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Council sees plans for 120-acre park near Pitman, Kisker Roads

The proposed design of what could be St. Charles County’s newest park closely reflects public input that favors trails, lakes and a more natural setting rather than lighted athletic fields or other highly developed amenities.

On Oct. 24, the County Council took a look at detailed plans for developing a majority of the 120-acre property bordered by Pitman Hill and Kisker Roads that the county bought for $6 million in 2014.

The plan calls for the county to spend about $9 million to intensively develop about 90 acres of what was known as the Sammelmann Farm and homestead and park development work could be completed by late 2017.

The property is on undeveloped land in an area with extensive residential development and fewer parks than other parts of the county.

Bettie Yahn-Kramer, the county’s director of parks and recreation, told council members that the park design is largely based on a 2014 survey of county residents that asked them how the park should be developed.

Residents suggested the park remain as natural as possible with hiking and biking trails ranked the highest for development followed by playgrounds, wetlands and natural conservation areas and fishing ponds. In all, 3,837 residents responded to the survey.

Yahn-Kramer said the property presents design challenges because of its rolling terrain, floodways and underground utility conduits. “But again, the whole idea was to stay within the $9 million that is budgeted for this project,” she said.

Jay Wohlschlaeger, a partner with SWT Design of St. Louis, the lead design firm hired by the county, said citizen input and stakeholders set the direction for a master plan developed by county staff for the property.

His firm was brought in to “take that vision, take that input that was received and really create a park that provides that county park experience in a much more suburban setting than your typical St. Charles County park.”

Wohlschlaeger said amenities suggested in the plan include a 1.6-mile perimeter trail along with a series of internal trails that link up to other amenities. “Trails were the number one priority from the [citizen] input,” Wohlschlaeger said. Earth berms and landscaping would buffer the trails from nearby residences.

The park would also feature two lakes comprising about four acres of water. Six acres in the northern part of the park would remain open fields to allow soccer or football practice or room for flying kites.

Also planned are several picnic shelters, including a main shelter for about 100 people, restrooms and a three-acre dog park divided for large and small dogs.

Another major feature is a destination playground centered near an old grain silo – the one element retained from the farm. “The idea is to create an inclusive play experience,” Wohlschlaeger said. The playground is designed for all children.

The development time frame includes advertising for construction bids on Nov. 3, with bids opening on Dec. 8 and a recommendation for a contractor to send to the council for its Jan. 9, 2017 meeting. Construction could begin in February with completion by next November or December, Wohlschlaeger said.

The park was purchased with money from the county’s Park Fund, a voter-approved local use tax dedicated to park funding. The council makes final decisions on hiring contractors and the plan.

Councilmembers had few questions about the plan and did not raise objections although Mike Klinghammer [District 6] asked Wohlschlaeger to send his presentation to individual council members.

Yahn-Kramer said the remaining 30 acres that are not part of the initial design could be used for a temporary disc golf course. She said the parks department wanted to concentrate on developing the major portion of the property.

Councilmember Joe Cronin [District 1] was also told that the constructional integrity of the silo, which could be 100 years old, remains good. Yahn-Kramer told Councilmember Joe Brazil [District 2] that the parks department would also have a five-year plan on county park available for council review.

Councilmember John White [District 7] didn’t have any comments but began applause. “We hope everyone will come out and play,” Yahn-Kramer said “Nice looking park,” Cronin added.

The county has 12 parks, the latest being The Historic Daniel Boone Home at Lindenwood Park near Defiance, acquired earlier this year. The 80-acre College Meadows Park opened in 2014 and is adjacent to the St. Charles Community College campus in Cottleville.

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