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Highland Lake park cost rises to $2.5 million

FLAT ROCK — The projected cost to buy the land and develop a proposed Highland Lake Park rose to $2.5 million as an advisory panel began to fix rough cost estimates on its recommended improvements.

The committee is assuming a land cost of about $1 million for the 67-acre Highland Lake Golf Course, which is on the market for $1.3 million but was offered for $1.1 million when the county Board of Commissioners planned to buy it in 2011.
The Village Council created the Highland Lake Park Exploratory Committee in October to study whether the village residents wanted a park, what residents would want in a park and how much it would cost.
"I think everybody knows this would be expensive to do it right and to do it well," Ginger Brown, the chair of the advisory committee, said after last week's meeting. "But that's why the committee has planned to do the park not at once but in phases. That's what we want to be able to tell the council. Here's a picture of what the park can be. You can color in the picture in the way you want when you want. Even if the Village had unlimited wealth and could do it all right now I would recommend they not do it."
The higher cost items among the first-phase list of improvements include a new entrance road, which committee members say is imperative, restrooms, a walking loop and a playground. The committee has recommended that the village develop the park for passive use like walking, a playground and open space. It won't have ball fields, a dog park or lights for nighttime use.
Last week committee members reported that they had received cost estimates for grounds upkeep and maintenance, including mowing at $58,000, weed eating, $8,400; tree removal, $2,800; mulch, $9,600; and restroom cleaning at $30,000 a year.
Board members Sally Boyd and John Dockendorf researched playgrounds for the park.
"We thought we would ask for $200,000 for a playground," Dockendorf said. "Like everything else, that would be a high number."
The subcommittee talked with a park developer who had put in "an adventure playground with a whole education curriculum," said Dockendorf, the founder and owner of a company that leads kids 12-18 on adventure treks. "Kids play on it longer, basically matching your playground with digital age.... It takes a different kind of playground in 2012, looking at 2014, than you could slap in in 1980. Two-hundred thousand seems to be the amount that would do the site work, put in some berm, and then put in a playground that looks great for Flat Rock."
Committee members said the rising cost of proposed park improvement might cause sticker shock for the Village Council.
"We're at $2½ million (counting land acquisition)," Dockendorf said. "We all know this is Flat Rock and it has to be nice. Do we want to have a dropkick option? We could have a huddle-up plan B, here's your bargain basement plan. I'd rather drop the playground and have a park. Here's what it's going to cost, we want something very nice."
Delaying the work sketched out on a map, he added, "can be our dropkick."
Landscape architect Ed Lastein, also a committee member, said the council could wait to develop the golf course land.
"In it's simplest form, they can buy it and hold it and let it be," Lastein said. He added that it might be best not to recommend improvements too far out in time, given changing tastes and demographic shifts. "Some of the most successful things I've ever done have evolved organically over time," he said.
Brown said developing the park slowly has other advantages, too.
"I would rather see something nice that's ongoing," she said. "It also allows us, the village, to learn how to run a park."
The next step for the exploratory committee was a presentation at the golf course clubhouse on Wednesday, Jan. 16, to the homeowners associations of Highland Lake Village, Highland Golf Villas, Staton Woods, Teneriff, Tranquility, Dunroy, Claremont, Stonebridge, Woodhaven and Crooked Creek, Historic Flat Rock Inc. and the Flat Rock merchants association. The committee hopes to win the endorsement of the project from the organizations as part of its state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant application. It is applying for a grant of close to $500,000 to offset a projected land purchase price of more than $1 million.