The city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board plans to ask Lincoln residents about future renovations to the teachers fountain, more formally known as the Bicentennial Cascade Fountain.
At the site of the fountain near 27th Street and Capitol Parkway, Parks and Recreation Director Lynn Johnson on Thursday told the board that the 40-year old, mineral-stained concrete structure and ductile iron pipe that supplies the fountain’s water needs to be refurbished. The pipe is currently corroded and will eventually fail entirely, Johnson said.
“We’re pretty concerned that, at some point, we may not be able to turn (the fountain) on at all,” he said.
Called the teachers fountain because it was funded in part by retired teachers, the water feature went dry for several weeks in 2017 due to a number of issues.
The fountain, originally white architectural concrete, is now brown with rust resulting from the pipes.
Johnson stressed the need to construct a separate building for the fountain’s mechanical and electrical systems, which are also in need of repair. Currently they are housed in a small concrete room underground. The room frequently floods during storms, and that water damages the electrical system.
“We really would like to raise both mechanical and electrical systems above ground,” Johnson said.
The project will be partially funded by the $1 million parks challenge grant the Lincoln City Council approved in its current budget. The rest will come from private donations, according to Johnson.
Advisory board members were given information detailing five concepts for changes to the Cascade Fountain, one as simple as refurbishing the fountain and two that scrap the fountain entirely.
Concept 1: Repair existing fountain and basin
The goal of this concept would be to keep the original vision for the site intact. After refurbishing the fountain and its basin, redefining planting areas and repairing the sidewalks around the basin, likely the only difference visitors would recognize is a nearby small building that would house the fountain’s mechanical and electrical systems.
Cost estimate: $800,000.
Concept 2: Reduce basin, add planters and plaza area
This concept would reduce the size of the existing fountain basin and replace the sidewalks with a plaza area including raised planters and possibly picnic tables. The mechanical building would also be built with the possibility of added space for those using the area and adjacent trails. The remaining basin and the fountain would still be refurbished.
Cost estimate: $1.2 million.
Concept 3: Reduce basin, add splash pad
This concept builds upon the idea of reducing the fountain’s basin. Along with terraced seating, the main attraction to the area would be a small splash pad area for people to play in and a covered shelter. Johnson said the idea is to encourage children who currently wade and play in the basin to use the splash pad instead. A mechanical building would also be built.
Estimated cost: $1.5 million.
Concept 4: Large splash pad area
Under this concept, the Cascade Fountain and its basin would be replaced entirely by a large splash pad with a variety of seating options, including a terraced area. The idea is to create a larger centralized space that allows for more activities and encourages families visiting the adjacent Lincoln Children’s Zoo to stop by. The splash pad would still require construction of a mechanical building.
Estimated cost: $1.5 million.
Concept 5: Conservatory garden hub
This concept replaces the fountain entirely with a community conservatory. It envisions a volunteer-run facility with seasonal plant displays and gardening-related classes and programs. Outside the conservatory would be an outdoor garden display that acts as a centralized hub tying together the Rotary Strolling Garden, Hamann Rose Garden and the Sunken Gardens.
Estimated cost: To be determined.
Board chair Brad Brandt voiced support for reducing the basin with the goal of creating more usable space. People currently aren't supposed to wade in the fountain’s water, but many people still do, so the department has to chlorinate the water by hand, according to Johnson.
“Getting rid of a majority of the pool makes sense to me,” Brandt said. “Right now it seems like unusable space and unnecessary space.”
The advisory board and the Lincoln Parks Foundation are collaborating with the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center to develop and distribute the public survey.
The online survey will gauge the public's interest in and use of the fountain and which improvements to the Cascade Fountain people wish to prioritize. It will also provide a chance for people to voice their own suggestions and opinions.
“It’s asking what they’re looking for with an open-ended question,” said Megan Allen, research coordinator at the public policy center. “If they have any other ideas or want to prioritize something, then they can put that.”
The survey will launch in late June and will be up for one month. After that, the results will be analyzed and shared in a summary report in August.
Advisory board member Bob Ripley advised his colleagues to wait until the survey results come back before making any major decisions regarding the renovations.
“People may be so in love with this fountain, you might really anger some people if you get rid of it,” he said. “I’d rely heavily on the survey and the public. This is this their park.”
Reach the writer at 402-473-7214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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