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Coulson Park Master Plan gets thumbs up from council

Coulson Park Master Plan gets thumbs up from council

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Billings City Council

The Billings City Council holds the first meeting of 2020.

Plans for Coulson Park, with its proposed amphitheater, bike track and boat landing, are now officially on the city's books. 

Council members voted unanimously Monday night to approve the Coulson Park Master Plan, which includes designs for a pavilion that would double as a small amphitheater, a bike track, a dog park, a beach area, a pond, a playground and sculptures, was presented to the council last month for an initial review. 

Much of the discussion on the park plans centered around the cost to maintain it, once it's built. In the past, maintenance costs have not been included in park master plan development. Council on Monday night told staff that they would like future park plans to include those cost projections. 

Approving the master plan was an important step in developing the park; the city has access to $600,000 in grant money and other dollars to build out the first phase of the park. But they only have roughly a year to get it done. 

Parks development has been a surprisingly disputatious topic among the council as they've debated how to prioritize projects like construction of Centennial Park on the West End and improvements at Castlerock Park in the Heights. 

Council Roy Neese, who represents Ward 2 in the Heights, voiced his approval for the Coulson Park Master Plan, but tempered it by reminding the council that the city had other park projects to work on. 

"There's a lot of other parks that come before this," he said. 

Councilwoman Penny Ronning, who represents Ward 4 on the West End, pushed back a little, setting Coulson Park apart from typical neighborhood parks and saying it needed to be a priority. She called Coulson a "destination park" that would be used as an economic development tool to improve the city and make Billings more attractive to prospective employees and businesses. 

All the discussion at Monday night's council meeting happened remotely. Council members broadcast themselves from their homes or offices to create an online meeting that was broadcast by Community 7 Television. 

For public comment, residents watching from home called into the meeting to voice their opinions. 

The construction of new sidewalks along a stretch of Aronson Avenue drew the largest response, with five Aronson residents calling in to speak their minds.

At issue was the size and width of the new sidewalks. Ultimately, the council decided to hold off on the project and seek more direction from staff on how best to address the concerns of the residents. 

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