Committee zeroes in on initial phase of Central Park project

By Per Peterson

Tracy’s Parks Committee continues to move forward on its comprehensive improvement plan for Central Park.

During last week’s meeting, the group discussed with ISG feedback it received from the Jan. 11 open house, in which residents were asked to give their thoughts on two different plans to update Tracy’s largest park. Using information gathered from that event, the committee determined what Phase 1 of the reconstruction of the park will entail, that being a new playground, updating the park’s electrical infrastructure and the start of the installation of new sidewalks/walkways.

As far as a timeline, the group will apply for  second time for a DNR grant to match the $41,000 already in hand — possibly in late March — with the possible onset of Phase 1 work beginning in late summer.

“I need to know what Phase 1 is going to look like, so we can put that content in the grant application,” Tracy City Administrator Erik Hansen said. “There are some limitations on money, but I wouldn’t be surprised if (Tracy Public Works Director) Shane (Daniels) was able to put in some $30,000-$40,000 worth of in-kind on top of the $41,000 we already have. So (with the grant), I think we have a $150,000 project here, potentially.”

Tasked with choosing between two options for park improvements, the committee chose somewhat of a hybrid of the two. Key components to the final master plan outside of the Phase 1 targets, include a half-court basketball court to be located somewhere in the park, a lighted flag pole, decorative plantings that are easily managed, an area for an “art walk” with a space for vendors, a new and unique playground and expanded parking on 2nd St.

Future phases that will contribute to a new-look park could include work at the old fountain, including a historical marker, a warming house, updating of the bandshell with seating options and signage.

For lighting, it was determined the current light poles will continue to be used — either where they’re at or in a new location — with new, similar-looking ones added along the new sidewalk paths.

“It’s a tricky balance of providing enough light so people will be safe at night, but not too bright that it actually affects the people who live around the park,” ISG’s Mo Convery said. “We’ll do a lighting analysis and will come up with a plan for that.”

Daniels said the City also plans on updating all the lighting fixtures to LED in the future. Work on the park will also include the removal of a couple of large conifers that are showing signs of stress.

“There are some things that are going to require some further engineering, like the electrical piece of this, or where do the sidewalks go,” Hansen said. “We need to figure out what is the engineering we need to do for Phase 1; we would include that as part of the cost estimate for the grant. It will be done on a piecemeal basis.”

Committee member Seth Schmidt said improving Central Park is a major piece of the City’s overall plan to beautify and improve Tracy.

“One piece of criticism I got from one individual is that this is kind of ‘fluffy stuff,’ when Tracy needs new jobs, new infrastructure, new housing, more people coming to town,” he said. “My response was, ‘This is not just to make this a nicer town for people living here, but to make the town more attractive for other people’ — it might be a tipping point, whether they decide to live here, or in Marshall or somewhere else. I look at this as economic development.”

The group will meet again on Feb. 3, at which time it will receive a draft of a combined master plan with cost breakdown from ISG. The committee can then bring the final plan to the Tracy City Council at its Feb. 14 meeting.