Gering looks to develop plan for entire park system

Jerry Purvis/Gering Courier Jade Riedel (right), assistant manager at the Gering municipal pool, explains to Parks Director Amy Seiler how the staff checks the pool’s chlorine level every day. The Gering pool and other Oregon Trail Park features were among topics discussed recently by the Gering Recreation Committee.

Future improvements to Oregon Trail Park and drainage improvements in Northfield Park were among topics of discussion when the Gering Recreation Committee met Monday afternoon.

“The city’s eventual goal is to create a strategic or master plan for our entire park system,” said Gering Parks Director Amy Seiler. “We want to develop a vision and what direction we’d like to go. Oregon Trail Park and the municipal swimming pool are a big part of that.”

Once formulated, the plan will provide a sort of road map to the future for how the parks will be developed and identify organizations that award grant funding for specific projects.

The first phase of improvements in Oregon Trail Park was completed last year as the new baseball field opened as home to the Western Nebraska Pioneers, now in their second season of play.

The next phase of improvements is scheduled for his season. It’s a quad field with two baseball and two softball diamonds with a concessions area in the center. Its fields will be used for youth baseball and softball teams during the summer, as well as by the Gering High School softball team in the fall.

“Our tennis courts, basketball courts, and obviously the swimming pool will all need to be addressed in any master plan,” Seiler said. “Out meeting didn’t involve making a lot of decisions or throwing out a lot of ideas. The conversation was whether we can move forward with seeking the opportunity to create a master plan.”

Some of the questions that did come up included whether a master plan could be written by the city or if an outside consultant would be used. The committee was supportive of discussing the potential plan with city council members closer to budget time and getting their feedback before any work is done.

“We really need a solid plan in place to point the way forward, otherwise it’s unusable,” Seiler said. “It gives us guidance on budgeting, what we need to save and what grant funding is available. I think a plan will be an incredible tool to move our parks forward in the future.”

Another item of discussion by the Recreation Committee was concerns over drainage problems in Northfield Park.

“A little over a year ago, the city redid some storm water drainage to the north of the park,” Seiler said. “Before Northfield Park was established, the canyon was a natural drain for storm runoff, so the park serves several purposes.”

She added that some of the park’s flat areas, popular for football games, are often saturated and the turf wasn’t doing well with wet conditions.

A plan was presented to the committee that would reroute the water directly into the city’s storm water system on the east end of Northfield Park.

“We’re still utilizing the park for drainage, but we just don’t want to put a big load of water on the recreational areas,” Seiler said. “The public was also concerned about what kind of pollutants from city streets were being washed along with the water into the canyon. Small things like brake dust or leaking oil or antifreeze can create problems.”

Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.