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Nonprofit claims lily pond estimates are all wet

Nonprofit claims lily pond estimates are all wet

Mary Bryant founder of the Real Mooney Grove Project Inc says ‘Lily Pond’ could have been done years ago at no cost to the County

By Nancy Vigran @TheSunGazette

VISALIA – The beloved Mooney Grove Park continues to be a topic of discord between members of the community and the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. Most recently, Supervisors discussed whether to completely restore the park’s lily pond, to refurbish it, or to tear it down and replace it with a fabricated version and historical dedication.

Last year, the Board voted to have a community-driven artwork display worked into the original structure, but further evaluation revealed the pond to be “structurally unsound.” At the April 30 Board meeting, Parks and Recreation staff provided general assessments given by three contractors to run between $300,000 and $450,000. After listening to public comment, the decision was made to get detailed estimates for the pond’s possible restoration.

Mary Bryant, founder of the Real Mooney Grove Project Inc., contends the project should cost a lot less.

“I had the pond evaluated a few years ago by a pond expert,” she said. “The estimate was $90- to $150,000.”

She further stated that at the time, TC Parks and Recreation Manager Neil Pilegard had said it would cost between $175,000 and $250,000. She questions the climbing estimates.

“We do not have a record of any previous cost estimates we’ve received to restore the lily pond,” said Brooke Sisk, assistant general services director for Tulare County Parks and Recreation, “And, Mr. Pilegard does not recall the estimates referenced by Ms. Bryant.

“However, given the increased costs of building materials and construction, the number she provided a few years ago may be consistent with the recent estimates we received ranging from $175,000 to $250,00 to repair the structure only, without a water feature. Cost estimates to fully restore the Lily Pond to hold water and have a functioning fountain range from $300,000 to $450,000.”

But, those rough estimates and the discussion may be a moot point now, as staff has been instructed and is looking into more formal line-by-line estimates, as asked by Supervisor Amy Shuklian and consented by the rest of the Board.

Bryant insists the pond could have been taken care of years ago.

“We offered to restore it when Phil Cox sat on the Board,” she said. “We were turned down.”

Sisk said she is unaware of the Board turning down such an offer.

“However, a project of this size, complexity, and historical significance would require qualified professionals. Ms. Bryant and her colleagues could not take a project like this on their own without proper vetting by the County and oversight by a qualified professional,” Sisk said.

Sisk further stated she was unfamiliar with the pond specialist Bryant referenced, but would be interested in speaking with him or her, if Bryant would be willing to provide the name.

She won’t.

“Let the County find their own contractor,” she said and adding “the Lily Pond isn’t in that bad of shape.”

Bryant also feels there are more pressing issues within the park, such as repair of the Veteran’s Bridge, the front gates, and the lagoon.

Sisk doesn’t deny there’s a lot to be done.

“There are more projects in Mooney Grove Park than Tulare County Parks and Recreation has funding for, such as the bridge, the Veterans’ Memorial, and the End of the Trail Statue, to name a few. We happily accept donations which are tax deductible though the Friends of Tulare County – friendsoftularecounty.org.”

And in further dealing with a lack of funds, as also discussed at the April 30 Board meeting, local resident and park proponent John Rodgers is looking into fundraising for the possible Lily Pond restoration. Meanwhile, a request for proposals for restoration should be open soon.

The Real Mooney Grove Project Inc recently received its nonprofit status, according to Bryant. The Tulare Chamber is holding a ribbon cutting in honor of that and the 100th anniversary of the Veteran’s Freedom Bridge on Thursday, May 30 in Arbor 1 at 10 a.m., she said.

The TC Parks Advisory Committee meets quarterly giving the community an opportunity to participate.

“Ms. Bryant [and anyone else] is welcome to attend and let the Committee know which projects she thinks are most important,” Sisk said.

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