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Westminster looks to public for Wakefield Valley ideas

The city of Westminster is seeking the public’s input on what to do with Wakefield Valley Park.

A public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday night to hear Westminster citizens’ ideas on further developing the former golf course. One meeting starts at 6 p.m. and the other at 7:15 p.m., with more meetings to follow. The meeting was initially scheduled for in-person and online, however, the city’s recreation and parks department announced on Tuesday the in-person event was canceled due to the expected snow. The public can register for the Zoom webinar, watch the event live on Facebook, YouTube or on channel 23. It will later be posted on the city’s website.

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Abby Gruber, director of the city’s Recreation and Parks Department, said the 187-acre land comes with opportunity and a responsibility to create a space that will serve the greatest good.

“Acquiring valuable public input will allow the city to set in motion and fully recognize the potential of the former Wakefield Valley Golf Course as a park and recreation site,” she said in an email.

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Heather Mullendore, assistant director of Recreation and Parks, said the city hired a consulting firm to develop a master plan for the park. During Wednesday’s meeting, the city will seek the community’s input on what they would like to see the park have.

“Say you want to have a family picnic, but there’s no pavilion out there,” she said as an example.

During the second meeting, she said, the department will show the public what the plan will look like.

Gruber said the park was acquired by Westminster in February 2016 and the city has allowed public use of it. People go there to walk, run, bike, view wildlife fish and for quiet reflection, she said.

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“The Wakefield Valley Park public input and master planning process is just beginning,” Gruber said. “There is no defined timeline at this preliminary stage.”

The park has been part of the city’s adopted strategic plan that identifies priority projects to work on through 2018 to 2021. The master plan of the park will provide a foundation for future city grant applications to finance park improvements. The mayor and common council authorized a contract with the Pennoni Associates, Inc. help with the master plan’s development.

The project will be funded with grant money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, according to the city’s December newsletter. The newsletter also states the Durbin House that’s located at the park will receive an historic structure assessment. It was built in 1767 and serves as the original clubhouse for the golf course.

Four years ago, the Westminster Mayor and Common Council heard a proposal for the site that included several sports fields, indoor athletic space, educational space and gardens. The plan received extensive pushback from the public and ultimately went nowhere.

The site was a golf course for 35 years. The golf course closed in 2013 and was purchased the next year by a developer who donated it to Westminster. The city has since overseen the site, which is used as a park that includes several miles of trails and about a dozen ponds.

The Wakefield Valley Task Force was created to help formulate a plan for the site. The group heard five proposals for the property, cut the list to three and then asked those three developers to work together on a single proposal. That proposal never gained traction.

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