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Harris Park Phase 2
Karen House
Nov. 16, 2018, 11:09 a.m.

On Thursday night, the Dunlap City Commission wrestled with rising costs on several park improvement projects. The problem is the projects have been delayed too long, even as the cost of material has risen in the past couple of years, and now the bids are coming in over budget.

When Phase 2 of Harris Park improvements was first planned two years ago, city residents were encouraged to go online and answer questions at Survey Monkey with regard to recreational opportunities they would like to see made available in Dunlap.

A “family pavilion/farmer's market” was overwhelmingly the favorite of the 681 respondents, with a “splash pad” for children in second place. There also was interest in a skateboard park and a dog park.

Over the past two years, several variables in this equation have shifted:

  1. There has been an unacceptable delay in starting. The big sign out at Harris Park that says construction is scheduled to begin in 2017 is way out of date. Here we are, at the end of 2018, with not a sign of any ground-breaking yet. Although Mayor Land blames the delay on a fickle state bureaucracy, it is unlikely the state bears all the blame. As the Dunlap City Commission and landscape architect Benjamin Farmer have dilly-dallied, the price of materials has risen with an improving national economy. If they had made this project a higher priority, that might not have happened.
  2. Facets unrelated to the original goal have been tacked on to Phase 2 of the Harris Park improvements. No one answering the online survey said anything about grassing-in the area in front of the stage, or prepping Harris Park for Valley Fest to move there, but those have been slipped into the plans, anyway. The people of Dunlap wanted (1) a farmer's market, and (2) a splash pad. Where does grass-for-gravel or electric outlets for Valley Fest fit into that?
  3. The family pavilion/farmer's market was NUMBER ONE on the survey. It was the very first and most desired improvement to Harris Park in the eyes of the people. But now it is on the chopping block. Mention has been made numerous times in city meetings about, “if we have to drop the farmer's market.” A simple roof and tables would do for most people, with a sign inviting local growers and farmers to sell their products on such-and-such a day. How expensive can that possibly be?

The city has a million dollars to play with – $1,000,000. That is money that the hard-working people of Dunlap put in their hands.

Most people in Dunlap can imagine a lot of ways to make this work – to build both a farmer's market and a splash pad, without the Valley Fest accommodations or the grass, and at a price Dunlap can afford. It should not be that hard.

Maybe the city leaders should remember whose money it is, and for what purpose it was put in their hands.