Construction of Phase 1 of a 2018 master plan
for Ernie Miller Park
is expected to begin in late April, with completion by the end of the year.
This project will involve replacing and improving the park’s outdoor amphitheater at its current location, adding an outdoor classroom on the pond just north of the amphitheater for nature programming, and adding a new accessible parking area and bus loop closer to the nature center.
The new amphitheater will have 140 seats, which compares to about 90 at the current amphitheater. A fire pit near the stage, which is used for several programs, is also being replaced.
“We are adding some seating to it, we are increasing the accessibility of both the seating area and the stage, and we are improving the function of the space for the nature programs that we offer there,” said Project Manager Mark Allen. “The theater stage itself is being replaced and will include improved lighting and storage for the nature programs.”
In anticipation of this project, the nature center’s usual Friday Night Amphitheater Programs, which are scheduled to run from June 5 through July 24, will be moved into the nature center and are being called Friday Family Programs this year.
The new outdoor classroom will consist of a 20’ by 20’deck over the existing pond.
“The intent is to provide a space where we can offer aquatic habitat and nature education programming,” Allen said.
The new accessible parking area and bus loop will feature a gentler slop and shorten the walking distance from about 400 feet to roughly 150 feet for patrons with a disability.
“We’ve learned that for patrons with mobility challenges, the length of the access road can really create barriers to access for them to use one of our facilities,” Allen said. “Part of every project we do now is working to not only correct the facility issues, but to go beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements to really maximize access for all of our patrons, no matter their mobility level.”
A separate project, which is not part of Phase 1 improvements, will involve the replacement of an 80-foot pedestrian bridge across the creek on the south trail. This is in an effort to protect the bridge from increasingly frequent high-water events through the creek. This work began in late March, will involve a crane, and expected to take about 60 days.
All this construction work will definitely result in trail closures and redirections, and a portion of the parking lot south of the park entrance will probably be used as a staging area, although some parking there will still be available.
“I want people to know that there will be growing pains with making these improvements that even touch natural amenities, but we do plan to protect things where we can and replace those that are affected,” Allen said. “We will have to take down some trees in order to build this, and we have landscaping planned to make more than whole the natural resources in the park, but that will take a little bit of patience.”