The Norman Transcript

September 10, 2013

Norman park renovations possible because of city charter vote

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Trail work is under way at Colonial Estates Park, 1641 E. Lindsey St., thanks to money freed up by a city charter vote in 2011.

Norman Parks Planner James Briggs said money collected in-lieu-of parkland dedications starting in the 1970s was building up, but now that money will be put to good use.

“We went through the master plan and looked for the recommendations for improvements to those parks, and now we’re knocking those things out, park by park,” Briggs said.

Part of an overall plan was to improve several of the city’s older parks with updated furnishings such as benches, trash cans and play equipment. In many cases, projects will include filling in sidewalk gaps to make city parks more accessible to people using mobility devices.

The resurfacing of the asphalt trail through Colonial Park is one of the biggest projects on the city’s “to do” list.

“We’re resurfacing the existing path and will make a smooth transition to the existing bridge, but we’re also going to get new bridges in there,” Briggs said.

By smoothing the transition from the asphalt path to the bridge, the city is making the park more ADA compliant and accessible. For Norman residents with disabilities that will make a world of difference.

“It’s about having access to all aspects of life, whether it be recreation, transportation or employment — everything in life,” said Jeff Hughes, executive director of Progressive Independence. “People just want equal opportunity. What may seem minuscule to some can be major obstacles to someone to participate in a particular aspect of life, such as using a park.”

City crews are laying the asphalt for the trail resurface.

“We wanted to do the trail first,” Briggs said. “We’ll save a lot of money by doing it in-house.”

Colonial Estates is one of the city’s larger parks and is the location of splash pads and a popular disc golf course.

In addition to resurfacing the trail, five bridges along the trail and along the disc golf course will be replaced. Disc golf baskets also will be replaced.

Local disc golfers had often donated baskets to replace those that were stolen or broken and had done other volunteer work, even building bridges. Now, disc golfers will enjoy better accommodations, which could open the possibility of tournaments in the future.

The funds provided through the in-lieu collections are making these renovations possible without further expense to taxpayers. When developers don’t make land donations for parks, they contribute to the in-lieu fund.

Originally that money was designated to buy land for parks in the area where the development occurred. In many cases, no land was available for purchase and the money was sitting unused in the bank.

Now, that money is paying for park improvements. Upgrades have been ongoing is several parks, including Colonial Estates, Colonial Commons, Sunrise and Adkins Crossing.

Colonial Estates is one of the largest upgrades scheduled. Work started Monday on the eastside park.

Joy Hampton