“Reducing flooding is our primary concern, but the second part of this is an overall plan to improve downtown. If we get more people coming into the downtown area, that is a positive thing for our community,” Mayor Richard VanLandingham commented during a public hearing Monday night on the proposed redevelopment of Davis Park.
Consulting engineer Bryant King of DRMP and Charlie Johnson, landscape architect with Wood & Partners, Inc., presented to the public and the council the plan to recreate Davis Park to include a storm water pond, a 10-foot-wide, asphalt, multi-use path, landscaping and other amenities.
The pond, according to King, would maintain a depth of six feet at all times, but would have the capacity to hold up to 14 feet during heavy rain events. In the event of a large, but short rain event, the pond would have a spill well to release excessive water.
In addition to being more esthetically pleasing, the pond is designed to have a minimum depth of six feet to prevent cat tails and other nuisance vegetation, according to King. A jet fountain would also be placed in the pond.
Although the storm water pond will reduce the potential for flooding in problem spots like 1st Avenue N.E, the engineers and the mayor are quick to point out the storm water pond is no panacea.
“If you get four inches or more rain in a two to three hour period, you’re going to see the pond fill and begin to run over the spillway,” Engineer King said.
However, King notes that the pond will allow the city to have the power to “throttle back the flow of storm water and bleed it down,” whereas now it flows right on through the park and overwhelms the storm water drainage system on 1st Ave. N.E.
“This pond will not solve all of the flood problems below it, but it will some and, like we said before, resolving flooding issues and improving the city overall is the goal here,” the mayor said.
Construction of the pond and grading the area will result in the loss of a large part of the existing tree population, which is a concern of Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas.
“My concern is all of the trees coming out. In July and August with no shade trees there will be no incentive for folks to use the park,” Douglas commented.
Mayor VanLandingham said in order to construct the storm water pond there is no other choice, and the engineer said the plan had given the city the worst case scenario.
“We will keep as many of the existing trees as we can,” King said.
A terraced sod amphitheater is called for in the plan. It is designed for passive use because, in extreme rain events, the pond will overflow into all areas surrounded by the 1/4 mile multi-use path.
Landscape architect Johnson shared with the council and members of the public his design for the new Davis Park, which, in addition to the amphitheather, includes a covered pavilion, a rose garden, brick fenced playground, public restroom facilities and landscaping.
“We realized maintenance of the landscape is an issue, so we kept the plan simple and included plants that are hearty,” Johnson said. He encouraged the city to consider replacing the trees that are removed with larger trees that will be more expensive on the front side of the project, but will provide shade much sooner than if young trees are planted.
Johnson and King also shared their recommendations for implementing the project over two phases.
The first phase would be construction of the storm water pond, the amphitheater and associated landscaping. The project would then move west and include the construction of the pavilion, playground, restrooms and other amenities.
According to King, phase one would include the storm water component and some landscaping. The cost of the civil work on phase one is estimated at $288,000, and the landscaping expense would be $260,000 for a total of $548,000.
Phase two would have less civil expense and slightly more landscape expense. The projected total civil expense for Phase two is $75,000 and $288,000 for landscape for a total of $363,000.
“Where we go from here is to go forward with final plans and permitting. We would like to have the project out for bid by April and a contract before summer,” King said.
“We had the discussion of this project some time ago. It’s just taken this long to come up with a plan. If we’ve gone too far, we need to make a decision what to cut and if we have not gone far enough, we may need to consider more. What are your thoughts on this?” the mayor asked.
Councilman Douglas and Mayor Pro Tem Lannis Thornton voiced their approval for the master plan and Douglas solicited comments from the public.
Doug Taylor, a Vietnam veteran, reminded the council of the Army helicopter on display in the park and noted the plan did not include it. “It must remain on public property or we’ll have to return it,” Taylor said.
Mayor VanLandingham said no decision had been made whether to include the helicopter in the plan or to ask for it to be removed.
“That is something yet to be determined. We will certainly involve you in the final decision,” the mayor said. City Manager Chris Addleton also asked Taylor to offer any suggestion he may have regarding an alternative location.
Cairo resident Ron Reeves noted that the public restrooms were not included in Phase One and suggested that if citizens were to utilize the multipurpose path and amphitheather, those facilities would be needed sooner rather than later.
Addleton responded the park is being utilized now and no restroom facilities are available, but city officials agreed that is a point worth considering.
Doug Taylor warned that with such a steep grade to the pond it would be difficult for a child who may slip into the water to get out. However, April Reckford thought the playground should be erected closer to the water because the water would be a natural draw for children.
Johnson explained that since the areas within the multipurpose trail would sometimes flood, the playground was better suited for the areas on the higher ground to the west.
The consensus of the council was to adopt the master plan as presented, and the city manager requested King and Johnson to work up itemized costs for the project.
Councilman Douglas suggested there could be opportunities for donations through memorials in the forms of lamp posts or benches or, possibly, inscribed bricks.
Councilman Bobby Gwaltney also pointed out that the city would benefit from the timber harvested in the park and those funds could be reinvested into the project.
Addleton will be meeting with King and Johnson and will bring back a recommendation to the council at a forthcoming meeting.