City of Lander to submit grant application for future park

A public hearing was held on December 8th during the Lander City Council meeting to discuss whether or not to submit an application for a Land Water Conservation Fund Grant to purchase land for the proposed Popo Agie Park.

Following the public hearing and discussion amongst the Councilmembers, Resolution 1196 – Land Water Conservation Fund Park Lands Acquisition passed. The City will submit an application for those grant funds by the deadline of December 31st. Mayor Monte Richardson and Councilmember Dan Hahn were the only two “nay” votes.

The grant application will request the maximum amount which is $275,000. If the funds are awarded, it will go toward purchasing 36.4 acres of undeveloped land located at 200 Poor Farm Road. This land would eventually be turned into the Popo Agie Park to increase outdoor recreation in Lander.

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Phase I of the park which includes the cost of land, and parking/access is an estimated $580,000. If the entire grant request amount was awarded, that leaves $305,000 to the City of Lander.

The potential breakdown of where those funds could come from was shared during the meeting and are as follows: up to $150K from the general fund, $25K parks enhancement fund, $25K park gift catalog fund, $50K in-kind equipment and labor (street and parking access), $55K or more in fundraising and matching grants (the more the funds raised, the less comes out of the general fund).

Since this is a federal grant, it could take 6-9 months to know whether or not the funds will be awarded. There is no current monetary obligation from the City of Lander, according to last night’s meeting. Even if the grant is awarded, the City can still decide to not move forward with the land purchase if financials do not seem feasible. The overall timeline for the park would take several years to complete.

Several Lander residents shared their thoughts during the public hearing on both sides of the proposal.

This park being an asset to the community was a strong consensus from folks in favor of submitting the grant application. Some cited it is a good investment since the City of Lander owns very little land. Also, residents would have a voice in the development if it was purchased by the City, whereas very little, if any, say if purchased by a private party. Some shared this is not for us but for future generations who we need to think about.

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A few folks against submitting the application shared the City’s current parks are not taken care of, and those should be maintained first. Others cited poor City infrastructure and the focus should be on items like roads, water, sewer, and ADA compliance. Some brought up the impact on those who live in the area and how they will manage living next to this area. The area is also a floodplain which brought several concerns for the future and overall cost of the park.

The Councilmembers also shared their thoughts on both sides of the proposal.

Cade Maestas is not in favor of using any general fund money toward the park. Dan Hahn did not agree with the current timing and how uncertain financials are right now. Recognizing the budget concerns, Missy White shared this is a great opportunity for community philanthropy. John Larsen thinks this is a great thing for future generations. Sharing that the City infrastructure issues are being addressed, Chris Hulme explained this will be a great opportunity for economic development. Michael Kusiek noted green spaces are something folks look for when moving.

The majority decided to move forward with applying for the grant and providing the opportunity for the community to fundraise like what was done for the Skate Park and the City Park playground since there is no current financial obligation.

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