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Park to see $670,000 expansion

Posted 3/22/16 (Tue)

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

Watford City’s Nature Park, which is located east of the Watford City Elementary School, will be undergoing a major $670,000 renovation this summer that will include a pond fountain in the existing fishing pond, an accessible fishing area, three 20x20 park shelters, a concession and restroom building, a 10-foot walking path, pedestrian lighting with electrical outlets, additional electrical hookups for RVs and events, and turf/lawn space for events.
The expansion of the park, which will be named the Kent Pelton Nature Park, was approved by the Watford City Park Board on March 9.
“We voted to move forward and the park will be built in two phases,” stated Robin Arndt, Watford City Park District supervisor. “Option two of Phase I is finally going to be put out to bid. We are meeting with the architect to finalize some things and then we’ll put out the bid. Hopefully, we get on the ball for bids!”
Arndt says that Phase I will include everything but a Pavilion, which will be Phase II of the project. The Park Board is hopeful that construction on Phase I of the nature park will start this summer and be completed before winter.
As part of Phase I, both the county and the city have committed to helping with the project. The McKenzie County Commissioners have agreed to help with the fill and topsoil, as well as the south gravel parking lot. And the City of Watford City is going to lay the asphalt for the north parking lot and bring water and sewer to the concession and restroom building. Both entities made commitments to the Kent Pelton Nature Park that will benefit the community for years to come.
“The Park Board originally asked for $600,000 from the Roughrider Fund Committee, but because funding has been cut, we scaled back,” said Arndt. “We scaled back to $250,000 and it’s still an open-end request with the Roughrider Fund Committee right now. They just don’t have the funding right now. Maybe in the future.”
The Kent Pelton Nature Park, according to Arndt, will serve a critical demand for an adequately-sized and programmed outdoor space that is safe and enjoyable for community use throughout the year.
The park design, says Arndt, offers increased recreational opportunities to the current fishing pond with the addition of a pre-engineered steel pavilion and deck overlooking the pond in the southeast corner.
The open lawn to the south of the pavilion serves many purposes in the park from a seating area for performances to an informal gathering space on a warm summer day. It can also be programmed for park events with space for vendors to set up temporary shelters along the perimeter. The lawn will be framed with a lighted walking path to extend the hours of safe use in the park. The pedestrian lighting will also double as connection locations for vendors during park events.
The purpose of the three smaller park shelters, says Arndt, will be to provide additional gathering spaces for smaller family events. The land to the east is park-owned property that will be left relatively undisturbed as a natural area for open space preservation, passive mowed trail use, and a disc golf course.
“The entire area to the east of the walking path, which is close to 15 acres, we want to keep as much of that as natural as we can,” stated Arndt. “Kent loved that part of the park. We will also have trees for sponsorship that people can purchase for $500 each, in honor of Kent. The tree plantings will be an arboretum design because Kent preferred to teach his students with real-life examples. There will be a lot of varieties of trees as a learning opportunity for everyone. We will try to have roughly 40 trees.”
When an individual or business sponsors a tree, there will be a boulder with a plaque in front of the tree once it is planted. The plaques will state the tree’s common name, scientific name, and who sponsored the tree. Arndt says the Park Board wanted to copy Kent Pelton’s style. According to Arndt, Pelton had done this at the Sunshine Park and they wanted to carry on his idea with the new nature park.
And in keeping with the nature theme that meant so much to Pelton, the Park Board is having about six bird houses built for the park that will also be available for sponsorship, and Arndt is planning on asking the Watford City High School Ag Department to build a couple bat houses. The Park District will also build wood-style picnic tables, to go with the more natural look the nature park will exude.  
The Kent Pelton Nature Park also features a grass walking path that winds along the creek and will tie back into the paved walking path at the south end of the park once Phase I of the project is complete. Additionally, there are four rustic benches that have been placed along that path for the enjoyment of the walkers.
Another feature of the Kent Pelton Nature Park that is not part of the Park District’s project will include a separate concrete walking path that will connect to the path that leads to Bolken Park. That walking path was grant-funded and construction on it will begin in mid-April and be done by the end of June. It is a city project that began before the Kent Pelton Nature Park plans were laid out.
To help fund the Kent Pelton Nature Park, as they are currently about $140,000 short in the first phase, the Young Professionals of Watford City are hosting the Prairie Rose Gala on April 23, to raise funds for the nature park’s two-phase project.
“If anyone wants to sponsor an item in the park, please let the Young Professionals of Watford City know or let the Park District know,” stated Arndt. “I’m so excited we are able to start moving forward on the first phase of this project. It’s going to be a beautiful park!”