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Mill Creek’s Exploration Park upgrade finally approved

After rejecting a $1.3 million dollar Exploration Park construction contract back in July, the Mill Creek City Council unanimously approved a revised scope and reduced cost for the project at their December 11, 2018, meeting.
Exploration Park before construction. Photo courtesy of City of Mill Creek.

By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek.

Mill Creek’s Exploration Park will receive a much anticipated upgrade next year including many new features for young families in nearby neighborhoods to enjoy.

After rejecting a $1.3 million dollar Exploration Park construction contract back in July, the Mill Creek City Council unanimously approved a revised scope and reduced cost for the project at their December 11, 2018, meeting.

As the lowest responsive bid received in November, a $1,024,945 construction bid from McClure and Sons, Inc. got the nod from the city council.

This doesn’t include construction management fees, ongoing engineering fees, or a contingency for unexpected costs. City staff’s latest estimate for the total project cost is $1,253,939, which includes these additional expenses.

Snohomish County Councilmember Terry Ryan obtained $100,000 in county funds in January 2018 to help pay for the project. He is scheduled to come to the January 8, 2019, city council meeting and it is rumored he will announce additional funding then.

The lowest of the two Exploration Park construction bids received in April 2018 was for $1,306,228. This was much higher than the project’s original $530,000 budget.

It’s likely that seeking a contractor in the midst of the 2018 construction boom was one factor for the higher-than-anticipated bids. However, the park design also contributed to the project’s high price tag.

The following features specifically designed for young families to enjoy were approved by the Parks and Recreation Board, city staff, members of the Design Review Board, and the city council in 2016 and 2017:

  • A large well-drained play lawn,
  • Bike racks, benches, and picnic tables,
  • Hillside play area including a beaver den cave and rock scramble,
  • A play area with a balance beam, balance steppers, a basket swing, and play logs.
  • Play furnishings including a manufactured climb boulder and road climbing play furniture.

After rejecting the earlier bids the city council instructed staff to get new bids before the 2019 construction season began. They also asked for breakout prices for individual portions of the project.

At the December 11th meeting the city council opted to remove the play furnishings breakout option, thus saving the city at least $114,000.

Unlike a number of other Mill Creek parks, Exploration Park will not have restrooms since it is not meant to be a destination for visitors who don’t live nearby.

According to an October 2016 news release, “The Parks and Recreation Board wanted to ensure all the park design concepts recognized this was a local neighborhood park, not a community or ‘destination’ park that would draw many people from neighborhoods too far away to walk. Their concern was this would exacerbate the already limited parking capacity of the park and the adjacent streets.”

The 1.2-acre park was dedicated to the city in 2006 by the North Pointe neighborhood’s housing developer.

Interim park improvements provided by the developer simply consist of lawn, perimeter landscape beds and street trees. Poor drainage has limited the use of the park during the wet season.

Construction of Exploration Park is scheduled to begin when construction season starts in the spring. City staff expect the renovated park to reopen four months or five months later.

After rejecting a .3 million dollar Exploration Park construction contract back in July, the Mill Creek City Council unanimously approved a revised scope and reduced cost for the project at their December 11, 2018, meeting.

Exploration Park design concept. Image courtesy of City of Mill Creek.

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