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POWELL - Powell residents and city officials discussed ideas Wednesday for a community park that could become the most extensively developed large public space of its kind in the Bighorn Basin.

Centennial Park, envisioned by Mayor Scott Mangold as a way to commemorate Powell's 100th birthday in 2009, has been on the drawing board for more than a year.

City leaders are working with Billings design firm Peaks to Plains to gather ideas for a master plan that will guide development of the project.

"What we're looking at is something that will really identify Powell, Wyoming," Mangold said. "Centennial Park can be one of those things. I've been all over, to every town in this state, and there's not a park like this out there."

Ideas from earlier meetings for attractions at the city-owned, 10-acre site near the town's west water tower had included a miniature golf course, multiple playgrounds and a sledding hill.

But rising construction costs, especially the soaring price of asphalt, have put plans on hold for much of the past year. A $25,000 planning grant from the Wyoming Business Council is helping to fund design efforts.

Mangold said it is unlikely that the park would be built in 2009, but much of its infrastructure could be built in time for the town's centennial.

"It's basically a farm field right now. It's just a blank canvas ready for your ideas," Peaks to Plains landscape architect Jolene Rieck told attendees at Wednesday's meeting.

"It is flat as a pancake, so we can pretty much do about anything we want to," she said, urging residents to "dream big."

Anissa Warner, 11, said she often plays at the Westside School playground, but saw designs for an array of attractions that would make Centennial Park an attractive spot for kids.

Water features and an elevated catwalk were among her favorites, Warner said.

Rieck said an earlier meeting Wednesday with high school students yielded a few unconventional ideas - like a hiking trail with interpretive elements for the visually impaired - and more common ones, like bumper cars and ice skating.

Shea Reel, 24, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for Powell City Council, said he would attend planning sessions to advocate for a skateboard area. At least half a dozen skaters were sketching ideas at Wednesday's meeting.

Reel said a well-designed skateboard park in Powell could be better than ones in Cody and Billings, both of which had good points but also some drawbacks.

"I think there's going to have to be some kind of skateboarding component," said Josh Shorb, a City Council member from Ward 1.

Shorb said the park had the potential to be a gathering place for teens, replacing other spots in town where young people congregate but aren't always welcome.

"You can't try and make it the cool spot on purpose, because then kids won't think it's cool. Besides, what's cool changes every 10 years anyway," he said, adding that the park would have to be inviting and welcoming but adaptable to the changing tastes of youth.

Other elements discussed included rock-climbing walls, an outdoor gym, a dog park, a bicycle motocross area and a covered pavilion for performances or dining.

Rieck said preliminary plans and cost estimates should be available in December or January, with a final concept plan expected about a month later. Additional public meetings will be scheduled for later this year.

Contact Ruffin Prevost at rprevost@billingsgazette.com or 307-527-7250.

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