Farmington's proposed all-abilities park comes with $13 million price tag

Project would include simulated natural topography, variety of equipment

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The presentation was delivered by Greg Miller of MRWM Landscape Architects of Albuquerque.
  • The park would be designed to provide universal accessibility and all-inclusive amenities for play, therapy and fitness.
  • City officials have described it as the first project of its kind in San Juan County.

FARMINGTON − Members of the Farmington City Council and the public got their first in-depth look at the city's proposed all-abilities park during the council's July 12 meeting, and they learned the cost of the project would be significant.

During a 30-minute presentation by Greg Miller − a principal at MRWM Landscape Architects, the Albuquerque-based firm that has been hired by the city to come up with a design for the park − it was revealed that the preliminary cost estimate for the project is $13 million. The priciest elements of the plan are $2.2 million for landscaping and irrigation, $2.1 million for hardscape, $1.8 million for the planned renovation of the existing former library on the site, and another $1.8 million for the park's play equipment and surfacing.

"This is not an inexpensive endeavor," Miller acknowledged during his presentation. "It's something that does set a pretty high bar."

Greg Miller of MRWM Landscape Architects, shown here addressing the crowd during a May 11 public meeting at the Farmington Civic Center, says the city's proposed all-abilities park carries an estimated cost of $13 million.

The park would be designed to provide universal accessibility and all-inclusive amenities for play, therapy and fitness. City officials have described it as the first project of its kind in San Juan County and originally estimated its price tag at $10 million.

The cost estimates added a somewhat-sobering tone to what was otherwise an upbeat meeting, with members of the council and public expressing considerable excitement about the design of the proposed park, which would be located on the site of the former Tibbetts Middle School at 317 E. Apache St.

Shana Reeves, the director of the city's parks, recreation and cultural affairs department, said many people have had a jaw-dropping response to the preliminary designs and noted that plans for the project have evolved considerably since the idea was proposed four years ago.

Mayor Nate Duckett described the design as "mind blowing" and said he thought the park could be a catalyst that would lead to increased investment in the city.

Nate Duckett

"I look at this, and I see a dream," he said.

Duckett said it gave him chills to think of having such a park in the middle of Farmington. He confessed to having sizable concerns not just about the cost of building the park, but maintaining it.

Nevertheless, he took an optimistic approach to getting it built.

"I bet we could find this money pretty quick in the private sector to make this happen," he said. " … I love everything you just showed me."

The designed unveiled by Miller during the meeting shows a park that is anchored by a large turf field on the east side and multiple uses, structures and landscapes on the west side. A 15-foot-wide concrete loop would circle most of the park, running a half mile in length. The park would be 4 to 5 feet higher on the north side and would feature a variety of simulated mesas, hills, plateaus, canyons, valleys and streambeds to mimic the natural topography of the Four Corners region.

To view a detailed set of images depicting the possible design of the all-abilities park planned in Farmington on the site of the former Tibbetts Middle School at 317 E. Apache St. go to https://bit.ly/3IAsvz4.

At the west end, the surviving Tibbetts Middle School library would be renovated for restrooms, offices, a community activity and gathering space and other uses.

Reeves opened the meeting by saying that the schedule for the project originally called for having the design 30% finished at this point.

"We are slightly beyond that," she said.

Nevertheless, Miller emphasized during his presentation that the plans he was showing were by no means final.

"There's still a lot of flexibility in the design," he said. "There's a lot of the really fun details that are yet to be resolved."

The park would have several highlights, including a "weeping rock" structure with recirculating water flowing over a rock wall. Miller encouraged those at the meeting not to think of it as a splash pad or a water feature.

"It's not intended to be an immersive experience," he said. "It's more of a water fountain that provides noise and visual interest … ."

The designs also call for the creation of a textured sound path − a walkway constructed of different materials that would provide those traversing it with several auditory experiences. Miller noted it could be enjoyed by people of all abilities and said it is not something he has seen at any other all-abilities park.

The park's ephemeral steambeds would not be filled with recirculating water. Instead, Miller said, they would be designed to catch and channel rainwater in a natural fashion, serving as an attraction during rainstorms.

A large canyon in the middle of park would serve as the home for large playground equipment, while other areas of the park would feature multiuse courts, covered stages or gathering spots, smaller play equipment and quiet areas.

The park would include three parking lots − two smaller ones at the west end and a large one in the middle along Apace Street. It also would have three restrooms – one in the renovated library, one in the middle of the park and one at the east end.

While no final decision has been made about enclosing the park in fencing, Reeves said most people seem to support that idea, and that notion drew the support of Duckett and the members of the council during the meeting. The fencing would be wildlife friendly, meaning small animals could move through it, but it would restrict the ability of wayward children to leave the park except through the designated entry and exit gates.

Miller said additional meetings with stakeholder groups would continue through the middle of July, and the design development phase of the project will continue through the middle of August. A final design development presentation is planned for late August, with the development phase and implementation plan set to take place in September.

For details about the project, visit cofallabilitiespark.org.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.