Big-picture plan for Capaha Park will alter landscape

Friday, November 9, 2012
Summer Hale and her brother, Kaden Hale, feed the waterfowl Thursday at Capaha Park in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Although Cape Girardeau residents may not see a fully improved Capaha Park for eight to 10 years, some new amenities are in the works for the city's oldest and most beloved park.

The newest version of a master plan for improvements in Capaha Park was presented to the city council earlier this week after a months-long process of information gathering and planning by parks and recreation staff and a St. Louis-based firm, SWT Design, Inc.

Julia Thompson, the city's parks and recreation director, said a first phase of improvements could begin as early as next spring or summer. The park's lagoon, baseball field, amphitheater and playgrounds are all on the list for upgrades, along with a "destination playground" at the site of the former pool.

The city's plan, with goals for improving Capaha Park's nearly 40 acres, combines two concepts presented to the public during meetings in August.

Carrie Coyne, a representative of SWT Design, called the amenities listed in the current plan are "big ideas not set in stone."

"It's a big-picture plan, but it's really going to give the city and Julia a road map for developing these things," she said.

The city and designers brought together ideas that drew the most positive feedback from the public and parks and recreation staff to create the latest concept.

The lagoon

Capaha Park's lagoon has had an algae problem for several years because of an out-of-date system for stormwater runoff deposits in and around the lagoon. Other factors contribute to the problem, which often can become unsightly in summer.

The conceptual plan calls for adding buffers to improve water quality and reduce the population of geese, which also contributes pollution to the water. The pond would be dredged and aerated with a reshaping and enlargement. An island would be enlarged and a gazebo added. A bridge would span the water, and an overlook pavilion and a fishing pier would be added.

Cape Girardeau resident Autumn Watton was walking the path that currently encircles the pond Thursday afternoon. She already comes to the park for its scenery. She said she liked the idea of enhanced amenities, especially being able to visit the center of the pond.

"A gazebo would have me addicted to this place," she said.

Parks staff members also have been discussing adding paddleboat rentals, which they believe could provide revenue for improvements along the way to the completion of the master plan.

Capaha Field and playgrounds

Another revenue generator could be at the baseball field, according to Coyne. The plan calls for adding a home-run deck, which could be rented for events.

A central pavilion and plaza behind home plate and the grandstand would tie the field to other park features, such as an event lawn on the lagoon's east side and the destination playground.

The playground would contain modern equipment for several age groups and a splash pad similar to one at Cape Splash. A toddler playground near an existing shelter in the park's southeast corner near Broadway would be moved closer to the shelter. One located on Cherry Hill Circle in the park's northwest corner would be relocated near its existing location as parking and trails are added to the area.

Parking, traffic and pedestrian flow

Coyne said the biggest change to the park's overall structure will be on the east side and will affect traffic flow as a vehicle entrance on West End Boulevard would be eliminated.

"We're hoping that cuts down on cross circulation through the park," she said. "Normally you see a lot of people driving through there, almost like a cut-through to get over to Perry [Avenue], so we are trying to eliminate that and bring that green space back into the park."

Another big change, she said, is reconfiguring parking. The plan adds spaces to the park, but the reconfiguration actually makes parking space less obvious in the overall scheme, she said. "It's just more organized than it was before," she said.

Loop trails and landscaping throughout would connect amenities. Kallie Wiese, a Southeast Missouri State University student using sidewalks to exercise in the park Thursday said she thought the park could use more recreation trails. Plans call for eight-foot-wide trails. Another amenity she would like, which is included in the plans, is a defined seating area at the bandshell.

"I would definitely enjoy going to a show there," she said.

Keeping trees, the train and disc golf

Residents and other stakeholders at the August meeting worried some of the park's large trees would be removed, but Thompson said there are no plans to do so.

"We will not cut down the large trees," Thompson said. Trees in the park, for the most part -- some small ones could be relocated -- will be left alone, she said. The park is undergoing a tree survey with funds from a Missouri Department of Conservation grant designed to improve the city's tree resources.

Capaha's "Dinky," a train engine which is a favorite play fixture for children, also will stay, Coyne said. A disc-golf course also will be kept, although possibly rerouted a bit, she said.

Revenue from a parks and stormwater improvements tax passed by voters in 2008 would fund the improvements in phases that could be completed within 10 years, Thompson said.

The city also is looking at the possibility of gathering funding though grants and sponsorships, and would use its employees for projects within the scope of their abilities to save money. Parks staff members are gathering estimated costs for projects now, which they will present to the city council for approval as it moves through the remainder of planning. Around $350,000 has been designated for work to begin on the initial phase of improvements.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

Capaha Park, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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