PONDERAY — With two major recreational projects in the planning stages for Ponderay, city officials are looking to the community for ideas and input.
The two projects are the “Field of Dreams” recreation center and safe public access to the waterfront via a railroad underpass, with the goal of providing recreational opportunities for kids, families and the broader community.
“The city is looking at asking our residents the different types of recreation that they would see themselves participating in, or their families or friends,” said city planner Erik Brubaker.
As such, Mayor Steve Geiger said they are encouraging everyone interested to join City Council during their meeting on Monday evening to discuss the project.
The city acquired the 50-acre “Field of Dreams” property — formerly known as “McGhee Sports Complex” — on Highway 95 in 2011. Due to field conditions and cost of development, the property has remained largely untouched over the years. Last year, however, the LOR Foundation awarded the city $100,000 planning grant for the property, with an additional $400,000 possible depending on the outcome of the planning.
“Thanks to the LOR Foundation, that’s really helped kickstart things and get us moving in that direction with their awesome gift of up to $500,000,” Geiger said. “We have been doing lots of research on the surrounding area facilities — we went and visited them all, learning about what works, what people like, what loses money, what makes money.”
Some of the things that are being considered for the property include indoor recreation, outdoor turf fields and grass fields among other recreational opportunities, as Brubaker said they are looking to include all user groups in the community.
“No one may get everything that they want, but everyone is going to get a lot,” Brubaker said.
Geiger said they are looking at a community center with recreation, as they hope to reach a broad range of ages and abilities with the project.
“We want to fit as much as we can on that 50 acres,” Geiger said.
In a quick survey dispersed to visitors of the Ponderay Neighbor Day event in September, a question regarding whether the city should develop a community-wide recreation facility garnered a resounding “yes,” as none of the approximately 140 respondents said no.
Some of the top results for what people would like to see at the property included a playground, picnic area and pathways. An amphitheater, softball, baseball, camping, archery, cross-country skiing, bike park and community garden were among the answers as well.
As for public access to the waterfront, the railroad underpass would connect the city not only to Lake Pend Oreille, but also the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail. As the 1.4-mile trail is situated between the lake and two railroad tracks, the only safe crossing is at Bridge Street in Sandpoint.
“As our town grows … as more people are wanting to access that lake, more people are illegally crossing the railroad tracks, so that is another project is trying to create safe public access for our community,” Geiger said.
The proposed access is in the area behind the Hoot Owl Cafe, where Ponderay Neighbor Days is held each year.
As city officials are still trying to secure funding for both projects, funding options and efforts will be discussed during Monday’s meeting as well.
Monday’s City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m. at Ponderay City Hall, 288 Fourth St.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.