The renovation of Sunrise Park, first considered in 2013, is finally scheduled to take place this year now that the city of Albany has obtained the required permits and spent $38,000 in federal antipoverty grant money to make up for the loss of a patch of so-called “wetlands.”
I went by the park on Sunday on my bike, and today I asked for an update. “We have finally secured all state and federal environmental permits,” replied Ed Hodney, the Albany parks and recreation director. “If all goes well, we will begin construction some time this summer. My design consultant is now preparing site plans for review by the community (end of April, early May). Plans must be completed and land use (conditional use permit) approvals secured before we can bid the project. We’re pressing to get this long-delayed project underway.”
Part of the delay was the result of rules regarding wetlands. Even though the land has been surrounded by urban development for generations and has no waterways or swamps, part of the park, including the playground itself, was found to be a wetland protected by state and federal regulations. This meant the city had to get permits before doing any construction.
To get the permits, it was necessary to buy credits for two-thirds of an acre of wetland, Anne Catlin told me. She runs the federal community development block grant program for Albany, and the program paid a wetlands bank owned by the city of Eugene $38,225.80.
For the Sunrise Park renovation, the grant program has allocated another $239,000 in its draft budget for 2017-18. Part of the federal program’s purpose is to reduce “blighting influences in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods,” a description that fits census tract 208 in the Sunrise Neighborhood.
The park project, according to the city plan, “will be replacing dated and vandalized play equipment … with new equipment and amenities, new lighting, paths, and a parking lot.” The existing shelters will be removed.
On Sunday afternoon, two or three teenagers were hanging around the playground, and a couple of kids on skateboards went by on the park’s concrete walkways. About the impending loss of wetlands, as far as I could see, they showed no outward indication of concern. (hh)