Rotary Park needs to more than double its existing amount of parking to meet demand, representatives from the Rotary Club of Casper said last Tuesday.
“The parking issue has been a persistent and growing issue,” Rotarian Bill Schilling told the Natrona County Commission at Tuesday’s work session. “…Too many people come up to the park and — we have Rotarians who have told me but others as well — they come up to the park and if there’s not parking there, they just go right on out.”
Rotary Park, which is nestled at the base of Casper Mountain’s snow-capped cliffs, is home to the Bridle Trail and Garden Creek Falls — two of the Casper area’s more popular outdoor attractions.
The park now has 28 parking spaces. The club would like to add to that total, but an expansion plan has drawn the ire of neighbors, who question its necessity and worry about it impact on the environment.
In recent years, Schilling said two reports have stated that more parking is needed. In 2015, a master plan created for all county parks recommended adding 68 new parking spaces to Rotary Park.
Schilling said the Rotary Club then paid CEPI – a Casper-based engineering firm— to review the park’s parking situation last year. The report from CEPI advised adding 43 more parking spots.
The Commission agreed more parking was needed. But some of the county’s leaders said they wanted a detailed proposal that included engineering documents with information about the design and drainage system.
The Natrona County Parks Board could then review that proposal and send it to the commission with a recommendation, said Chairman Rob Hendry.
Rotarian John Lawson, a former county commissioner himself, explained that the club didn’t want to make that investment without first getting the green light from the commissioners.
“We first need to know that we can proceed,” he said.
Commissioners concluded that they would support the project if the engineering documents were submitted and approved by the Parks Board.
“It sounds like we need to get some engineering drawings and proceed,” Hendry said.
Public comment is not taken during work sessions. But several residents who live near the park previously told the Star-Tribune that they’re concerned a new parking lot might harm the surrounding environment.
Douglas Irvine, whose home overlooks the park, said last week that an environmental impact study should be completed before the project moves forward.
“We’re worried about how this will affect the wildlife and we’re worried about how it will affect the watershed,” he explained.
Elizabeth Hill, who lives just outside the park’s limits near one of its current parking lots, said last week that she’s unsure why additional parking is needed.
“That lot (near me) is never full,” she said. “The one time I saw it full was during the solar eclipse.”
According to Natrona County Attorney Eric Nelson, Rotary Park was deeded to the county in 2013. But the county agreed to a memorandum of understanding at the time.
A copy of the memorandum states that the Rotary Club “desires to implement voluntary improvements at Rotary Park pursuant to the Rotary Park Master Plan....Rotary Club agrees that the design, engineering, materials and construction of all improvements to Rotary Park shall be approved by the county prior to beginning construction on said project. County agrees that approval of such projects shall not be unreasonably withheld.”