Boise Parks and Rec Asks Bench Neighborhood to Design a Park 

click to enlarge Those who participated in the public meeting quickly realized three acres will make a very small park. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Those who participated in the public meeting quickly realized three acres will make a very small park.
The empty lot on the corner of Franklin Road and Orchard Street has a historic past. Back in the late 1800s, the Franklin Elementary School (formerly known as the Scott School) was built as a wooden room. It was eventually rebuilt in stone in 1905 and expanded in 1936. The school closed for good in 2008 and in 2009, the historic building was torn down. Since then, the lot across the street from Fred Meyer has grown only weeds and grass.

The city purchased three acres of the property—the rest was purchased by Maverik in 2014 to build a new gas station. While construction hasn't begun yet, Boise Parks and Recreation has set its sights on a new park for the central bench neighborhood. 

On the evening of Aug. 27, Parks and Rec held a meeting at the Hillcrest Library to ask the neighbors of the Franklin site one question: what kind of park do you want?

"We've got a blank slate," said Toby Norton, the parks resource planning manager. "We are reaching out to the community and getting their input on what they would like to see at this site. The neighborhood would be able to give input to make it unique to their community."
click to enlarge The neighbors of the new park are not welcoming the new Maverik gas station on the corner of Orchard and Franklin. - MAVERIK
  • Maverik
  • The neighbors of the new park are not welcoming the new Maverik gas station on the corner of Orchard and Franklin.
Norton calls the process "place making," with a special emphasis on the neighbors in a half-mile radius of the lot. The central bench has a lot of diversity, according to Norton. There are young families with children and refugees living beside millennials and older folks who have lived in the same houses for decades.

About 20 people showed up to the presentation. Each was handed an aerial photo of the lot and a Sharpie. Suggestions for the area included a playground, a year-round pool, a splash pad, a skatepark, a community center, walking trails, a community garden, water features, an exercise station, volleyball or tennis courts, a farmers market, picnic shelters or a dog park. 

As folks started drawing out their ideas, they quickly came to the same realization: three acres is small.

"Three acres is nothing," said Fran Ciarlo, a retired homeowner who has lived in the area for three years.

She drew rectangles on the photo for bocci ball and horseshoe lanes, then marked a place for the playground, then a box for a bike rack, then a circle for a gazebo and a few X's for barbecues. Suddenly, her map was crowded.

She said she's not excited to share the lot with a gas station, which she worries will be a danger to children playing nearby.

"We need one of those like we need a fat hole in the head," she said.

Sitting beside her, Hongmey Zhen carefully designed a courtyard on her photo, including a water fountain and a place for yoga classes. The 28-year-old bought a house in the neighborhood two years ago and likes the area for its diversity and easy access. 

click to enlarge Nearly 20 people showed up to give their ideas to a new park on the corner of Franklin and Orchard. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Nearly 20 people showed up to give their ideas to a new park on the corner of Franklin and Orchard.
"It's important that the neighborhood develops excellently," she said. "I feel like the gas station happened under my nose, so I want to make sure the park will be great."

She said while the rest of Boise has lots of parks, she feels like the bench is a park desert. 

Parks and Rec collected comments from the meeting and will now create some conceptual designs, which will be presented to the public again. After approval from the Parks and Recreation Commission, construction can move forward on the new park. 

"What our outcome will be, we're not exactly sure," Norton said. "It'll be fun to see what all is generated out of this."
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