Park design gets favorable response

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Ashley Pond: Plans include modificiations allowed within the project scope

By Arin McKenna

Final design plans for Ashley Pond Park renovations received a largely positive response from approximately 25 residents who attended an informational meeting Wednesday. 

Los Alamos County Parks Manager Dick McIntyre and project consultant George Radnovich, a principal of Sites Southwest, LLC, presented the design plans and responded to a wide range of questions. 

The main purpose of the redesign is the restoration of Ashley Pond, which is in the early stages of eutrophication — a depletion of oxygen in the water. The pond will be completely reconstructed with new aeration systems and wetlands as well as landscape buffers and drainage solutions to decrease runoff — all focused on improving water quality.

The 90 percent design review included modifications based on feedback from earlier meetings. The pond will retain a fountain at the center and a new waterfall that will help with aeration has been relocated to the western side of the pond, away from the location for a permanent stage.

The sidewalk between the new stage, which projects out over the pond. and a dance platform was widened to 18-feet to provide better access around the pond during concerts.

Three new sidewalks offer greater Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, and one will be wide enough for trucks to transport equipment to the stage. 

The new stage has sparked considerable discussion in recent weeks, when five citizens attended the 30 percent design meeting to protest the location. The group has garnered support for their position since then, including a petition with approximately 200 signatures. Major changes in scope would require council approval and delay the project.

Earlier feedback reveals little controversy before the design was approved by council, and the comment cards from Wednesday’s meeting show strong support for the stage concept. 

Efforts were made to address some of the concerns people expressed. 

Both the stage and the dance platform are comparable in size to those currently in use, not smaller as opponents have claimed. Radanovich said the audience should have no problem seeing the stage over the dancers, since the stage is elevated three feet and the audience will also be on a slope above them.

McIntyre used a compass to assess complaints that the audience would be looking directly into the sun and confirmed that people would be facing just 15 degrees west of north, placing the sun behind them.

Theresa Romero, who has opposed the location of the stage since the 30 percent meeting, made an emotional appeal for the county to do a risk assessment for children jumping off the railing into the pond. McIntyre showed that vertical slats on the railing will make it difficult to climb, but said he would look into Romero’s request. 

Russell Gordon, who produces Gordon’s Concerts, also spoke to those concerns during public comment and in a follow-up interview. Gordon strongly supports the new stage and its location.

Gordon walked the natural amphitheater to evaluate complaints of inadequate audience space and estimated the area can seat 1,000 very close to the stage and at least 2,500 with good positions. He noted that many people prefer the periphery, where they can enjoy the music while they socialize.

To complaints that the stage will be an eyesore, Gordon notes that when the cover is removed, the stage will blend into the background with its rockwork and wooden railing. Two respondents liked the possibility of additional uses for the stage, such as picnics and weddings. 

Gordon noted that there should be plenty of parking without crossing Trinity Drive, since the mobile offices in the Justice Center parking lot will likely be removed once the Municipal Building opens, creating more space. CB Fox also has generous parking, with the added benefit that many people patronize local businesses when they park there. 

Gordon believes worries about traffic noise from Trinity and a lack of shade will not really be issues in the early evening when concerts take place. The parks division will also do tree plantings once the project is complete, working to find a balance between providing shade and leaving open sightlines to the stage. 

Vendors will relocate to the northeast end of the park, and will have electrical power available to them. 

“I hope this gets done, because it’s gorgeous,” Gordon said.

In conversation after the meeting, some residents said that fears that children will dart onto Trinity Drive also seem exaggerated, since there is plenty of seating well away from the street. They also noted that children’s bounce houses have been set up near the Justice Center (close to Trinity) during special events for 10 years without incident. 

Ten of the 17 comments received specifically supported the stage, while two others lauded the entire design. 

Los Alamos Historical Society President Ron Wilkins wrote, “Design looks great, including the stage!”

Fuller Lodge Historic Districts Advisory Board member Nancy Bartlit wrote, I think the design reflects very well the studies of the issues raised by many meetings of the public, including the stage.” 

Others wrote they were looking forward to the views of the Jemez and the sunsets and that the entire design was “well conceived.”  One suggested making the public restrooms in the Community Building and Justice Center available during events. 

Three respondents voiced negative reactions to the stage. Two protested that the stage would be “ugly” and “not historical.” One of those also urged the county to install pellet feeders for the ducks and geese.

During public comment, one resident said, “It seems to me Los Alamos is losing its historical memory. People come here because it’s quaint and historical. They don’t come for a Walmart in the middle of the pond.” 

For the record, the FLHDAB voted to approve the design before it went to council. The board had asked that the stage not have a permanent cover (it will be equipped with a removable one). They were also opposed to lighting around the pond, which had been under consideration.

The $2.2 million project will be sent out for construction bids in early January, and the county expects to issue the Notice to Proceed in late February. 

The pond will be closed in March so that it can be drained. The ducks will be relocated by the Duck Buddies. 

The county expects to re-open and re-dedicate the pond and park in August 2013. 

Information on the project is available at the county website, where residents can also sign up to receive construction updates.

 For additional information, questions or comments, contact McIntyre at 662-8159 or richard.mcintyre@lacnm.us.