The City of Vernon is inviting bidders to propose a design for a much-discussed downtown park next to the proposed site for a new cultural centre.
According to a public tender published Friday, Jan. 15, the city is looking to procure a landscape architect team to design and provide consulting services for the proposed park in the City Centre neighbourhood on the same block as the Visitor Centre.
“The city’s motto of ‘Activate Life’ is influenced by the outdoor lifestyle and exceptional recreational opportunities on the city’s doorstep throughout the four distinctive seasons of our climate, including moderate snowy winters and hot, dry summers,” the tender package reads.
City council budgeted for the urban park last year. The park would cover an entire city block of about 2.5 acres.
“This new park will become an important community space and gathering hub within the City Centre. The site is located beside the Polson Greenway, a multi-use trail which ultimately connects to the North Okanagan Rail Trail,” reads the tender package.
The park is located on “a site of significant community importance,” according to the tender. “It is a short walking distance from the centre of the City’s downtown core, near the site of a future cultural centre, one block from City Hall, and within a vibrant and unique neighbourhood in one of the oldest areas of Vernon.”
The bidding opportunity closes on Feb. 5. The rest of the intended timeline, as laid out in the tender notice, is to have the consulting contract awarded by the end of February, start-up and design concepts completed by the end of March, design development between April and July and to start construction by September 2021.
The project completion date is planned for November 2021.
The construction budget is listed at approximately $1.25 million, while the budget for the park design and consulting is $75,000 to $125,000.
City staff will review and select their preferred concept after a forthcoming council meeting, where they will also have the chance to make feedback or amendments.
The public tender takes into account public feedback that was collected in July 2020. More than 1,000 residents responded to a survey which included the park’s preliminary layout concepts and invited residents to highlight their favourite features.
More than 900 of the respondents live in Vernon, and 345 indicated they live within a 10-minute walk of the proposed park.
The responses indicated strong support for greenery, according to the tender package; tree shade, water features, playgrounds, family activity areas and naturalized open space were all highly supported.
Survey participants were also asked to suggest a possible name for the park, with popular word answers including “city,” “civic” and “central.”
Many respondents indicated a preference for a memorial or historical name such as Larry Kwong, who grew up and played organized hockey in Vernon and became the first non-Caucasian to play in the National Hockey League in 1948. There was also a desire for input from local Indigenous leaders.
“Administration will reach out to Okanagan Indian Band for input and will bring forward a list of possible park names to council in accordance with the City’s Park Naming Policy,” the tender package reads.
A few more loose ends will need to be tied up before the project can proceed. A privately owned neighbouring property will need to be acquired — the owner, it is noted, has been contacted. A location for a proposed 16-stall parking lot will also need to be finalized, as well as curb, boulevard and road design along 31st Street and 37th Avenue.
Much of the discussion around the proposed park has been tethered to a parallel proposal for the new Greater Vernon Cultural Centre, which is to be located in the same area, and which council agreed on a 20 per cent size-reduction last August to cut down on costs.
According to the tender, the final park design must include at a minimum:
- A least one structure for shelter from weather
- Areas of shade
- Areas for children
- Multi-generational design elements
- Hardscape pathways
- Naturalized landscape areas for informal recreational activity
- Outdoor seating
- Limited on-site parking