The City of Arkansas City has released an official master plan for Wilson Park, including the property that once housed the city-owned hospital.

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During Thursday morning’s Arkansas City Area Chamber of Commerce coffee, City Manager Nick Hernandez shared plans for the property.

The first, most obvious change that will be seen is the refurbishment of the train located in the east part of Wilson Park.

The city is concerned that a failure to address some of the peeling paint on the train could be a future safety issue. Some of the older paint on the train was lead-based. Additionally, there are many sharp metal edges that need to be smoothed down.

A fence was erected around the train on Wednesday. A structure will be constructed soon to support materials that will encase the area and prevent any lead from escaping into the environment while the train is sandblasted to remove any traces of the old paint.

Afterward, the train will benefit from some metal fabrication before receiving a brand-new coat of epoxy paint from Rob Carroll Sandblasting.

“This process won’t be a fast one,” Hernandez said. “It will probably be a couple of months.”

Master plan overview

However, the train restoration is only the beginning of the master plan, which was two years in development by a citizen-led steering committee.

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The entire project is meant to bring the community together, and give all citizens of Arkansas City something to be proud of and a place where they can come to interact with each other.

Hernandez said his children go to Wilson Park and get along with everyone, regardless of who they are.

The current Wilson Park, which is approximately 4 acres, will be combined with most of the old hospital property, the northern and western edges of which will be sectioned off for a housing project.

Birch Avenue will be closed from First Street to Second Street, making the property one continuous piece of land. In total, it would be 8 acres.

Around the train, and throughout the entire park, there will be oversized, 10-foot-wide sidewalks that connect each element of the park.

Wilson Park Phase One

A brochure distributed Thursday by the city identifies three project packages as part of the master plan’s Phase One — the rotunda, farmers market and interactive fountain. (The train restoration and some site improvements, such as utility relocation, constitute a sort of “phase zero.”)

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The rotunda, which is used for social gatherings of many varieties, will be closed in with glass doors that can be raised or lowered.

The goal is so the rotunda can be used year-round. Heaters and fans also could be added to the facility to assist with this.

Also, a brick and concrete veranda would be added to extend the seating area and improve drainage around the 104-year-old structure.

To the south of the rotunda, the westernmost four tennis courts will be converted into a partially covered parking lot, which will be used for the Arkansas City Farm and Art Market during the growing season. Vendors will be able to back in their vehicles and sell under the canopy.

The shade structure also could include electric and water hookups, while providing a wide concourse that flows directly into the rotunda.

Northeast of the rotunda, there will be a splash pad with lighted fountains that can be set to music and used during much of the year.

The pump mechanics for the splash pad will be housed in a new heated and cooled restroom facility that will be open to the public year-round.

Completing the plan

The Phase One improvements might not take very long to accomplish. Hernandez said he thinks they can be done within the next three years.

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In order to accomplish these sections of the master plan without spending tax money, the city will need to raise funds. The top-end estimate for the cost of Phase One is somewhere around $2.5 million.

But with help from the V.J. Wilkins Memorial Foundation, volunteer labor and using city staff for much of the work — such as relocating utilities and pouring new concrete — that price tag could end up being lower.

The remaining components of the master plan include new playground equipment, a meditation garden and an events center that can house up to 300 people. The plan even allows for an addition to the events center that could house the public library, a museum or an Etzanoa exhibit.

The railroad theme of the “train park” will be reflected in the architecture of the events center, the construction of which will be determined by funding. It has been modeled to look like the old BNSF rail depot that was torn down years ago.

Other railroad decorative elements running through the plan include decorative shade structures constructed of upside-down railroad track and ties, flowing circular designs that evoke a train roundhouse, and steel girders in the market pavilion and events center that mirror the rotunda.

Final details of the events center, splash pad and playground equipment have not been finalized, but the city is looking for citizens who would like to serve on committees to work on planning these elements.

Those who are interested should contact Public Information Officer Andrew Lawson at (620) 441-4415 or

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