New surface on the way

The parking lot at Memorial Park will get a new surface in the next few weeks after Litchfield City Council approved a plan Monday night.

Amid many improvements and added amenities at Memorial Park in recent years, there has remained one stubborn annoyance.

The parking lot.

Litchfield City Council decided Monday night, at the suggestion of Administrator David Cziok, to try to address the parking lot, which is largely unpaved and pothole-filled.

“Staff has been looking at the parking lot for quite some time,” Cziok said Monday, elaborating on a memo in the City Council’s agenda packet.

The Memorial Park parking lot has been on the City Council’s “wish list” for more than a decade and “with numerous improvements to this park over the last several years, the desire to improve this parking lot has only increased,” the memo stated.

The park has seen additions such as a restroom and changing room facility, a large community-built playground structure, and a splash pad, all of which have increased the number of people using the park — and the need for parking.

The trouble is, the parking lot is large, and it’s a bit of an engineering challenge, given its proximity to the shore of Lake Ripley and a high water table.

Estimates to pave the parking lot, Cziok said in his memo, have been in the $500,000 range, “with no promises as to life expectancy.”

So, Cziok said, the public works staff has devised a more affordable plan to try to improve the lot. It will mean removing 6 to 12 inches of gravel and replacing it with fresh class 5 gravel, then top that with crushed blacktop. This test would be done on 80 feet along the south edge of the park.

This type of surface has “worked well” in other places in the city, and “might be a significant improvement in this location,” Cziok wrote. The cost of this experiment is estimated at $35,000 to $40,000.

“We don’t really know until we get into the work exactly what the cost is going to be,” Cziok said, but if it looks like cost will rise significantly above the estimate, work will stop and another option sought.

“It is a worthy experiment,” Cziok said.

Council members were generally supportive of the plan, but Ron Dingmann asked if removing 6 to 12 inches of gravel would be enough. Mayor Keith Johnson also asked if tiling might help move water out of the parking lot and preserve the surface.

Cziok said other options are possible, but they would carry significantly more cost. So the smaller-scale, lower impact approach of the suggested plan was deemed the best initial approach.

“I think for what we’ve done out there for improvements, we need to try something,” Council member Vern Loch Jr. said.

The rest of the City Council agreed, unanimously approving the test, which public works staff would like to complete this fall, Cziok said, “and see how effective it is over the next year or so.”

Funding for the work and materials will come from the city’s Community Improvement Fund.

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