Bettendorf's new Forest Grove Park: six years and $4.7 million later first public amenity takes shape

Bettendorf's newest park – Forest Grove – will finally welcome visitors sometime late this summer with the opening of a small "Community Corner" consisting of a picnic shelter, restrooms, a children's playground and a 24-car parking lot.

The first usable feature of the park on the city's far north edge will be a notable event, but the long road to the first amenity hasn't been cheap: $1.8 million to date, not including $2.92 million the city paid for the 92-acres back in 2010.

Wedged between Interstate 80 and Forest Grove Road and two miles east of Middle Road, Forest Grove Park has been a planning and design goldmine for consultants who have been paid more than $400,000 since 2011.

The city's consultant, RDG Planning and Design of Des Moines, first received $114,000 for developing a park "Master Plan" in 2011. That plan – developed after a number of public input meetings – included nearly a dozen projects including the small Community Corner pocket park estimated at the time to cost about $800,000. It was one of the least expensive projects on a long list of Forest Grove improvements to come out of the public meetings and recommended to the city.

Other master plan projects included: a water winter plaza ($4.76 million); community building ($3.43 million); adventure course ($2.6 million); walking trails ($1.9 million); prairie tower ($1.12 million); amphitheater ($1.97 million); "The Edge" community area with dog park and art walk ($1.6 million); and the "Great Lawn" ($856,000).

Between 2013 and 2014, RDG was paid $198,000 under a "Phase I" contract and various amendments to that agreement.

Items under that contract included design of the "Community Corner," concepts for integrating the park land with a housing subdivision on the east (Spencer Creek) and a multi-family development planned for the property west of the park.

The city also paid RDG to develop a "management plan" to restore the park's natural forest and fauna and improve the condition of Spencer Creek that flows through the property. The report inventoried the land's natural features and estimated the cost to restore the prairie, woodlands and creek. While anticipating significant volunteer and state grants, the restoration work anticipated the need for $1.2 million in contractor help.

The firm now is working with the park department under a $95,000 "Phase II" contract. That work includes design of the park land adjacent to the future Forest Grove Elementary School planned by the Pleasant Valley School District on the southwest corner of the park, and design of the "Great Lawn" area spanning the park's southern frontage along Forest Grove Road between the Community Corner pocket park and the planned new elementary school.

The latest Great Lawn plan shows a large level area of turf grass which could accommodate four baseball diamonds, six large soccer fields and three smaller soccer fields. The parks department has been investigating if an existing well on the old farm property could be tapped to irrigate the large grass lawn area.

The baseball fields would not have lights or fences, only backstops, to keep the area open and able to accommodate various uses other than baseball and soccer, the consultants recently told park board members.

Under the plan shown park board members in May, the eastern edge of the park would provide shelters to serve eight tennis courts the school district wants to build on the west side of its elementary school property.

The city would share the use and the construction cost of the courts and adjacent school parking under a yet-to-be-finalized agreement with the school district. A similar sharing agreement with the Bettendorf school system for tennis courts at Middle School and the high school has been in place for years.

RDG also has a contract totaling $8,000 with the Pleasant Valley school district to layout the Forest Grove school and traffic access for the school facility.

Construction of the Community Corner – park shelters, restrooms, and half-court basketball area on the southeast entrance to the park – is expected to be completed late this summer at a cost of $726,000. The site work under a separate contract for the adjacent parking lot, storm water detention, sidewalks and landscaping will cost another $286,000. The pocket park playground equipment and installation will cost $176,000.

In addition to the design contracts and Community Corner construction costs to date, the city paid $192,246 to Ven Green Land Development for construction of Spring Creek Drive that serves as the eastern access to the park and Ven Green's Spencer Hollow housing subdivision. As part of the street-sharing construction agreement, the city also gave the Texas-based developer four acres of park land so the new street would line up the street directly across from Forest Grove Road.

The swap allowed VenGreen to add 11 more lots to its development. City officials defended the sharing of road costs and and land swap, citing the property taxes the city eventually will receive from the new housing through property taxes. Normally, developers pay the full cost of streets serving their subdivisions.

The city paid for acquisition of the park property with general obligation bonds, and has been issuing $700,000 in general obligation bonds every two years to fund improvements at Forest Grove.

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