Plans for Franklin School Park, proposed riverfront park moving forward

June 10th, 2016


News Coverage:

June 10, 2016

Plans for Franklin School Park, proposed riverfront park moving forward

Kevin Kilbane | News-Sentinel

Planning is progressing on the second phase of the new Franklin School Park and on design of a proposed new riverfront park in downtown, the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department's board of park commissioners learned at their meeting Thursday in Citizens Square.

Construction is nearing completion on east side of Franklin School Park, which is located at St. Marys and Archer avenues. The park occupies the site of the former Franklin Junior High School, and recalls that legacy by incorporating four doorway arches from the school into the park design.

The east side will contain a splash pad, and a former school garage is being renovated to include a family restroom, said Steve Schuhmacher, superintendent of park grounds and capital improvements.

The parks department currently is working on designs and getting cost estimates for Phase II, the west side of the park, said Alec Johnson, city landscape architect with the parks department. The parks department also has been working with surrounding neighborhoods to include their wants and ideas into the design, Johnson said.

"The second phase, to do it right, probably will be a little north of $1 million (in cost)," Al Moll, Fort Wayne Parks director, told the board. But the department can't leave the park half done, Moll added.

Funds to complete the park will be part of a bond issue the parks department will ask City Council to approve by the end of this year, Moll said. The parks department will ask for a bond issue of at least $5 million and less than $10 million to cover a number of projects, including Franklin School Park, replacing the roof on McMillen Community Center and about $2 million in repaving and repair at parking lots, roads and paths in various parks.

The bond money, which won't involve any property tax increase for city residents, also could be used to fix the historic Mechanic Street footbridge leading to Swinney Park and possibly to expand the learning center at Salomon Farm Park, which receives heavy use from school groups and the community.

The proposed downtown riverfront park would be built on about 2 acres bordered by the St. Marys River on the north, Harrison Street on the east, Superior Street on the south and Wells Street on the west. The park board filed a lawsuit June 1 to condemn the property for public use after the owners declined the parks department's purchase offers. The first hearing in the case is set for Aug. 16.

Design plans for the park are nearly complete, and the parks department wants to brief City Council on the project before presenting the design to the public in late June, Moll said.

The parks department also is moving ahead with cleanup of the riverfront in the downtown area, Johnson said.

Work should begin this fall on bank stabilization projects on the St. Marys River along Headwaters Park and near Historic Fort Wayne, he said. Both projects will feature large boulders at water level to prevent further erosion of the banks, with natural-looking plantings and more boulders higher up the banks.

The parks department also is working with Dan Wire, executive director of the Tri-State Watershed Alliance, to organize volunteers for several riverbank cleanups now through August, Johnson said. To volunteer, go to http://www.riverfrontfw.org.
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