By Conrad Dudderar
An Oklahoma City contractor has been chosen to build a new Yukon inclusive playground and splash pad – which cost nearly $500,000 more than city officials had projected.
The Yukon City Council on Dec. 20 voted 5-0 to award a $1,682,221 bid to Rudy Construction for Freedom Trail Playground and Splash Pad project at 2100 S Holly.
Council members followed the advice of Planning Design Group, which contracted with the City of Yukon to provide design and construction services for this project.
The award-winning Freedom Trail was one of only two “all-inclusive” playgrounds in Oklahoma when it opened in 1996 at Yukon City Park.
Freedom Trail was closed in May as crews demolished the play structures and equipment to prepare for a new playground and splash pad water feature.
Reopening Freedom Trail is critical to Yukon residents, according to Mayor Shelli Selby.
“That park is highly used,” Selby said. “It is a tremendous asset to our city. We are sorely hurting right now with it not being here.
“People are not happy with that park being empty.”
Construction is expected to take about 10 months.
Planning Design Group principal/project manager Geoffrey Evans recommended the Yukon City Council award the contract – with all add-alternates – to Rudy Construction as “lowest and best responsible bidder.”
Five companies submitted total bids ranging from $1,669,455 to $1,938,949.
One bidder offered a lower total price than Rudy Construction but “has no experience in past projects that are similar in scope and size to this project,” said City of Yukon grant writer Claudia Krshka, reading from a memo signed by Evans.
“Rudy Construction has extensive experience on projects of this size and scope.”
The company’s base bid – without the alternates – was $1,302,731.
Mayor Selby opposes developing the project in phases without all add-alternates.
“I think to do it ‘half-way’ would be an injustice,” she said. “My fear is the prices will continue to go up. Our people deserve this inclusive park.”
All eight alternates – several play and seating areas, a nature walk, swings, and donor signage – will be “integral” to this project, Krshka told council members.
“It makes the ‘whole’ playground,” she said.
The architect’s construction estimate was $1,302,788 for the base bid and $1,583,788 for the bid plus all alternates.
This major upgrade to Freedom Trail Playground will come more than 25 years after it was built, primarily by volunteers. A contractor is being used this time.
A committee comprised of Yukon citizens and city staff worked with the landscape architect to design the new park.
Over the past quarter century, Freedom Trail had deteriorated and required significant maintenance. Many pieces of broken equipment couldn’t be repaired or replaced.
The new playground will be about the same size as the previous one, according to Krshka.
The surface will be a “combination of pour-in-place rubber coating and artificial turf,” she said.
GRANT AWARDED, COSTS INCREASE
The City of Yukon received a $400,000 federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant for the Freedom Trail Playground and Splash Pad project.
Work was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than a year ago, city council members agreed to add $800,000 in capital improvement funds toward a then-estimated $1.2 million project cost.
But the price tag increased due to rising costs of supplies and materials, officials said.
To fully fund the almost-$1.7 million project, City Manager Tammy Kretchmar said, “we may have to use some of the capital in next year’s budget.”
The $400,000 project grant is administered through the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.
The City of Yukon has two years from when the grant was awarded to complete the Freedom Trail project – or risk losing the funds, Krshka explained.
“We would lose it if we didn’t more forward,” Ward 3 Council Member Donna Yanda said. “That’s a lot of money to let go.”
When plans for this project were announced in 2021, Krshka explained why it was time to update Freedom Trail Playground and build a second Yukon splash pad.
“This park should be a place where Yukon citizens of all ages and abilities can play without barriers alongside one another,” she said
“They should not have to leave their hometown to find a playground that accommodates their needs. This playground was fantastic when it was built. But inclusivity has broadened in 25 years, and what is needed has broadened.”
An inclusive playground is “for everyone”, Krshka said, regardless of a person’s “limiting factors” or whether their impairment is visible.
“A playground should allow someone to celebrate their abilities, not be reminded of their disabilities – both physically and socially,” she added.
Krshka believes a new splash pad at Freedom Trail Playground will increase quality of life and generate sales tax revenue for Yukon.
Yukon’s first splash pad, which opened in May 2014 at Sunrise Park, is typically packed when it’s open.