Admiral Mason Park to be dedicated Thursday

If you’ve driven down Bayfront Parkway recently, you probably noticed that the work on Admiral Mason Park is wrapping up nicely, with landscaping in place and the two pond fountains turned on. Mayor Hayward will officially dedicate the park in a 9am ceremony this Thursday, November 10, just in time for the Veterans Day crowds on Friday.

It’s been a long road to get here. For decades, Admiral Mason Park served as a passive recreation area — just an open field where people could play soccer or throw frisbees. The low elevation led to frequent flooding, however, and when the Aragon development was built around 2000, the need to mitigate stormwater runoff into Pensacola Bay was recognized. City leaders investigated building a stormwater retention pond on the park site, but shelved the plan due to high projected costs and a lack of available grants.

When the Chamber of Commerce and the Pensacola-Escambia Development Commission (PEDC) began planning the Technology Campus in 2007, the design team at Atkins (formerly PBS&J) determined that handling stormwater retention “on site” would not leave enough land to make the tech park economically viable. Together with the developers of Hawkshaw Village, they asked the City for permission to build a stormwater pond at Admiral Mason Park that would serve both parcels, with costs split between the two projects. After the Hawkshaw Village development fizzled out, the PEDC asked the City to fund construction of the pond, which the Council agreed to in January 2010.

According to Al Garza, Public Works Director for the City of Pensacola, the total budget for the project is approximately $1.3 million. He said the City wanted to give the pond and surrounding park a level of quality commensurate with its location.

“We worked with PBS&J to go ahead and not just make a stormwater pond, which was originally proposed for that site, but to make it an amenity for that entranceway into the city,” Garza said.

The result is an attractive park with high-quality lighting, landscaping with two dozen 8″ live oaks and other plants, and a roughly 3.5-acre pond that provides stormwater retention to the 30-acre surrounding area.

With a depth of approximately 5.5 feet, the pond is what Garza calls a “wet detention facility” with a residence time of 14 days. “If you can get water to sit in one place for fourteen days, between exfiltration, evaporation, and absorption of nutrients by the aquatic plants on the perimeter, you can dramatically decrease pollution.”

Before water runoff even reaches the pond, it goes through a massive, 1000-cubic-foot sediment chamber with a 200-sieve (75 micron) screen that catches litter and other debris. “We didn’t want to run raw stormwater into this beautiful pond,” Garza said. “Next thing you know, you’d have styrofoam cups and cigarette butts and everything else.” The screen will also prevent silt from accumulating too quickly and making shoals in the pond.

In dry weather, the pond won’t shrink into a mud hole, either. An impervious clay liner keeps water from leaching out, and the irrigation system will help maintain a minimum water level.

Quick work: photos taken in mid-October (left) and three weeks later (right)

“The whole trick is that you keep water in there and let it settle out,” Garza said. “You provide a method for absorbing the nutrients and removing the pollution, and then as water comes in one end, it flows out the other.”

Originally scheduled to finish up in December, the project team worked hard to make sure the park was ready for Veterans Day, which has annual observances at the adjacent Veterans Memorial Park, and almost all of the landscaping and sidewalks have been installed in the last few weeks. Among the members of the project team:

  • Civil engineering: Fabre Engineering
  • Landscape architects: Atkins (formerly PBS&J)
  • General contractor: Utility Service Company
  • Electrical: Bill Smith Electric
  • Landscaping: The Wallace Company
  • Concrete: Empire Construction
  • Excavation: Radford & Nix Construction
  • City Engineering: Derrik Owens, P.E.
  • Public Works & Facilities: Al Garza, P.E.
  • Quality Assurance: Jerry Pate Design
  • Design Review: Brian Spencer, SMP Architects