After a late snowfall set them back, contractors working with the Colchester Parks and Rec department are continuing to survey the areas marked in conceptual designs for a proposed Bayside Community Center and Bayside Park upgrade.
With the help of the Colorado-based consulting firm GreenPlay, who contracted with town about a year ago, town officials published two master plans for the recreations center and Bayside Park last October, using focus groups, public meetings and surveys to create concepts with amenities residents desire.
“Right now, they’re getting the topography and underground utilities, making sure the property lines are right,” parks and recreation director Glen Cuttitta said. “So that when we start going through the second phase of master planning, they’ll get some really accurate numbers.”
The concept for the two-story community center includes an outdoor pool, gymnasium and a weights and fitness room. The Bayside Park concept features an amphitheater, skate park and camping area.
Although both projects are being planned simultaneously, Cuttitta said they may not be constructed at the same time.
In preparation for the final selectboard presentation this fall, Cuttitta said his department is working with GreenPlay to nail down concrete cost estimates. With that, the board can begin prioritizing plans.
The estimated budget for the community center, which is broken down in three phases, is approximately $25.5 million. The park remodel is projected to cost just under $13.7 million.
“We’re really going to narrow it down to some of the things that may not make the second cut,” Cuttitta said. “It may look like some of these things are not feasible. And that’s when we get into dollar figures.”
In the next few weeks, GreenPlay will begin scheduling times for focus groups and community outreach sessions to pinpoint which amenities residents value, and which they could do without.
Economic development director Kathi Walker O’Reilly has heard overwhelming support for a tunnel that would circumvent the busy East Lakeshore Drive and Blakely Road intersection and connect the two sections of the park.
“One of the suggestions was that the wall in it is actually climbing wall,” O’Reilly said. “So it’s part of the recreation. So it’s using everything as is but to the best use.”
The Bayside Hazelett property will also be connected to the park and outfitted with several new features including a boat dock and picnic areas.
In addition to scaling back some of the concepts, Cuttitta said he believes the town could potentially mitigate some costs he called “substantial” through phasing.
“Each phase in and of itself is sustainable and can be used even if you don’t do any other phase,” O’Reilly said. “From the economic development standpoint, that was very important.”
Cuttitta said grassroots fundraising and philanthropic contributions could help cut costs. A few weeks ago, Cuttitta met with about a dozen residents interested in fundraising, and O’Reilly thinks the residents who attended GreenPlay’s presentation last fall could be good candidates.
“They seem to be very interested in the grassroots effort and having it be a public-private partnership, not just the town,” O’Reilly said.
As planning moves forward, Cuttitta said he also looks at the project from a broader, statewide perspective in terms of combating the rise of obesity and opiate use.
“A lot of states have community centers in every community, and Vermont doesn’t have that piece,” he said. “Maybe we can be that leader in the state to help circumvent some of those larger issues that are out there.”