After a decade of planning and two years of work, the first phase of the Washington Wellness Park is nearing completion.
The park, which sits northeast of the new YMCA facility, is expected to open around June 1, 2021, according to Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson.
“The project will actually be wrapped up this fall,” Hinson said. “We are just holding off on opening up the sports fields until June 1 to allow the turf to grow in appropriately.”
The remaining work, which will be completed this fall, includes road, trail and other site paving and fencing and seeding outside of the athletic fields areas.
Alliant will be installing street lights along the roadway and for the parking lot.
The fields were seeded just before Labor Day, and the grass is growing quickly.
“We had all that rain during that week,” Hinson said. “The grass just took off. It worked out perfectly.”
On Tuesday morning, crews began paving what will become North Avenue E, which will lead to the park’s two-and-a-half-acre parking lot.
The 40-acre Phase 1 of the project consists of four ballfields, two soccer fields, a parking lot, a centralized concessions and restroom building with a paved walking area and a connection to the Kewash Nature Trail.
Hinson said that in the original plans, the concessions and restrooms were in separate buildings.
“That ended up being too costly, so we combined them into one building,” he said.
Work began on the site in 2018, when grading and earthwork started.
The city installed a new and deep sanitary gravity sewer for the northwest part of the city, as well as a 12-inch water line.
In all, the project came with a price tag of approximately $4.4 million, with about half of the funding coming from grants.
“We applied for all sorts of grants,” Hinson said.
Some of the grants came from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Kansas City Royals and the Minnesota Twins.
The city received a $100,000 grant from the Wellmark Foundation specifically for the extension to the Kewash Nature Trail.
“We didn’t actively fundraise for this project,” Hinson said.
He explained that the YMCA has been raising funds for its construction project, and the city did not want to compete with them.
“The Y was a pretty heavy project, and there are only so many dollars,” Hinson said.
With the first phase of the park nearing completion, attention will soon turn to the next phase, which includes developing another 30 acres of the property.
“This first phase doesn’t have a playground,” Hinson said. “If you have a park, you need a playground.”
While there are no set plans for what the next phase includes, some proposals include a fishing pond and a walking trail around the perimeter of the property.
Hinson said that the city is open to other ideas, with the hope of making the facility a “year-round park.”
In fiscal year 2025, which begins July 1, 2024, the city will have more capital improvement funds available to move forward with a new project.
Hinson believes the wellness park will be a great asset to the city.
“This park provides amenities that this city has never had,” he said.
He also sees it spurring future growth, especially in the open area between North Marion Avenue and the new North Avenue E.
“This will allow for some residential development on Marion,” he said. “You’ve got water, sewer and utilities already there.
“It’s going to feed development in the area for the next 50 years.”