A $6.7 million long-range plan to upgrade Richard Simpson Park at Lake Arlington is moving forward again now that a lawsuit against the city has been decided.
The City Council is expected to discuss on Tuesday what amenities will be included in the first phase of construction, which could start as soon as next year. The council will consider three options for the initial phase, which range from $1.6 million to nearly $4 million depending on the features included.
District 4 Councilwoman Kathryn Wilemon said the Lake Arlington park off Arkansas Lane is long overdue for improvements. Its activity room, built in the 1960s. is no longer attractive for event rentals and needs to be rebuilt on higher ground out of the flood plain, city officials have said.
“Since it is our lake, our amenity, it needs to be upgraded,” said Wilemon, who represents west Arlington. “With the upgrades and beautification, I think it will enhance the use of the park. It will be something that all the citizens of Arlington will be proud of and use. Now, with the condition it’s in, I don’t think people from across the city are drawn to go there.”
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The Parks and Recreation Department is proposing three options for the first phase of construction, which could begin in the summer or fall of 2016. The first option calls for nearly $2.8 million in initial improvements, including a lake rental building and public restrooms. The second option would postpone construction of a lake activity building and would add nearly $1.6 million in other amenities, including a public fishing peir, playgrounds, a pavilion and trails, benches and picnic stations.
The third option includes everything in the first and second options for just under $4 million.
In 2008, Arlington voters approved nearly $1 million in bonds to rebuild the activity room. Parks and Recreation Director Lemuel Randolph said gas well revenue collected from park properties would allow the city to make up the rest of the funding needed for any of the three options selected.
“We have a pretty good sense of being able to accomplish this in a reasonable amount of time,” Randolph said.
Wilemon said she doesn’t want to put off construction of an activity room. “It’s been delayed so long because of some complications. It’s been way too long in coming,” Wilemon said.
The city initially developed a master plan for Richard Simpson Park in 2012, but the project has been on hold the past two years.
The council raised concerns last March about escalating costs for a activity room and office, which were doubled from an original estimate. Then the Arlington Yacht Club, which has leased space at Richard Simpson Park since the 1960s, sued the city that month in what turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt to stay on the property.
Under the park master plan, the yacht club site is expected to become green space featuring walking trails and a rental pavilion at the water’s edge.
“That is a sweet spot in the park,” Randolph said. “Having access to that shoreline would allow the park to be opened up.”
State District Judge David Evans ruled in December that the yacht club did not renew its lease properly before it expired in March 2012, meaning that the city could ask the club to vacate the rental property.
Pat Hollabaugh, commodore of the yacht club, said Monday that the group is looking at moving to the Fort Wort side of the lake but that nothing has been finalized. The club is expected to be out of the building by month’s end.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639