Iowa City gears up for Hickory Hill Park renovations


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Iowa City is planning the first steps in a series of renovations for Hickory Hill Park.

The city is in the process of developing a three-phase master plan for the park, and it placed a request for proposal for consultants for the project on July 9.

Iowa City Parks and Recreation Director Mike Moran said the consultant would create a document that lays out the needs of the park and a timeline.

Moran said the master plan will help the city to “stay ahead of ongoing maintenance needs and current trends of the community, and, most of all, maintain the preservation of this great wooded area in the community.”

Geoff Fruin, the assistant to the city manager, said the process would be heavily influenced by the suggestions of Iowa City residents.

“We want to ensure that it has a robust public input process,” he said. “Depending on the project schedule, it could expand over a number of weeks.”

Although the public will decide the majority of what is improved in the park, the city has some improvements scheduled.

“Going into the project, we know there are certain upgrades that are needed, such as the trail system and the bridge network, so those will be addressed,” Fruin said.

The attention to trail improvements can be credited to Friends of Hickory Hill Park, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization whose goal is to protect and preserve the natural character of the park.

Several years ago, the city contracted with Confluence, a landscape and urban design company, to plan changes for the bridges and trails in the park, said Pete Kollasch, a member of Friends of Hickory Hill Park.

“The Confluence plan recommended what seemed to us as a one-size-fits-all plan,” Kollasch said. “It also advocated extensive relocation of trails in some regions of the park. While we agree in principal with the science behind this approach, we are hesitant to over-engineer the park.”

Kollasch said the Friend’s adjustments take into account aspects previously ignored by the Confluence plan.

“Many of our suggestions are designed to accomplish the same objectives of the earlier plan, within a more achievable budget and a view to future maintainability,” he said. “We feel that an important factor in this is the use of appropriate materials in surfacing the trails, which was not addressed in the previous plan.”

Iowa City Finance Director Dennis Bockenstedt said the upcoming city master plan would have three phases in 2015, 2017, and 2018. Each phase has a budget of $250,000.

Each year, $200,000 of this money will come from general-obligation bonds, and $50,000 will come from contributions and donations.

Although focused on the trail system, Kollasch said, Friends of Hickory Hill Park also look forward to seeing other improvements.

“We also hope the plan that results from this process will address some other improvements,” he said. “Including hard-surfaced trails at the Conklin Street and Bloomington Street entrances, signage along the trails, and other elements.”

Throughout the process, Fruin said, the core of this project is to make the Hickory Hill Park experience as enjoyable for residents as possible.

“This isn’t a one-and-done type of project in which there’s one set of improvements that take place,” Fruin said. “The park is truly one of the gems in Iowa City, and we hope that a master plan will help guide investments over a long period of time.”

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