Wednesday afternoon, the Merrill Parks and Recreation Commission heard a presentation from Director Dan Wendorf on plans for a new pavilion at the Park Street trailhead of the River Bend Trail, courtesy of AGRA Industries, as well as a park in the same vicinity, courtesy of the Merrill Rotary Club.
Although exact dimensions were not immediately available, the pavilion is expected to use the entire open footprint in the area and will serve as a multi-purpose shelter of sorts.
“From my understanding, the pavilion will basically be there for anyone who has a need for it,” said River District Development Foundation president Gene Bebel. “Whether it’s the Humane Society or if it’s a particularly nasty day and the Farmers Market wants to get out of the weather, the pavilion will be available shelter and space for them.”
As Bebel alluded to, Wendorf indicated the Farmers Market will have a reserved space on the west side of the pavilion.
“The Farmers Market wasn’t very big on moving at first, but they are pretty keen on it now,” he added. “Traffic has really picked up down there which will be a benefit for them and I expect that to only get better as we get into summer, with warmer temps and so on.”
Wendorf stated construction is set to begin in the coming weeks with an estimated completion date sometime in mid-summer. Upon completion, the pavilion will be turned over to Parks and Rec ownership.
Although the park as depicted in a 3-D panoramic view with extensive landscaping and gardening, Bebel cautioned Commission members of the park being a work in progress.
“It doesn’t look like that yet,” he said with a chuckle. “I just want to make sure you’re aware of that. The whole project will cost about $40,000 and the Rotary Club has donated $15,000; we as a foundation are responsible for the rest. Right now, we just don’t have that kind of money. But our goal is to eventually have the park look just like you see it here.”
Existing 6th District Alderman Dave Sukow commended Bebel and the foundation’s progress since the trail’s inception in 2012.
“I remember not all that long ago sitting in this very room (City Hall council chambers) during a public hearing and this room was packed!” the 10-year veteran alderman explained. “It was standing room only, full of people who were mainly dead set against the whole idea of the trail. Folks made so many accusations. People claimed it would cost millions of dollars! That was an exaggeration of course, but my point is we were so close to not even pursuing this. And look at what we have now. We have a beautiful trail that people use and enjoy and now we have generous support and donations for a park and pavilion.”
“Way to turn it around, Gene,” Sukow added. “To see this go from something folks feared to something folks seem to really love, something great.”
Bebel added total donations to date are just over a million dollars.
In other matters Wednesday, the commission unanimously approved a request by a community group to relocate the Normal Park totem pole, from Normal Park down to the Park Street River Bend Trail head. The move is projected to occur sometime during mid-summer.
Wendorf also updated the commission on progress at the new Aquatic Center, advising construction recently resumed despite the less than favorable weather conditions. Wendorf indicated construction remains ahead of schedule with about 80% of the splash pad being completed. Work remaining consists of smaller projects including installation of diving boards, construction of the shaded concession area and locker/restroom amenities.