Garfield Park currently is a pedestrian-only access park. The Mexico Parks and Recreation Department would like to give the park equitable access through a new vehicular entrance off of Green Boulevard, which would allow handicapped access as well.

Concerns over the entrance location and other park amenities is leading to the formation of a Friends of Garfield Park group that will work directly with the Parks department on desired upgrades and improvements.

A group of about 15 to 20 people of all ages met Saturday at the park to discuss the proposed entrance apron and other park needs. This meeting is an extension of one held in September where plans for the proposed entrance apron were presented. The original proposal had an entrance apron located across from A.P. or its current suggested location closer to park amenities.

"I think we had a really good conversation about the entrance and the future of Garfield Park," Mayor Ayanna Shivers said Monday. "I think moving forward we will have a better plan."

The city proposed a change order June 22 to its agreement with Flowmaster Construction to build the entrance apron off of the boulevard. Flowmaster originally was just doing curbing and sidewalk ramp projects in town.

The council tabled a decision on park apron construction, though, as it seeks more information and wants more time to make park considerations. The apron project originally was a $25,000 project in the 2019-20 budget. Parks and Recreation Director Chad Shoemaker had hoped to conduct the apron project separately from a driveway and parking lot project based on fund availability.

"Neighborhood residents are desiring more input in the situation, which is good with us," he said. "[The Friends group] will give us a set of people to talk to about design improvements before we go to budget with the park board and the city council."

Adding this passionate citizens group as a step in the process is a good thing, Shoemaker said.

"It makes it easier to us to deliver on what people want," he said. "We don’t build things in the park for me. We build things that the people want to use. We want to spend money on things they want the most."

Shoemaker expects future meetings will help define the Friends group and its goals.

Area residents are concerned about the proposed park entrance off a busy street so close to the playground equipment, as well as park drainage. Garfield Park sits in a trough with steep hills off East Park Street and Tyronn Lue Boulevard.

"This is just the apron just to get off of the road, essentially," Shoemaker said at the June 22 council meeting. "This is not the road project or the parking lot project."

The park needs equitable access and the council will have to make a decision on where the entrance will end up, he said.

"Until we have an apron off of the road, we don’t have an entrance to the park," Shoemaker said. "My approach was to try to get the apron built so we know where the entrance is, even if we have to build a fence across it for two or three years."

That piecemeal approach to projects is not preferred by nearby residents, Shivers said at the council meeting.

"There was a truth to that for a long time," Shoemaker said. "That day is behind us and we want to keep making improvements."