Council gives tentative approval to park plan

By Travis Gulbrandson

While no formal action has been taken, the Vermillion City Council has given its tentative approval to one of the renderings of the Prentis Park Master Plan.

During the council’s special meeting Monday afternoon, members’ general consensus was that of the four renderings presented to the public they liked Concept D the most.

Concept D has a separate entrance and exit point off of Prentis Avenue, and it will have an aquatic center drop-off.

There are 80 parking stalls in this plan, which was designed by TSP, Inc., of Sioux Falls.

“I think there is an advantage to being able to say – for people who are worried about (the park) turning into a parking lot – we can say that we are actually looking into the concept that has the fewest parking spots, but at the same time, allows a lot more parking than is there currently,” said council member Kelsey Collier-Wise.

Parks & recreation director Jim Goblirsch said he had received several inquiries as to the possibility of whether the farthest parking row in Concept D could be eliminated, to increase “green space.”

This would give the lot 60 spaces overall – which is 60 more than the park currently has, he said.

“But this is a truly dead area right now, with the park caretaker house over there and the old garage and a few of the other lean-to sheds,” Goblirsch said.

He added that TSP can make another visual layout that would show the park with one less row of parking spaces.

City manager John Prescott said this was a good idea.

“(The concept) may change, but at least we know what we’re aiming toward,” he said.

Concept D has several commonalities with the others. One, it places the active features – such as the sand volleyball and basketball courts – on the west side of the park.

Another feature that is seen on all of the plans is a maintenance building that will be used by the entire park.

The aquatic center is near the center of the park in all four plans, albeit in different configurations.

Concepts A and B have the pool and slides in the middle, with the new bath house to the north and the lazy river to the south, while Concepts C and D have the lazy river to the north and the bath house to the south.

The concept of the Prentis Park Master Plan has changed several times since Concepts A and B were first presented to the council last month.

Both raised questions about the proximity of the aquatic center and parking lot to the baseball field, and whether people could be hurt and cars could be damaged by foul balls.

“I think that concern came more from staff than from the public, because I think staff is more aware of the situation,” Goblirsch said. “We’re a little more heavily included in the baseball programs, and we’ve seen where the foul balls go.

“When you actually go out and walk that (area), I think we’re setting ourselves up for some issues down the road (with Concepts A and B),” he said.

By contrast, the other two concepts form a kind of shelterbelt around the baseball field, populated with a canopy of trees and buildings, he said.

Goblirsch added that the people involved in the baseball program like Concepts C and D better, too.

“They would like to be able to help in some regard with some money,” he said. “It’s not going to be humongous amounts, but $10,000 is a number that was thrown around.”

All four design concepts were presented to the public at a meeting held Nov. 25, which gave area citizens a chance to ask questions and provide input.

“It was very positive to see the interest the community had on this project,” Goblirsch said. “There were numerous comments on the shape of the pool, and we tried to convey that that’s not going to be the final concept.

“One thing they said they didn’t like (was) the big lap area. We said, ‘It’s not a competitive-size lap area, but … one of the big components we have out of that pool is teaching swim lessons, and you need that space to be able to teach a fair-sized group of kids,” he said.

Mayor Jack Powell said he opposes one suggestion that was made at the public input session – to do the Prentis Park project in phases.

“I think the ancillary things that go around in addition to the pool actually have more use than the pool,” Powell said. “With the pool, we’re doing good if we get two and a half months of good use, whereas other things in the park, we probably use eight, 10 months.”

The project has been estimated at $6-6.5 million, the majority of which will go toward the pool itself, council member Steve Ward said at last month’s public input session.

“The pool is the big cost,” he said. “I think what it will have to come down to is, if we decide that we want to move forward on this bigger, larger plan, we can always stop it.”

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