City approves parkland swap with Great Falls Public Schools
City Commissioners voted 4-1 to swap six lots in Kranz Park with Great Falls Public Schools for 10 acres of land near Loy Elementary.
GFPS has expressed interest in a portion of Kranz Park, city property, for years for parking near Great Falls High School.
The city initially wanted the Loy property, owned by the district, for the planned indoor aquatics and recreation center, but soil conditions made the the project unfeasible in that location and has since moved the project to a portion of Lions Park.
But, the GFPS board had already approved the land swap and city Park and Recreation officials wanted to pursue the swap in the interest of acquiring greenspace on the east side of town to be used as recreational space.
GFPS has planned early on to use the six lots of Kranz Park for a parking lot, but have since come up with an adjusted plan to request that city vacate 17th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues to be able to shift the practice field westward and put parking closer to Memorial Stadium and turn the vacated road into greenspace, making for more convenient parking and less greenspace lost.
The road vacation requires a separate process through the city and another public hearing in the future.
Several years ago, the district wanted a portion of Kranz Parking and in exchange, the city had requested that the district fund the installation of playground equipment and sidewalks. That plan fell through as the district’s funding and construction didn’t support it at the time.
Now, city officials are looking to secure Community Development Block Grant funds or other resources to install the playground equipment that has been purchased as well as sidewalks in the park, according to Steve Herrig, city Park and Rec director.
Herrig said that the Loy property could also be turned into a decent practice field for community sports teams that need space to practice versus using city parkland since it can tear up the grass.
The city Park and Recreation Advisory Board voted 5-0 in September to approve the land swap.
Barney Danishefsky, chair of Neighborhood Council 9, has been working to get the playground equipment installed and said that parking around the high school has long been an issue. He said the district’s new plan would expand the available greenspace in the area.
Commissioner Rick Tryon said he was voting against the swap because he wanted more information on the cost of maintaining the Loy property, among other details.