It has been in the making for several years and now new efforts to develop Taft Park are underway.
In the following conversation with The News Guard, Lincoln City Parks and Recreation Department Director Jeanne Sprague gives us insight into the next steps for the project.
The News Guard: How many acres has the city purchased and at what price?
Jeanne Sprague: The city purchased the 6.71 acre land from the Lincoln County School District in December of 2020 for $421,917. This land was the former site of Taft Elementary School, which was demolished in 2014. Currently, the park is utilized as soccer fields for youth leagues and adult play, and we simply call it ‘Taft Park’ for the time being until a new name is decided upon by our community.
A pedestrian bridge connects Taft Park to a 61 space parking lot directly west. This park will address a recreation gap that community members cited in our 2016 parks and recreation plan, which is the need for a multi-purpose park in the southern part of the city.
The News Guard: What are the range of amenities planned for this park and why these specific amenities?
Sprague: There are no set or determined park amenity plans at this time, although we have heard many ideas from our community, including sports fields, event space, covered multi-use sport courts, restrooms, playground, picnic areas, and more. The flat topography and acreage affords us the opportunity to address many various park amenities, per public support. Lincoln City Parks and Recreation will be acquiring public input via future open houses and surveys. More details to come on this.
The News Guard: What are the next steps in getting this park open with the planned amenities and when should we expect actual shovel work to begin?
Sprague: The first steps in moving forward with this park land development were conducting environmental assessments of the land, which we completed in 2020 and which show the land is safe and ready for park development.
Our current budget for Taft Park planning for fiscal year 2021-22 is $150,000. This budget will permit us to conduct our next steps, which are continued land surveys, including a topographical and boundary survey. These surveys will assist in landscape design as we are planning to hire a landscape designer for this park land. The designer will assist us in hosting several public open houses to get public input on what our community members want in this park.
With a very rough estimate of Taft Park construction being between $3-$6 million depending on amenities and type of field or court surface, community input and support of the future Taft Park is essential in progressing towards this park development.
Commitment from the city and from our community on this park development will assist in both budgetary funding, and in following our 2016 parks and recreation system plan, which details new park development in Lincoln City.
A developed park of this magnitude is not built on grant funding, community construction or donations alone, although our Parks and Recreation Department will be accessing every development opportunity we can for Taft Park. Our community members, parks and recreation board, and city council will be crucial in giving insights of what our city needs in this park, and crucial in the budget process for building a new multi-purpose park.
A great example of community involvement in park development is our Sandcastle Playground in Regatta Park. The Sandcastle was built in 1992, with much of the actual construction conducted through community volunteers and contractors. While there was still a city budget to fund the design, playground materials, terraced landscape, and playground surface, there was tremendous community support in building and funding this playground from the ground up.
I look at the new Taft Park development in the same vein – community involvement, vision, and plan, with city and parks and recreation support and follow through. The opportunities that this new park will afford Lincoln City residents and visitors are endless!
The News Guard: It seems that this purchase and development has taken a very long time. When did the city first express interest in the property and why has it taken so long to get to this point?
Sprague: The city first expressed interest to purchase the property in 2008. One of the issues that needed to be worked through was the presence of the school bus storage area. We worked closely and successfully with the Lincoln County School District to purchase the land for park development.
This park is a win-win for everyone involved, as it’s within a half mile of Taft Elementary and High Schools, and in close proximity to parking, shops, and restaurants. Not only will this park be an economic boost to the Taft district and Lincoln City as a whole, the park will also provide developed recreation areas in an area of the city which lacks such park opportunities.
The News Guard: There had been discussions about developing a portion of the property as a dog park. Is that part of the development plans?
Sprague: We do not have a set development plan yet. We look forward to public input.