City provides feedback on Ellis Lake plans

Feb. 12—The city of Marysville hosted a second community meeting on Saturday focused on possible upcoming major improvements to the green space surrounding Ellis Lake.

While improvements in the short term will most likely be focused on the north section of the lake, officials also discussed potential upgrades and additions for the entire landmark.

At the first meeting at the Elks Lodge in Marysville on Jan. 15, the city informed the public of its Ellis Lake Master Plan and what elements might go into that. After a presentation by Jessamyn Lett, a landscape architect who is playing a major role in the development of the plan, the public was able to ask questions and then view and vote on certain features that are being considered for the green space of Ellis Lake.

On Saturday, Lett and various city officials provided a summary of that feedback during a meeting at CORE Charter School, which is located near the north portion of the lake — the segment of Ellis Lake that will see improvements first thanks to a Clean California Grant worth about $3 million.

"There is $3 million in grant funding to do portions of it (Ellis Lake green space), certainly not the entire thing," Marysville City Manager Jim Schaad previously said. "One of the reasons we're doing this master plan and getting at least conceptual drawings to a certain point, is to pursue additional grant funding. Most of the granting agencies nowadays prefer to have what's called a 'shovel-ready project,' meaning it's pretty well designed and can be implemented right away. So this is positioning us for that, as well as allowing us to make sure that the work we're going to do with the $3 million is consistent with the plan for the overall lake."

In order to meet the requirements of the Clean California Grant, the city will need to complete construction by June 2026, Lett said. Schaad said because of the amount of money it will take to fully realize the vision of the Ellis Lake Master Plan, construction and improvements will need to be done in phases — with north section changes identified as making up the majority of the first phase.

"This is not a cheap project. This is an expensive project, so we are going to have to do it in phases," Schaad said. "The $3 million that we're talking about is going to be primarily on the north side of the lake because that's how far it will get us. And then we are going to be using these plans to go out and solicit more grant opportunities, more funding opportunities in general."

Schaad said there are still major challenges ahead and work that will need to be done to finalize all the details of what will be one of the biggest efforts by the city since the lake was originally designed by John McLaren in 1924 and later built by the Works Progress Administration near the end of the Great Depression in 1939. According to the city, the lake was later remodeled in the 1970s, but should the city be able to implement all their plans in the years ahead, it may never look exactly the same again.

At the start of Saturday's second community meeting, Lett shared the city's goals of the Ellis Lake Master Plan. They include the following: — Goal 1: Enhance Elis Lake to create a safe and enjoyable space for residents and visitors to spend time, with a focus on walking, bicycling and fishing. — Goal 2: Highlight Ellis Lake's beauty, history, and central location to emphasize Marysville's identity and attract visitors and those passing through. — Goal 3: Create opportunities for events and gatherings both for the whole community and for small groups.

City officials continue to stress that Ellis Lake and its surrounding green space will play a major role in the city's push for increased economic development, including the incoming Hyatt Hotel along B Street, Bryant Park and possible apartment or residential units on or around the lake.

"The city desires to improve amenities at Ellis Lake in order to develop a regional recreation and tourism venue, provide residents with high quality outdoor recreation activities and promote development/redevelopment in the area," the city previously said in a staff report. "Staff recommends development of a master plan for the lake green space that will provide a conceptual layout and identify features and amenities that would support recreational and economic activity in the surrounding area."

Feedback and possibilities

Before allowing the public to ask more questions and continue to provide feedback, Lett discussed some of the "key findings" identified from the January meeting. Those findings included a wide range of comments, including these noticeable trends: — Reduce the lake footprint in favor of more green space — Interest in fostering habitat and natural lake amenities — Desire to add restrooms — Programmatic requests for water recreation — Need for sense of separation from B Street — Interest in a wide range of specific amenities including stepped fishing spots in banks and a desire for art

The public then had the opportunity to see what the most popular items people at the January meeting wanted to see added to the green space of the lake.

For "furnishings," the public preferred a standard black metal park bench with a divider in the middle, as well as a standard black metal dual trash container. Two different types of fitness equipment also were preferred — static and articulating options.

"It was almost exactly a tie. Both were really preferred. And that's fine, we can do some of both," Lett said.

As part of the Ellis Lake Master Plan, the city also will be looking to add different play options for kids at various locations around the lake. Lett said the most popular choice for play equipment by far was a "natural-play and faux rock" climbing installation.

"The second-most popular was musical instruments. And then the third was actually a tie between swings and this post-and-platform style structure," Lett said. "One thing ... to keep in mind is that we don't have a ton of area for a playground. So, having elements that have high play value and a small footprint is really important for this project."

Another important aspect of the changes sought for Ellis Lake is what the city will do with C Street between 14th Street and the section that travels along the side of Bryant Field. During January's meeting, the public was presented with two initial options: no parking on this segment of C Street or one-way north-bound traffic and diagonal parking. A third option was later added by a member of the public and received a number of votes: shut the entire segment down to traffic.

By limiting or eliminating traffic altogether on this short segment, the city could potentially not only make the area safer for children and visitors, but also provide more entertainment or recreational opportunities for the public — especially for events at the neighboring Bryant Field.

Moving forward with planned renovations and additions to the lake's green space, the actual footprint of the lake is expected to be reduced. Lett provided the public on Saturday with votes that were previously taken on what efforts should be made. They include: — Shrink Ellis Lake to create more green/park space on the west side, which received 24 yes votes and 5 no votes. — Shrink Ellis Lake to create dining opportunities behind the existing restaurants, which received 14 yes votes and 9 no votes. — Shrink Ellis Lake to create room for new businesses on the south side of the lake, which received 14 yes votes and 11 no votes.

"For the south lake specifically, all of the improvements we're proposing would change the lake from being 23.5 acres to 20.7 acres," Lett said.

A big reason for a reduction in the lake's footprint overall is because the city will be looking to increase its relatively narrow walking path — an option that is sorely needed to promote more walkability around the lake as well as various other recreational opportunities.

"To align with prior input, we will replace the current path with one that is 8-foot wide (and) multiuse and accessible," the city said. "To do this, we need to remove either green space or the lake."

In its feedback, the public overwhelmingly wanted to keep existing trees and extend the path and shore into the lake.

After presenting some initial, popular options, Lett took the public on a virtual tour of the lake — highlighting different areas and possible additions or improvements that could be made. Some of these options included an enhanced walking path in certain places, more prominent signage or monuments welcoming the public to the lake, and different additions to existing islands for picnics or events.

While no specific water-based recreation is planned, the city would like to possibly include docks in the future in case a private entity would like to invest in something such as paddle boats or small row boats.

On the west side of the north lake, the plan, as of now, is to maintain natural elements, which is counter to most of the improvements that will be taking place.

"It's very narrow where the public property is," Lett said. "We feel like this is actually a really great opportunity to do some of the natural lake additions. So we're looking at turning this edge of the lake into a natural lake edge that's planted instead of paved."

Lett said after receiving public feedback, the city will now develop its final master plan.

"I'm going to take all the comments from this meeting, we'll summarize them, we'll integrate them into what the final plan is going to be and then that plan is going to be presented to council and that will be for approval," Lett said. "That will sort of be the last step of the master planning effort. And then beyond that, we're looking at the phase one construction documents as the next step."

Lett said the city is aiming to have the final master plan presented to the city council in April, with the construction document and actual construction phase still to be determined.