ARC park splash pad underway

Margaret Allen
Hays Daily News
The ARC Park parking lot is designed for 46 spaces, expanding the current parking situation at Seven Hills Park at 33rd Street and Hillcrest.
Artist's conceptual drawing of the nearly $2 million Hays Accessible Recreation Complex, ARC park.
Artist's conceptual drawing of the nearly $2 million Hays Accessible Recreation Complex, ARC park.

Parks director Jeff Boyle sparked clapping and delighted laughter last Thursday at the Hays City Commission work session.

It came after Boyle announced that work was beginning on a much-anticipated splash pad for the nearly $2 million ARC park under construction in northwest Hays.

“Everything’s happening rather quickly up there,” he said of Hays’ newest play area, this one designed for children of all abilities.

“So what, wear my swimsuit next week?” joked city commissioner Shaun Musil.

Embedded in the existing Seven Hills Park at 33rd Street and Hillcrest Drive, ARC park’s construction began last fall, but was paused for cold weather.

Now, Boyle said, the playground area is currently being built.

The target date to open the splash pad is July 4, said Kathy McAdoo, executive director for Arc of The Central Plains, which is leading the project. "It could be sooner, we hope it won't be later."

Speaking Tuesday as Hays was getting its second day of steady rain, McAdoo said "We're really at the mercy of the weather."

"We don't have a set date and the reason is because of the weather," she said. "The ground has to be dry to put in the rocks and the sand."

With the weather the way it's been, work will be delayed.

"We are tentatively hoping that the playground will open mid-May," said McAdoo.

Seamless, parking to play

Hundreds of donors throughout the community have made contributions toward funding the park, including children raising money through lemonade stands.

Phase 1 was dirt work and site preparation, donated by Ellis County, which kicked off construction last fall.

Phase 2 is the splash pad and a 46-stall parking lot.

City commissioners will vote this Thursday at their weekly meeting on the recommended low bid of $200,136 from T&T Builders L.L.C. for the lot.

Designed by Kaw Valley Engineering, the parking lot will be concrete, Boyle told the commissioners, with elevations that match the playground and splash pad.

“All the sidewalks will be seamless,” he said. “so, no hills or anything to deal with.” 

Popular destination

The Arc of the Central Plains is predicting heavy use by locals and out-of-town guests.

In the works for nearly three years now, the Accessible Recreation Complex has been described by Sarah Meitner, Arc board president, as a rare inclusive play space for people of all abilities and ages to play both independently and together.

That will make it a destination for people on Interstate 70 needing a travel break. 

“I think that the popularity that we’re going to see up there at this park, this is a good thing for us because parking on 33rd street, in my opinion, is extremely dangerous, especially with young kids,” Boyle told the city commissioners during their regular work session March 18 at City Hall, 1507 Main.

“There will still be some parking on Canal and on the east side of here,” he said. “But when you build a park and you build these high-use areas like this, you really have to take parking into consideration.”

With most of the construction privately funded, funding for the parking lot is from a portion of the countywide quarter-cent sales tax that Hays gets a share of.

Arc will donate the park when it’s finished to the city to maintain.

Benches, trees

Hays-based T&T Builders was the low bidder for the parking lot, coming in about $50,000 under what was budgeted.

T&T has done other projects locally, Boyle said, including a 40-by-60 concrete pad at the Hays Recreation maintenance shed at The Bickle-Schmidt Sports Complex; concrete bunkers where the city stores materials for infields and wood mulch; and the large parking lot behind the president’s house on the campus of Fort Hays State University.

The parking lot has to be done before July 1, Boyle said, but there isn’t a start date yet.

“I think he’s ready to go on it,” he said. “I would anticipate that it will be done long before July 1.”

“Does this parking lot meet all your expectations?” asked Mayor Sandy Jacobs of Sarah Meitner, who attended the meeting.

“Definitely,” said Meitner. “It was our intention all along to have adequate space for certainly handicap parking, bus parking.”

Boyle said if more spaces are needed later on, it would be simple to add them.

Memorial benches in the drop-off area will give people a place to sit while they wait. So far, six are confirmed, Meitner said, and she’s hoping to add two more. 

“And there’s also going to be a pretty nice sign, that we just got the order in for,” she said. “It will be at the 33rd entrance, sort of at a diagonal there. And it will say ‘Seven Hills Park, home of the ARC park and the Optimists’ playground.’”

Some trees will have to be torn out during construction, but those will be replaced Boyle said, with trees large enough to fill the space. Some are coming from the city’s tree farm, while others will be donated by local nurseries, he said.