By Ron VandenBoom
Its not yet a sure thing and its still in infancy, but work on a project that will create a park on the south side of First Street between Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue continues to move forward.
That was the word given the North Central Montana Pachyderm Club Friday by Ron Brenna, a Havre Area Chamber of Commerce board member and one of an eight-member committee that is spearheading the project.
This is not a for sure yet, Brenna told the Pachyderms emphasizing that many issues have yet to be addressed by the committee.
Brenna said only a verbal agreement currently exists between the chamber and Norwest Bank concerning the lease of the lots that will compose the western side of the park and negotiations to obtain one lot between the Bear Paw Credit Union property and that owned by Norwest Bank continue. Bear Paw Credit Union is completely on board for the project, Brenna said.
He also listed funding, maintenance, and development of the parks layout as issues still to be finalized.
Brenna explained that the park project is only a small part of what the chamber hopes to do to make itself more visible to the general public and beautify First Street, from one end to the other.
The downtown park is the first step in that process.
What we want to do is make a green belt within the city that is on the most visible portion of our town, Brenna said, referring to the park. We want to be able to plant trees, we want to be able to have sidewalks, we want grass, and generally plant some information about Havre in there.
Brenna suggested the parks purpose was not strictly to attract tourists or generate income, but to give something back to the community.
Were doing this thing to give back to the town, he said.
Several issues concerning the park have been raised Brenna said indicating that the reason he is now speaking before groups about the project is to answer any questions and to confront the negative feedback.
One negative issue already expressed by some downtown merchants is the possible loss of parking spaces due to the park.
Brenna told the crowd that current rough designs for the park would leave the southern most third for parking and additional parking would exist on the eastern side of the park. He estimated that 60 parking spaces would be created by the park.
You can go to that lot any time and there are probably 50 cars parked there, he said. The parking issue will be eliminated.
Brenna also cited a 1994 parking study that indicated Havre has 1,344 downtown parking spaces.
Thats 134 parking slots for every 1,000 residents, Brenna told the crowd. Thats nearly double the parking spots of towns of similar size in the nation.
Brenna also countered the issues of property tax losses due to the park when he said the property would remain in private hands and all taxes on the land would be paid.
Arguments that the chamber had not been forthcoming enough about the park project were countered when Brenna told the crowd, we havent been withholding information from anybody.
Too many times in this town we see projects started and hype is built up and then they fail and everybodys real disappointed, he said. We dont want that to happen with this project.
Brenna concluded by telling the Pachyderms the committee was going to need a lot of help.
It isnt going to be just this eight of us that are doing it, he said. We are going to get the plan in place and then were going to start asking for any kind of help we can get it has to be a community effort.
No completion date has been set for the project, although initially the committee hoped to turn earth by September of 2000. Brenna said they are not going to make that date unless something miraculous happens.