplished in accordance with requirements to getting funds from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The concept plan indicates the placement of seven fishing points, because — as heard before, again and again — people do not like fishing from the bank. There will probably also be riprap placed along the bank, which is another common feature of so-called habitat improvement.

What sort of quality fishing experience can be provided by a relatively small lagoon in an urban setting where street runoff will be the primary source of water? It will likely be a place where a few unlucky fish will get dumped in early in the season, and it will be a great media event to snag a fish which if not caught very soon, would otherwise end up dead. Maybe they will put in a trash fish such as carp, but spin it as being a fine fishing experience.

The fishing points will ensure that any resident or transient waterfowl will be subject to regular and consistent bother. Good-bye Wood Ducks and Canada geese...

The constucts will also provide a spot where trash can be thrown into the lagoon waters. There should be no more than four fishing points.

There has been nothing said about the quality of the water within the lagoon. But there is a defined focus on water-based canoeing or kayaking. Consider what the water would taste like if an inadvertent capsizing occurred soon after a rainfall event, where the stuff on the streets is all washed into the park ponds to the south, with the dirty water into the lagoon. Ewww!!

To ensure complete disturbance, a walking path is shown that will follow the entire lagoon boundary, making sure that one walker with intent will disturb any and all fowl on the waters.

Removal of the island will remove the last safe haven for birds which here-to-fore have appreciated the place.

Riprap or "bank improvement" will remove the small bit of cattails where Red-winged Blackbirds find a seasonal haven.

The entire design for the lagoon does not give any recognition to the current bird resources associated with the park space. Instead, the lake is being industrialized to suit a politicians "pet" project, where the City of Omaha or other government entities will pay to provide useful pastimes for a private group.

The abhorrent situation regarding the Logan Fontenelle memorial has been previously discussed.

There are no details available on what the "naturalistic plantings" would be, as shown for east of Fontenelle Boulevard. This is within the area where commentators at the public meeting wanted plantings of showy wild flowers, and where there was supposed to already be an urban prairie-scape created. These items though specifically requested were mostly ignored by the concept plan.

There was no request for a parking lot at the southwest corner, though it is better to place it here, rather than where proposed on an eastern hilltop, as shown in a draft concept plan.

There was no request for an access drive northwest of the lagoon. The plan shows a partial access drive, with an intent to create a drive that will cut off the corner of the park. A 20-car parking lot along the west edge of the park would suffice.

Creating a road through a park is ridiculous. It creates an obvious safety hazard, as cruisers will have to drive through and make their mark. There will be an increase in noise and trash. It will also add an unnecessary maintenance burden.

Elmwood Park had such a drive removed and it vastly improved the setting of this urban green-space.

The trail system with neighborhood connections is basically ridiculous. There are so many curves in the path, that a walker or bicycle rider could get dizzy and fall over. It seems that the design represents someone playing on a computer with a particular intent to provide the longest route to get the shortest distance. Each linear foot of pathway costs money, so the overall expense is greatly increased.

Having riden a bicycle to and through the park, the only actual trail connection is eastward, and it is an uncared for path almost too rough to ride comfortably. There is nothing going south but a street or uneven sidewalk.

There are no real elevational challenges that would require the numerous switchbacks as especially indicated in the northwest corner of the park. There is nothing wrong with the current walkway in this area.

There does not have to be an established trail bisecting the proposed stream way. Requiring two bridges increases the plan expense and maintenance requirements. One cross-bridge would suffice. Anywhere there is some sort of oasis, there is a trailway.

How are these routes going to be kept clear of snow in the Omaha winter. Perhaps the city will just say that it is not possible to keep them clear, as they have expressed in association with Memorial Park.

Most of the items that people wanted to see are not shown by the concept plan released March 14th.

Those that are included are a lowland area with bioretention ponds and an open stream. Rather than incorporate woody vegetation such as willows or cottonwoods, the indicated intent is to have a prairie setting.

The concept plan indicates there would be a restored prairie. It would be impossible to "restore" a prairie as it could not be reestablished from golf course turf. It is readily possible to create a new prairie-like setting.

An interest in more trees is shown by an expansion of "forest areas along the park perimeter." There may be more trees planted, but there certainly will not be any sort of a forest, which is a large area of tree growth, not a bunch of trees in a single row as shown.

This plan was given to the public at a "closed" presentation at the park. On Monday, when an official of the Omaha mayor's office was asked about whether there would be a public presentation, the reply was that there would most likely be just a news release. There was no followup to this request, which included an inquiry a week earlier.

The politicians and bureaucrats obviously did not want any diversion to their controlled message. They were intentionally exclusive.

Mayor Jim Suttle was there to convey how he was working to improve the city. Omaha city council member was there to express how he was working for the people in his district. Interim parks director Brook Bench said how the plan represents the comments derived from the public meetings, according to a terse press release.

An official of the Omaha Parks and Recreation Department said why only a few people were told of the event at the park: there might be heckling such as occurred a time or two at the public meetings at the Fontenelle Park pavilion. It would not be proper if the mayor was disturbed while presenting his comments.

Completely missing was the public, especially anyone that took the time to attend the public meetings. The only people about, as shown on the television segment, was some passer-by that could be caught on video to present a perspective for the press too intent on immediacy, and indifferent to get the real details.

The City of Omaha paid Big Muddy Workshop, Inc. a total of $19,330 for their work associated with the meetings and to develop concept plans for Fontenelle Park, according to a Parks and Recreation spokesman.

The initial park changes currently underway will cost $175,000.

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