NewsLocal News


Billings Coulson Park master plan revealed to public

Could take 10 years to build
Posted at 7:16 PM, Feb 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-04 21:28:19-05

BILLINGS — After six months of public input, the master plan for Billings Coulson Park was revealed at a meeting in the Billings Community Center Tuesday.

“We’re presenting the final master plan to the community to get their input on the final plan. The next step is to take this document to the Parks Board for their review and recommendation. Then it goes to a City Council work session for their recommendation to move forward," said Michael Whitaker, Billings Parks and Recreation director.

The plan for Coulson Park is a big one, broken into eight phases of construction to be built as the city raises the money.

Planned features for Coulson Park include: historical markers, bike track, sculpture park, dog park, a covered arbor with seating for small concerts and performances, and a man-made lake, among other amenities.

The entire project carries a price tag between $13.8 million and $16.3 million.

The city has been working with Bozeman-based DHM Design to draw up the plan.

PHOTO GALLERY: Coulson Park master plan concept drawings

The city doesn't have the money to pay for all eight phases at once. Phase one could be under construction as soon as the weather allows.

The plan has to be approved by the Parks Board, then approved by the Billings City Council at a work session on March 2.

“As soon as City Council approves the master plan, we will move forward with the grant funds that we currently have on the project," Whitaker said.

The first phase is being paid for in part with $110,000 in grant money paid to the state as part of its settlement with Exxon over the 2011 Silvertip pipeline oil spill in the Yellowstone River near Laurel. Phase one includes constructing two new vault toilets and redeveloping the current boat ramp in the park.

The oil spill grant money must be spent on river access improvements, such as bathrooms and boat ramps.

The state grant isn't enough to pay for all of phase one. Whitaker said the Parks Department is going after another grant that requires a matching donation from private parties.

"There’s also a $250,000 matching grant out there. If we can raise $250,000, we’ll have a total of $610,000 to do phase one of the park development,” Whitaker said.

Eric Meadows is a senior associate with DHM Design, and he's been the lead designer on the Coulson Park project. He said the master plan will provide the framework for the order in which the phases should be built.

Meadows estimated it could be 10 years before the park is fully developed.

Meadows hoped after the first phase is developed, people would have a "meaningful first park experience" and be encouraged to donate their own money to construct future features.

Here's a breakdown of the construction phases and the features within them:

  • Phase 1 - upgrade existing boat ramp, two vault toilets, day use picnic tables and games area
  • Phase 2 - site infrastructure, pond, creek. (Infrastructure includes running electrical lines, etc.)
  • Phase 3 - Coulson South
  • Phase 4 - River North
  • Phase 5 - Coulson Center
  • Phase 6 - Bike Park
  • Phase 7 - Dog Park
  • Phase 8 Far north Corridor - re-design Yellowstone River bridge with bike/pedestrian traffic in mind.

Phases 3-7 could be shifted around if private donations come in with the intent of constructing a particular feature, Meadows said.