February 13, 2019
Writer: Virginia Henry

Public parks are perhaps one of the best things cities can offer. Yet, we often are unaware of all of the effort and planning that goes into making our parks enjoyable. John Banks, the Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Pocatello gave BYU-Idaho Radio insight into what they are currently doing for Ross Park.

Ross Park is considered the crown jewel of the parks in Pocatello. Little might the public know, but there has been a plan and desires to add improvements to the park for quite some time.

It started around 2008 or 2009, before Banks was director. A steering committee was put together to gather public input and then condense it.

“This resulted in a conceptual plans that was developed in 2013,” Banks explained.

However, the plans were put on the shelf because other priorities came up and they didn’t have the financial capabilities to complete the plans. Banks became director in 2014. Although the original plans have lain dormant, the department has still been hard at work.

“We’ve got a new 20-year zoo master plan that we’re bringing forward,” Banks explained. “The new animal shelter and dog park has been finished and constructed. We built a new permanent restroom on the lower level. We’re in the process of building a new concession building at Ross Park and the main thing is the South Valley Connector is now constructed, which drastically decreased the traffic level on 2nd Street.”

He said the traffic volume is probably down 90 plus percent since they put in the connector which greatly helps increase public satisfaction.

After about five years of sitting on the shelf, Banks decided it was time to dust off the plans for Ross Park improvements and look at them with a new set of eyes.

The current parks and recreation advisory board is now serving as the steering committee for this project.

“I’ve completed one public input opportunity at the mayor’s town hall,” Banks said. Around 50 people attended the first open house meeting. He will hold another one in mid to late March. A firm date has yet to be set.

If you didn’t make it to the first public input meeting and don’t think you can make the second, you can still make your voice heard. There is an online survey and an email address on the city website if people want to give input through May 15th.

The steering committee will then meet in April and June and use that input and ideas to create a master plan.

“The eventual plan is to … take a recommended conceptual plan to council for consideration,” Banks said. “If the stars align, I’m hoping to be able to do that by the end of the summer maybe August or September.”

Of course, even if a plan gets approved they still have a lot of work ahead of them. They will then move on to hunting for grants and sponsorships to help make the improvements possible.

Here are just some of the ideas for improvements to the park that have been talked about so far: a new band shell, a roller hockey rink, a railroad museum, new rock climbing areas, an expanded skate park, pickle ball courts, sand volleyball courts, a simulated wave pool and a zip-line.