City may dig in at Wagner |

City may dig in at Wagner

Jeremy Heiman

Wagner Park, long home to such events as Ruggerfest and the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, could double as a lake on occasion under a new city plan for the open space.

Proposed improvements to the park may eventually include lowering the surface of the park a foot or two as a flood-control measure, according to a city parks planner. Also proposed is construction of permanent spectator seating at the park and a new restroom building. A drilling rig is now taking core samples from below the park’s sod to help officials determine to what extent its level can be lowered.

Parks planner Scott Chism said all improvements to the park are now in the planning stage, and plans will not be final until further information is in. “We’re trying to accommodate all the uses as best we can,” he said.

Actual construction work on the park wouldn’t start until after Ruggerfest, in late September. He said $750,000 is budgeted for the improvements to the 2.6-acre park, located north of Durant Avenue, between Mill and Monarch streets.

Chism said the primary reason for lowering the level of the park is the danger of flooding or mudslides from Aspen Mountain, generated by rapidly melting snow or heavy rains. Last year, the city’s engineering department studied those possibilities, and one of the goals set at that time was to use the town’s open spaces as catch basins to divert water and debris flows away from buildings, Chism said.

The city is considering lowering the park perhaps two feet for this purpose, if possible, Chism said. But because the park lies on the site of an old landfill, drilling is necessary to determine what’s down below.

“If there’s a lot of rock or old cars down there, then we probably don’t want to open up that can of worms,” he said.

If the surface of the park is lowered, the edges will slope in toward the playing field, instead of abruptly dropping off, Chism said.

The softball diamond in the park’s southeast corner will likely be removed, Chism said. But if it is, a portable backstop could be used to allow ball games at the park. With more ball diamonds available in other parts of town, he said, that diamond is less in demand.

The playground at Wagner Park doesn’t meet current standards for accessibility and safety, Chism added, and may be modified or retrofitted with different equipment.

A new, enlarged and improved restroom facility will replace the present building, Chism said. It will be placed so as to open up the view of the park from the Cooper Avenue pedestrian mall. A larger storage building will be added to allow room for more of the city’s mall maintenance equipment.

Bleacher seating may be added in combination with the new restroom building, Chism said. The bleachers would be permanent, integrated with the restroom building.

“Any design element has to be integral to the park and have a variety of uses,” he said.

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