Boise Parks & Recreation likely will take small steps over many years to revise Ann Morrison Park for modern sensibilities, its director said.
Parks & Rec is already experimenting with the first feature in the new Ann Morrison master plan, which is expected to be presented to the Boise City Council in mid-March.
Last summer, Parks & Rec enabled people for the first time to drive through the 153-acre park from Capitol Boulevard to Americana Boulevard.
A primary component in the new master plan is building two linear streets through the park on the north and south sides of the large field. In the process, the plan calls for expanding the field to 22 acres by removing the parking at the west end.
That’s not the cross-park route in place now.
Parks & Rec improvised to create a through-route via the curved parking area destined for eventual removal. The route resembles a Formula One racing circuit.
“I think you can get from Capitol to Americana faster on River Street,” Parks Director Doug Holloway said.
The other high-profile features are a new grade-level fountain; a dedicated Boise River access setting for rafters and sunbathers; and the conversion of Duck Island into an off-leash dog park. This is the first new master plan since Ann Morrison opened in 1959.
The cost and timing are still open.
“The city has no capital dollars allocated to this,” said Holloway. “We are working with the public and the Harry Morrison Family Foundation.”
Holloway will explore if any of Parks & Recreation’s major repairs and maintenance funding can be used to implement features in the master plan. He may also see if river bank enhancements interest the city’s Open Space and Clean Water Advisory Committee, which was established last year to recommend how to spend a $10 million levy.
“The master plan is a blueprint for the entire property,” he said. “Each of the features will be individually designed. It could be up to 20 years to do everything. Hopefully, we will have some timeline ironed out in the next couple months.”
The master plan is a conceptual plan, not necessarily a definitive picture of how things will be built out.
Holloway already suspects the island drawn in the Boise River at the raft take-out point likely would be too costly to build. He believes that area will end up with beach areas designated for sunbathing and pulling rafts out of the river.
The master plan was based on public input online and at two open houses.
“No. 1, by far, was the fountain,” Holloway said. “People said ‘Do something different with the fountain.’”
The master plan calls for rebuilding the fountain flush to the ground, similar to the Grove Plaza fountain, so that people can play in the water. There may be a shallow pool area incorporated in the fountain. It will cost more than $1 million, Holloway said. He thinks building the fountain first will inspire more donations to upgrade the entire park.
“No. 2 (in public input) was the off-leash dog island,” he said about the island in Duck Pond, near Americana Boulevard.
Designating the island as an off-leash area is not the challenge. The expense would be with Duck Pond to make the water safe for dogs.
“We have to do some water quality upgrades,” Holloway said. “It has no real circulation. We want to create better circulation of the pond. There is no timetable. We don’t have a real handle on the water quality enhancement cost.”
The master plan will bring change to Ann Morrison Park yet largely retain the same character it has always had.
“Our park users have changed,” Holloway said. “Their sophistication has changed. The objective is to use engagement of the public to bring the park into the 21st century with fresh ideas.”