Plans are underway to create a downtown park centered on the former Wayne Gilley town hall site, members of the Lawton Enhancement Trust Authority said on Wednesday.
Darran Scott, Landscape Architect at Kimley-Horn, discussed highlights of a plan that will turn long-standing concept designs into actual designs for the space stretching between Southwest 4th and Southwest 5th Streets, south of West Gore Boulevard. Formerly the site of Lawton Town Hall, the largely empty lot has started to take on new life in recent months with the construction of an indoor / outdoor Lawton Farmers market and plans to erect the Celebrating Suffrage monument. near the Bill Crawford / Candi Earley statue in Shepler Park, which is at the north end of the grounds.
The area also continues to be used by several entities, including as a host site for the Arts for All festival in May and providing frameworks for the activities of those who have used the Lawton YMCA immediately to the west.
Scott referred to these multiple uses and entities when he suggested a steering committee to help him turn the designs he created in 2017 into building plans that can expand new uses that have already been put in place. with the building of the farmers market.
“A piece of the puzzle is in place,” Scott said, referring to concept designs that envision a park anchored by the farmer’s market building and a small amphitheater.
In 2017, community entities helped select a conceptual design for a downtown park that would include both structures, as well as an open space, a designated food court with slots and electrical hookups, and the restoration of the fountain in Ned Shepler Park. Vegetation would also be restored to the site, providing additional shade for picnic areas and other activities. The site will also feature sidewalks and a link to the network of cycle paths being developed through Lawton, including links to Elmer Thomas Park.
Scott said he wanted city leaders to “think big,” in terms of integrating the entities around Ned Shepler Park into the park concept. The available space could increase. City of Lawton officials have already announced plans to demolish the former Lawton Police Department immediately east of the Farmers Market, while there are also plans to abandon the Town Hall annex to the south as soon as the remaining offices in this building can be moved to Lawton City. Room.
This greater use is why Scott wants a steering committee to discuss the plans with him, made up of entities that already use the park space: Arts for All, YMCA, Lawton Enhancement Trust Authority, Lawton Farmers Market Institute. and Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce. The Lawton Public Library also asked about developing a stories walk in the park, as it has already done in Elmer Thomas Park.
Scott said the contribution of those who already use the park is important.
“This is not a single-use space,” he said, of the possibilities that range from visitors to the farmers market for produce and for classes, exercise classes already held. by the YMCA and the entertainment associated with the amphitheater. “There are a lot of entities that could bond together.”
“We want the park to be functional,” Deputy City Manager Richard Rogalski said of the space that will be expanded with new features designed to bring residents into the city center.
Scott and Rogalski said developing design plans will allow city officials to move forward with plans to fund upgrades and have them built.
Rogalski said that while design plans are forthcoming, the city is planning immediate work.
“The concrete is in pretty bad shape,” he said of sidewalks and stairs at the north end of the park, adding that deteriorating concrete segments needed to be repaired or replaced.
City officials expect use of the park to increase in the coming months, when the farmers’ market is over. Women that VOTE Arts Corporation plans to set up its Celebrating Suffrage monument over the next two years; the site is already marked by lamps and benches which will be part of the monument.
The area south of Ned Shepler Park (between Southwest A and Southwest B avenues) has been vacant since the fall of 2015, when the old Wayne Gilley Town Hall was demolished. The building had been Emerson Elementary School from its construction in 1941 until 1961, when Lawton Public Schools ceded ownership to the Town of Lawton for its town hall. The building was named after longtime mayor Wayne Gilley.
Today, the only full-time use on the track is the LATS downtown transfer hub along Southwest B Avenue. City officials are already considering plans to move this transfer center to a new site.