On Wednesday, more than 50 Cortez residents attended an open house event at the Evangel Assembly of God church to see the final plans for the new south side park that will replace the demolished Montezuma-Cortez High School just behind the church.
The final site plan features two playgrounds, two bike parks, a football field and areas for tree-shaded lounging around the park, among other features voted upon by Cortez residents.
The open house, hosted by Cortez Parks and Recreation Department, provided the community an opportunity for last-minute feedback on the park design, including a display where residents could place stickers to vote for what parts of the park they wanted to be completed first.
High community engagementAccording to the final design documents from Connect One Design, the company that led the planning process for the park, 92 people attended the previous two open houses in August and September, and 329 responded to online surveys to provide input that helped guide the design process.
An optional sign-up sheet was available at the Wednesday open house, and more than 50 people marked their attendance.
Community feedback was a key component of the design process, according to Heather Henry, a Connect One designer on the Cortez park project. Some of the top features that respondents said they wanted were tree shade, picnic tables and open lawn space, all of which were included in the final design.
Disagreements over park needsWhile a skate park and football field were ranked the least “desirable” features among respondents who attended open houses or answered online surveys, both will be included in the final design.
City leadership, including Parks and Recreation Director Dean Palmquist, indicated from the start of the project that a football field would need to be included in the final plans to provide area teams a place to play. The field will be an alternative to the only other football field in Cortez, located next to Cortez Middle School.
According to Palmquist, the decisions to include the football field and skate park were made after evaluating the needs of a group of community member who were underrepresented at open houses and in the surveys: local youths.
Fewer than 25 percent of respondents online and at the open houses were 29 or younger, whereas according to U.S. Census data from 2016, this age cohort makes up about 40 percent of the Cortez population.
This skew toward older respondents, alongside other considerations, led Parks and Recreation staff to meet with local groups of high schoolers through a “youth commission” to discuss the plans for the park.
Palmquist said one observation from these discussions was high enthusiasm for artwork, including a wall where residents can make their own artwork with spray paint and other materials.
“With the survey results and at the public meetings, we didn’t have too much high school participation, so we outreached through the youth comission with them, and I’d say one of their top things they wanted to see was art in the park,” Palmquist told City Council during a meeting about the park plans Tuesday evening.
Molly Somes, one of the Connect One designers who worked on the park plans, said that the skate park and bike parks were also popular among young residents.
“The skate parks and the bike parks were really popular, even amongst the football players who were really focused on the field,” Somes said. “But then when I went around and talked to a bunch of them, and they were like, ‘Yeah the football field (is cool), but the skate parks are really awesome.’”
The final park plans include a skate park designed for greater accessibility than the one in Parque de Vida so that new and novice skaters would have a place to learn, according to Henry.
For the kidsCheryl Friend, a Montezuma county resident who lives about a mile outside Cortez city limits, said she is excited to see that the park, which will include two playgrounds designed for small children, will accommodate toddlers like her great-grandchildren.
Wednesday’s open house was the first that Friend had attended, but she said she was happy overall with the design outcomes she saw, only questioning whether the city really needed another football field.
Friend said that she was excited to start walking the exercise path that weaves around the perimeter of the park, alongside using the exercise pods. She plans to use the park as a free alternative to the Cortez Recreation Center, which she said she can’t afford.
Sierra Schaak, who in September bought a house on Oak Street near the park, was happy to see that the skate park would not be across the street from her new property. Instead, Schaak will be closer to one of the park’s bike tracks, which she hopes her nieces and nephews will use.
Schaak is a former employee of Cortez Parks and Recreation. She said she attended all three open houses to provide input about the park because she will be living directly next to it once it is completed.
Plans also include a water misting feature next to the curated art wall near the center of the park, a place designers Henry and Somes said would be highly popular with young kids. However, concerns over water usage may lead to the feature being excluded from construction plans, which are next on the agenda for Parks and Recreation.