Water, music and food will make for a good time in Fort Calhoun.

The Fort Calhoun City Council approved $29,900 on Nov. 19 to produce design plans for a new park in the Adams Street corridor.

Adams Street corridor sits to the west of the elementary school near Adams, Monroe and 12th streets where the city's old maintenance buildings are located. The city will have the buildings demolished, making room for new structures and recreational activities on the property.

The park — which city officials hope will contain a splash pad, a farmers market, an outdoor concert space and other amenities — could help fill a recreational void since the city could not afford a pool. The new plans will outline where those structures and activities will be located, but it does not mean the city will begin breaking ground anytime soon, Mayor Mitch Robinson said.

"The idea is having a plan of what we want and how we want it laid out, so we're not going to do it all at once because it could take five, 10, 15 years to do," he said. "We know how it's going to be laid out, so we're not going to screw up future construction for anything else."

The city's monetary contribution to the project is unknown as of now because of a number of factors.

The city has yet to see how much money they could get for the park from grants and private donors.

Some of the city's new sales tax — around $50,000 — will also go toward funding parks, but how much will be set aside for Adams Street corridor remains to be seen. Some money would be used for recreational areas like West Market Square Park.

"Projects like this don't come together without multiple sources of revenue," City Engineer Lucas Billesbach of JEO Consulting said.

Billesbach, whose company is set to produce the project's design plans, said the process could take as little as six months. A finalized master plan could be finished by April, should the city decide act that quickly. The design process will follow multiple steps with a significant amount of input from the community.

"We figure it's a new park, it's a new use within the site; we think it demands a lot of public input," Billesbach said.

The first step would be a meeting with JEO Consulting and a landscape architect to see how they could utilize the land.

The next step would be to have people and organizations join a committee that discusses what would be on the site in addition to a splash pad, farmers market and outdoor concert space. The committee would consist of leadership from future park neighbors St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and Fort Calhoun Presbyterian Church, city council members, elementary leadership and community members.

"We're talking about a fairly large steering committee, probably in that dozen member type of size," Billesbach said. "The challenge when we get up to that size is how to organize meetings to get good input."

Once the committee decides what should be in the park, JEO Consulting and the landscape architect would go through a design process that settles on a master design plan. The master plan will detail the use of the park and maintenance and utility work required.

The final step in the design process would be to hold a public hearing to receive wider public input.

Billesbach said the design process and plans are important to gain a full understanding of what it takes to create a new park across a multiple of phases or steps, "So that when we look to implement even the first phase we get it located in the right spot elevationally, we get it set right and that we're planning infrastructure for the longer term outlook for the site."

The first phase of the park is the splash pad. Community Coordinator Deb Sutherland said the city is currently considering a multitude of grants to apply to for the structure.

In the meantime, a portion of the park related to a different city project could soon be underway.

In addition to the park, the city has a long-term goal of extending a trail from West Market Square Park on the west side of the city through the Adams Street corridor park and then eastward to Fort Atkinson. The trail project will be completed in multiple phases for a total cost of $660,000 to $730,000, which the city hopes to be fund mostly from grants.

In August, the city approved a Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant application for $256,000 to fund the first phase of the trail project, connecting West Market Square Park to the elementary school. The city should learn if the application was accepted sometime in January, and, if accepted, the RTP grant program will likely be utilized for the remainder of the trail project.

Should the city be denied RTP or splash pad grant money, it is under no obligation to continue moving forward with either project, Robinson said.

Council Member Nick Schuler said having design plans for the park will help the city procure funding elsewhere, like private donations, but should also increase the city's changes of receiving both grants.

"We have to have a plan, or they're not going to give us any money," he said.

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