Fairfield’s Harbin Park could see new improvements as early as this year

Upgrades to William Harbin Park that have been talked about since 2014 could begin as early as this year, according to city officials.

With the help of $700,000 from the capital funds allocated last year in Senate Bill 310, Phase 1 of a three-phase Harbin Park renovation will include a rebuilt overlook picnic shelter, replacement of the wooden shelters, a new year-round restroom facility, improved playground area, and an expanded bike and walking trail, said Parks and Recreation Director Tiphanie Howard.

The city’s portion of the capital funds is part of more than $24 million allocated to the county for projects, and Rep. Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton, worked to secure funding for these Fairfield projects.

“Fairfield hasn’t had anything (in the capital budget) since (former Butler County lawmaker) Mike Fox, and now Harbin Park is getting its due,” she said.

Howard said engineering firm Brandstetter Carroll is finishing the architectural drawings for the projects, which would need to be approved by the city parks board and City Council.

The proposed work is Phase 1 of three phases of improvements at the city’s largest park. Though Phase 1 is slated to be completed by June 2022, some of the work is expected to be completed this year, pending approvals and the city’s capital improvement plan budget. The state allocated $550,000 to the overlook portion of the project and $150,000 to expand the walking/bike trail to encircle the park. The total project is expected to cost $1.5 million, Howard said.

“It’s a good-looking project and I think a lot of people would be appreciative of having these improvements sooner rather than later,” said Councilman Terry Senger.

Harbin Park, which is more than 200 acres of open land and wooded areas, has been an amenity within the city since the mid-1970s, first named Fairfield Municipal Park. It was eventually renamed for former Fairfield mayor William Harbin, and the park has been largely unchanged since it was developed, Howard said.

The playground in the upper section of the park was installed in the 1990s, and features have needed to be removed as they became unsafe, she said.

“There really aren’t too many functions left,” Howard said. “It’s not fun for the kids anymore.”

In 2014, residents told the city parks department they wanted to see the playground area improved, and an electronic customer satisfaction survey recently conducted confirmed improvements in those areas ― newer playgrounds, improved shelters, expanded walking/bike path, improved restrooms, and an updated disc golf course ― are still desired by the public.

In 2016, Brandstetter Carroll designed a concept plan for the Harbin renovations, and Howard said, “It addressed concepts of renovations with a focus on those five areas. The architects also designed a multi-phase project to conduct these renovations.”

All phases in 2016 were expected to cost about $4.2 million, and Howard said that price tag isn’t too much more now.

Phase 2 of the project includes constructing larger picnic shelters in the southeast corner at the picnic grove area. Howard said there’s a pond that needs to be improved. She said it is “very murky” and acts more of a detention basin for water runoff.

“The plan is to dredge it out and find a water source for it,” Howard said. A nearby creek could be used to fill that pond.

Year-round restrooms are also planned for this area.

Phase 3 would include improving the entrance and the adjacent field. Even with the speed humps installed, Howard said the traffic into the park off Hunter Road still needs to be calmed. The plan is to install a traffic circle, and since it’s not a major thoroughfare, she said there is an opportunity to install landscaping leading up to the circle “and create a grand entrance into our crown jewel of the city.”

2021 Customer Satisfaction Survey

A satisfaction survey asked patrons which park amenities they valued the most. They could answer more than one amenity, and the top six results were:

  • Walking/Bike trails: 72.3 percent
  • Restrooms: 59 percent
  • Parking: 48.6 percent
  • Playgrounds: 44.9 percent
  • Open space: 38.6 percent
  • Picnic shelters: 37.2

Source: The city of Fairfield

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