Cameron finds new site for proposed city park
Area voters may find an upcoming 1/2-cent sales tax funding a proposed city park more palatable after city officials announced they will no longer use land adjacent to the Western Missouri Correctional Center.
Cameron Public Works Director Drew Bontrager announced the change of location using land located south of Highway 36, west of I-35, seemingly negating the project’s strongest deterrent.
“There was some concern raised from the community members that showed up (to the October open house) about the location,” Vireo Landscape Architect Steve Rhodes said. “… We had a member of the public (Chris Wilkes) step forward with an idea about some alternative sites. He knocked on some doors and talked to some landowners. The park board felt it was in their best interests to explore those option a little further. There is a site south of 36 on the west side of I-35 Highway, which is a much better piece of ground for a park.”
While some members of the community felt uncomfortable having their children play in a park located next to a maximum-security prison, Rhodes said additional issues came about with the grading of the land not being suitable for baseball and softball fields.
“It’s not an ideal site to make a flat area for any type of ballfields,” Rhodes said. “… It’s a considerable amount of work to grade ballfields along that site, which has a ravine in the middle of it. So much so that we were very concerned we could not deliver the community a nice park with ballfields with the amount of money that it budgeted for this park.”
After hearing the change of location, the Cameron City Council approved placing the 1⁄2-cent sales tax funding a proposed city park and renovation to the city pool on the spring 2020 ballot. The tax proposal would generate an estimated $640,000 annually with a sunset of 25 years totaling $16 million for renovations to the city swimming pool and construction.
“The land is available. We do have an agreement that we will be bringing to the city council during the next city council meeting, which is contingent upon the sales tax passing,” Bontrager said. “That’s the final piece. Thanks to the park board and the community for their input. Thanks to the park board for spending many, many hours over many, many meetings over many, many years. They’ve done a great job and have a really solid plan.”
As previously reported by the Citizen-Observer, along with constructing a new park, the tax would also cover a complete overhaul of the Cameron Municipal Pool complex with Bontrager previously saying he questioned the pool’s structural integrity.
“Of course, the pool was in bad shape at that time structurally, but over the last number of years it has exponentially decreased where every year I’m not sure it will hold,” said Bontrager while presenting the sales tax to the city council Jan. 9. “… We’re looking at $2.5 to 3 million to build a whole new facility. When I say build a new facility, we would put the new pool in the exact same place. It would be brand new, but we would utilize as much existing infrastructure as we can to stretch our dollars as far as possible. With the bath house, we would hold onto it but expand it in both directions and completely remodel it.”
While the city spent years finding a source of revenue for renovating the Cameron Municipal Pool complex, creation of a city park seemed to gain traction after the city council approved selling the Park Valley Baseball/Softball Complex - home of the Cameron High School baseball and softball teams - to the Cameron School District. As part of the sale of the Park Valley Baseball/Softball complex, the city and school district both agreed to allow Cameron YMCA youth baseball and softball to continue using the fields. In September, the city held an open house at the Cameron YMCA to receive potential amenities for the park.
“Of the information that we gathered, the top five vote getting things at the event were community event space, baseball diamonds, splashpad, soccer fields and restrooms. Everything else, other than sports fields were community event space, splashpads, restrooms, paved trails and a playground,” said Rhodes during the Jan. 9 meeting.