Pro Quo with a purposeCity to swap 46 acres for wellness park land closer to town
The City of Washington is planning to put the proposed wellness park on land near West Fifth Street as opposed to 18th Street as previously envisioned. The city is planning to swap about 46 acres of land in the “school 90” with Duane Redlinger, who will give the city 46 acres, south of the school 90 and closer to the town.
The exact terms of the arrangement between Redlinger and the city have not been finalized, but the city does have a verbal commitment from Redlinger that he wants to do a land swap. In an interview Friday, Redlinger said he hopes the agreement will be finalized soon, before the end of the year.
The impending land swap will affect the Washington FFA, which has farmed the school 90 for the past two years. In 2012, the FFA was able to farm another 10 acres the city owns west of Elm Grove Cemetery. That, combined with a handful of acres rented from Dave Hoffman and Craig Dalrymple, meant the FFA was able to farm between 107-110 acres in all.
Tanner Knupp, son of Zeus and Jackie Knupp and a member of the FFA land lab that farms that ground, said the FFA probably won’t be able to farm as many acres next year. He said it depends on how quickly the city wants to develop its wellness park.
If the city holds off on development in 2013, Knupp hopes to be able to farm perhaps as many as 90 acres. Knupp said that if the city develops the wellness park next year, the FFA might be able to farm about 65 acres.
At its meeting Wednesday, the city council could not give the FFA a definite answer on how many acres it will farm next year. However, the council told Knupp the FFA could fertilize the 10 acres by the cemetery because it does not plan to develop that ground.
Knupp said the land swap will likely mean that the FFA will farm lower-yielding ground next year. The 46 acres the city will receive has a Corn Suitability Rating (CSR) of 61, compared to the 46 acres that Redlinger will receive, which has a CSR of 81.
During Wednesday’s council meeting, councilor Bob Shepherd said the FFA should not be disappointed with the new land.
“The educational value of working less than top-notch ground is great,” he said.
City Administrator Brent Hinson said the city wants to swap part of the school 90 for land to the south because it does not want good farmground to be taken out of cultivation.
The city will retain a portion of the school 90 adjacent to 18th Street because it wants that land for a new water tower. Hinson said that was the best location for a water tower to serve the north part of town.
“It’s too early to say what work will be done on the wellness park in 2013,” Hinson said. “We’ve got to get a number of things worked out. The designers will now be able to complete the conceptual design.”
Hinson said the wellness park committee will have to decide how quickly it can press ahead with the development. He said it’s well understood by the city and the committee that the development will not occur all at once and will be phased in over a period of many years. He noted that the city’s largest park, Sunset Park, is 39 acres and developed over many years, too.
In March, the two co-chairs of the wellness park committee at that time, Dave Mitchell and Greg Woller, presented the council with a report detailing two different sizes of wellness parks and how much each would cost.
The committee estimated that a 46-acre park would cost about $4.3 million, while an 86-acre park would cost about $6.7 million. Mitchell said both of those estimates were on the high end. Mitchell said the committee intended to use the city’s land but that the capital improvements would all be funded privately.
The large park for $6.7 million would include two soccer fields, six ballfields, four tennis courts, two basketball courts, four sand volleyball courts, a small pond, a large pond, a concession stand, a pavilion, a restroom, three shelters and a playground. The small park for $4.3 million would include only four ballfields, only one pond, no volleyball courts and no soccer fields.