Augusta downtown park plan revealed

Chad Frey
Tuesday the Augusta city council will be asked to approve a new park plan for downtown Augusta.

The Augusta City Council will be asked to make a decision more than a decade-and-a-half in the making on Nov. 2 — a new master plan that will make changes to the city’s downtown business district.

Specifically, plans for new park space that will coincide with a new pedestrian trail that follows old railroad rights of way.

“I think it will be an amazing addition to the downtown. It has been a long time coming,”said Josh Shaw, city manager for Augusta.

While the park drawings are the result of work done in the past few months, it is the result of years of work and building momentum in Augusta.

“Alll of this stuff goes back, at this point, 17 years. 17 years ago the city commission and an economic enhancement study for downtown. That was completed in 2003. As part of that, they identified key anchors for future development in downtown and creating more activity — specifically making downtown town more pedestrian friendly,” Shaw said. “One of the anchors was a downtown park.”

Another anchor was the old depot building while a third was repurposing of the rail/trail corridor.

“This plan is a hybrid of those things,” Shaw said. “It is building on momentum of projects the city has done.”

The intention is to transform a lot behind Community National Bank into a park and attract traffic to the downtown area, complementing one goal of the Augusta Rail Trail Project. The park goal is to create a gathering place for Augusta residents as well as a draw for visitors using the rail trail or other means of travel.

And right now, is only a plan. Aside from the construction of the trail, planned to begin for the next couple of months, there is not a planned construction date for the park.

But the plan is important. Shaw said creating that plan now will allow the trail project to move forward more efficiently — there will not be a need to move or reconstruction the walking path later.

About 10 years ago the city completed a streetscaping project, then two years ago launched a “pride and progress” initiative. Those efforts included renovation of the depot into a Welcome Center, with an “extreme playground” across the street.

That led to a private commercial development happening called Frsico Shops — developers repurposed a building the create between three and five retail opening out to the playground.

“Our first shop is opening [this fall],” Shaw said. "This is all part of a big plan that is happening in a piecemeal format.“

This year funding was made available for the walking trail — a $75,000 grant for the Augusta Rail Trail Project from the KDOT Cost Share Program.

“The trial runs across the south side of the lot that this [planned] park is on,” Shaw said.

The park plan includes a plaza and a Veteran’s memorial.

“ Downtown development will never be done, but the built environment will affect how people view your city and your downtown,” Shaw said. “... The whole point is to draw people into the downtown of our community and into the heart of our community. The mindset that we have had ... I don’t care what the reason is you are downtown, just that you have a reason.”