Orem city purchased 9.3 acres of land from the Alpine School District in December. That was the easy part. The rest has left city leaders in a bit of a pickle.
On Thursday, city council members and leaders held two consecutive Zoom meetings with residents in the Hillcrest neighborhood and throughout Orem to see just how that 9.3 acres could look as the newest park in Orem.
“We’re super excited about this project,” said Brenn Bybee, assistant city manager.
Landmark Landscaping and Method Studio architects drew up preliminary drawings for two options on the park to use as a baseline for design and function.
Both options included 14-16 pickleball courts that would make the park a destination location for regional tournaments and for more free play for residents.
However, during resident feedback there were split feelings on the number of pickleball courts, a sport that some residents considered a fad, when they would much rather have grass for kids to run and play on or to play soccer, lacrosse and other lawn games.
Others said pickleball is great, the city needs more courts and hoped they would still be part of the design.
“The concepts you’ve seen are exploratory in nature and come from feedback we’ve had,” said Lisa Benson, with Landmark.
Both options included walking paths, playgrounds for both younger and older children, green space, tables, a hammock park, table tennis and pickleball.
In the case of option A, it includes the 2004 portion of the Hillcrest Elementary School that includes a gym, professional kitchen, classroom and potentially the large media center.
Keeping that portion of the school would allow for indoor sports and a variety of options for other uses from wedding receptions, to community meetings, club meetings or family reunions.
City leaders and council members were caught off guard during the meeting when Mayor Richard Brunst announced that he had designed a third option for the park and presented a representation of it during the discussion. The mayor suggested the name of the park be Hillcrest Heritage Park, representing the heritage of Orem.
In an email sent Friday morning, Brunst noted that he, in hindsight, should have shared the design or notified the meeting leaders in advance and apologized.
“Some on the council felt blindsided as I had not consulted with them prior to the meeting on my design,” Brunst said. “My intent was to give my own public input into the discussion of the future design of the park.”
The mayor’s design includes a splash pad, duck pond, open ground for a baseball diamond, soccer and lacrosse. It featured a futsal court and a basketball court, pickleball and tennis.
It also included separated playgrounds for toddlers and older children. He also showed fruit trees, including peach, apple and cherry trees.
Option A and B would cost between $9 million and $10 million. The mayor’s option was not priced out.
Residents appeared to like much of what they saw, even in the mayor’s design, but were not impressed with things like the suggested hammock park.
“We already have homeless using the park,” one resident said, noting that a hammock park would just invite more homeless to set up residence there.
In the end, it was for the most part the number of pickleball courts and the hammock park that neighbors didn’t relish.