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'Iconic' park envisioned as regional attraction

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FARMINGTON — A budget for a proposed "iconic" park that would be located adjacent to the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park along the Animas River is expected to be completed soon, according to a Farmington official.

Cory Styron — the director of the city's Outdoor Recreation Industry Initiative, which is overseeing the project — said members of the City Council are reviewing and offering input on the conceptual plan for the park they were presented with during an April 16 work session. Once the budget for the project has been established, he said, city officials will begin work on identifying a funding source for the project.

Many city officials have adopted the phrase iconic to describe their vision for the project, which they envision becoming a showplace and a community gathering spot for local residents. The conceptual plan includes a section that defines an iconic space as a site that can accommodate a range of events, allows for different uses by various groups, balances functionality and form, and provides people-watching opportunities.

Though the park would be small, only 5 acres, it would feature a number of amenities and is being touted by city officials as something that could become a regional attraction.

The plan submitted to council members last month was the product of several months of work and two rounds of refinement by city staff. A total of three initial concepts were developed and presented to the public during a series of meetings in November. Input from those meetings resulted in the creation of a single concept that incorporated the more popular elements from the initial trio.

City officials posted that plan online in early March and sought more public feedback through an eight-question survey. Styron said more than 200 responses were received, and that input was used to develop the conceptual plan that found its way into the hands of councilors last month.

More: City Council discusses plans for Gateway Park

"It was clear that people really want something that pops and makes Main Street a desirable gateway to our river," he said, adding that concepts for specialty gardens in the park drew a lot of support.

Styron had estimated on March 8 it would take six to eight weeks before the city's staff was ready to send the conceptual plan to the council. But he said the process went so smoothly the plan was ready for presentation on April 16. The plan drew a mostly positive response from councilors and members of the public.

Designs for the project include a buffer between the park and East Main Street, perhaps the most heavily-used thoroughfare in the city, to position the project as a "refuge." They also include an amphitheater, boardwalks, a plaza for the Farmington Growers Market that features a shade structure, terraced berms and sculptures. The plan calls for maximizing river views.

Plans for the project would provide for the possibility of the park's expansion to 88 acres across the river that the city has acquired, greatly increasing its size.

Councilors will continue to mull over the plan, Styron said, eventually focusing on the creation of a strategic plan for the project that would include specifics regarding design and construction. For now, the iconic park project remains in its early phases, he said.

More: Public feedback sought for new design of 'iconic' park near Farmington Museum

"It's very much a conceptual idea," Styron said. "These are broad strokes, and we're trying to build a general consensus."

He said the city is waiting for some information from the firm that prepared the park designs, Sites Southwest, before it submits the proposed budget to the council.

Styron said in March it probably would be 2021 before construction on the project could begin, if the council decides to move forward with it. Last year, the city began funneling gross receipts tax money into its newly created community transformation economic development fund for use on such projects.

"I still think that is a feasible time frame, but it will be up to the City Council and how they prioritize projects (under the community transformation fund)," he said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or via email at measterling@daily-times.com.

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