City of Washington parks crews had a busy year in 2017.
The city opened a new park, as well as a new nature reserve, and made significant progress on a new trail. The city’s parks board also started a conversation on the future of the city pool that could be resolved in 2018.
Dog Park Opens
After years of planning and discussion the city’s dog park finally opened this year — and got a new name.
The South Point Bark Park opened to the public Saturday, May 13. The grand opening actually was delayed a week because of spring flooding.
The dog park is located off Old Highway 100 on Simmonds Avenue near the east end of the riverfront trail entrance and the wastewater treatment plant.
The park is not done, but enough fencing was erected that the city was able to open the facility to people and their dogs.
One project under review is dividing the park to create an area for big breeds and a space for smaller dogs. Members of the Washington Dog Park Group suggested splitting the 1.8-acre site, but those plans are being fine-tuned.
Instead of splitting the park and making the area smaller, the city is considering expanding the park to make another area.
Parks and Recreation Director Darren Dunkle said there is an area west of the current fence for small dogs. Because the dog park fencing is in panels, Dunkle said it should be fairly easy to change the configuration of the park.
Dogs would enter the same general area before being filtered into the separate dog areas. Dunkle said parks crews would take a look at the area soon and explore all the options.
The new area would be constructed with leftover panels from the original fence and new panels bought with a $5,000 donation from the Lions Club. The Dog Park Group said it would prefer an area about one quarter of an acre for the small dogs.
Nature Reserve Opens
The Miller-Post Nature Reserve opened to the public nearly three years to the day the property was donated to the city.
The grand opening for the first phase was Saturday, July 29.
Phase one of the reserve involved crews creating the entrance, constructing trails and erecting signage. Future improvements, like other trails and an outdoor classroom, will have to wait until more funding is secured for the site.
In July 2014 the city of Washington was deeded 67.4 acres of land west of Grand Avenue to be maintained “forever” as a nature reserve. The donation from Miller-Post Property LLC was thought to be the largest gift of land ever made to the city.
The trails at the reserve are made out of compost and not paved like the Rotary Riverfront Trail. The trails wind throughout the reserve.
New Trail Construction
The year also saw significant work on the western expansion of the Rotary Riverfront Trail.
After an environmental study was done, the city was given approval in June to begin the construction of the new one-mile-long trail.
To help pay for the trail, the city received a $150,000 Missouri Department of Natural Resources Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant and $60,000 from the Rotary Club. Crews worked on removing trees and creating the path for the trail.
This fall the trail was asphalted. City crews still need to backfill around the trail, erect handrails and do some other safety measures before the site is safe to open. The city is targeting a spring 2018 opening for the trail.
The trail is located to the west of the current trail. The city purchased land in 2015.
The new trail extends west from the end of Elbert Drive across the former Rau and Politte properties. The trail “snakes” around the 42-acre parcel of undeveloped land and around the 12.4 acres of wetlands on the site.
Pool Not Closing
At an October meeting, the park board had a discussion on the future of the pool.
The topic of closing the pool came up and many residents flooded the city’s parks office to plead to keep the pool open.
Dunkle said Washington’s city pool will be open next summer. A closure would only happen in 3 to 4 years if the city does not address the issues at the facility, he said.
The pool originally opened in 1936 and underwent major renovations in the 1970s. Dunkle said a pool typically has a 20- to 25-year life span and Washington’s has reached that point.
In recent years, the pool has sprung several leaks and pipes, pumps and filters that run the pool are breaking down in their advanced age.
The pool also has some Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues that need to be addressed, Dunkle said. With all of those issues, he said it’s time for the city to consider options for the pool.
The city’s capital improvement sales tax committee is considering supporting a project to remove the old pool and replace it with a modern pool. To build the pool, voters in April would have to approve an eight-year extension of the city’s half-cent capital improvement sales tax.
The project could cost between $4 million and $5 million. A new pool would take at least two years to build, factoring in time spent for engineering and construction.
If the city moves forward with plans for a new pool, City Administrator Darren Lamb said a committee would be formed to figure out what features the new facility would have.