• Thu February 19 2009
  • Posted Feb 19, 2009
Des Moines By CYNTHIA REYNAUD A conceptual plan for improvements to the Birdland Park area would keep Birdland Drive open as well as add more recreational facilities. The plan, created by Des Moines' Parks and Recreation Department, suggests widening the park road, which runs parallel to the river between Saylor Road and Sixth Avenue, so that it can also accommodate traffic from a trail that now runs along the riverbed. The current trail, which routinely floods, would be closed, said parks and recreation director Don Tripp. The plan also identifies areas to add a skate park, a new tennis facility, basketball courts and a dog park, and expand the Birdland Marina and trail system. It is a very tentative look at what could be developed in the area, Tripp said. "This is a really dynamic area along the Des Moines River that has a good amount of use today, but could have a lot more," he said. "We think it's a real gem on the crown of the park system that just needs a little polishing." Earlier talk about the closure of Birdland Road and the development of plans for a new levee that potentially runs through some of the existing facilities spurred conversation about the future of the area, Tripp said. Planners put together the mock concept using surveys done at the end of 2007 in which people identified their recreational interests. The survey showed that recreation along the river is a high priority to residents. They also talked to residents about their reasonings for keeping Birdland Road open. The road - from Saylor Road to Sixth Avenue - is used by many as a shortcut through the area. "We don't have the need for the park road, the greater need is a transportation need," Tripp said. The parks department will continue to study the need for the road in the future, he said. The plan is in a very early stage and still could change, Tripp said. The department plans to hold meetings with the public about the idea in the fall. "In a public process where we discussed all these types of improvements, we may end up with something different than this," he said. No date has been set on when construction might start. Currently, there is "not one penny" to do any of the work, Tripp said. It is likely the project cost, which could be several million dollars, would be covered by a combination of private and public funds, he said. Councilman Bob Mahaffey said he could see the project benefitting the entire city and worth the investment. "We can't just stop with our economic development, we have to continue in a reasonable manner," he said in regard to the city's current money shortage. Union Park Neighborhood Association co-chairman Jack Daugherty said the group hopes to find a sponsor to help with the costs as well. "Like anything else, it's likely to take a long time," Tripp said. "But I think you have to plan for the future. This is a really terrific area that really deserves to have a plan that would take us into the next generation of use."

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