Grant money will be limited for Harbin Park changes

The first question after about a 20-minute presentation earlier this month on proposed changes and improvements to Harbin Park was, "How are we going to pay for it?"

Fairfield Councilman Chad Oberson’s question got a few chuckles after hearing the master plan presentation that would set the city back a few million dollars.

“That’s the big question,” was the response from City Manager Mark Wendling.

Harbin Park has been the go-to city park for residents over the past four decades, and city leaders are intending to make significant improvements to the 230-acre park over the next decade or two.

If everything would be built out in the park in today’s dollars, it would cost around $3.6 million. But because the project will be completed in phases — over the course of anywhere from 10 and 20 years — that ultimate investment is unknown, according to city officials.

And because Harbin is a community park, as opposed to Marsh Park which is planned to be a regional park, grant funding will be limited, Wendling said.

Fairfield has contracted with consultant company Brandstetter Carroll to develop a master plan on the city's largest park, and arguably one of the city's most popular parks. The public had multiple opportunities to provide input, including two well-attended public input sessions and nearly 300 responses from the public on

According to the recent presentation to City Council, some of the things residents want to see include improved connectivity to neighborhoods, a maintaining of the integrity of the forest, more parking, improved pedestrian and bike trails, and upgrading of existing facilities, like the playground and bigger shelters.

“We start chipping at it over time,” said Mayor Steve Miller. “It’s like Village Green. Village Green took 10 years to develop and look at it now.”

Phases of the master plan, once it is approved by City Council, will be incorporated into the city's five-year Capital Improvement Program project list, said Wendling. The first two items he sees being done is improving the dated playground and constructing a loop trail around the park.

“We obviously would try to get grant funding where available,” Wendling said. “We’re going to have to identify what are the most important aspects.”

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