Transformation underway in downtown Lovell

A citizen-driven process to make downtown Lovell more inviting is about to bear fruit in the form of a series of changes to make the park next to Lovell Drug welcoming, attractive and user-friendly.

Known as Placemaking, the process to transform little used or underutilized spaces has involved some 20 citizens during the planning stage, including Town of Lovell and Lovell Inc. representatives, several of whom learned about the process during a Community Builders Leadership Institute session in Lander last fall.

That meeting was followed up by a training session for local leaders conducted by the Wyoming Business Council in February at the Big Horn Federal community room in Lovell, during which the initial ideas for downtown Lovell were born.

Since then, a group of citizens has been meeting every other week to plan the first phase of the downtown facelift, which has become focused on the Lovell Drug park.

Lovell Inc. Assistant Director Stormy Jameson and VISTA worker Jeanine Swift said Tuesday that the local Placemaking group considered four downtown lots for development and settled on the Lovell Drug lot with a goal of making it more visible and inviting as a place for people to gather, local citizens and visitors alike.

“Brent Reasch was open to changes happening in that lot,” Swift said, noting that the drug store owner’s support gave the project a huge boost.

The Town of Lovell was already making changes to the park after last July’s powerful hailstorm uprooted a large 35-year-old spruce tree growing in the lot, which severely damaged the sprinkler system in the park.

“We had a Volkswagen-sized hole in the middle of the lawn,” said Lovell Town Administrator Jed Nebel, who has been a leader in the Placemaking process. “We’ve had to put in a completely new watering system.”

“It ripped up our sprinkler system, so I have to start at ground zero,” Lovell Parks Manager Gary Emmett agreed.

There are a number of components to the park development, which is being funded largely by a $2,000 Walmart Community Grant.

The park will be adorned by a 24- by 24-foot bright red sun sail with a twisted, abstract look. The sail will be both eye-catching and functional, Swift and Jameson said, providing shade for the park. They said the sun sail has already arrived, and posts for the sail have been purchased from the Lovell Building Center and are being put in place.

The town is bringing electricity to the park to operate a string of hanging, Edison style LED lights that will light up the park at night.

Town of Parks Manager Emmett said the town is in the process of raising the back fence in the lot and constructing raised, stone-faced flower beds across the back side of the park. A new rose garden will be constructed along the front sidewalk with 20 to 30 rose bushes.

A case will be placed in the park to provide information and menus for local restaurants and visiting food trucks, and outdoor, all-weather bench seating in a cinderblock and plank style with cushions is being ordered. One L-shaped bench seat will be ordered first, with another likely to follow later.

Large yard games will be stored at the park including possibly corn hole, Jenga, chess and Kuub.

Emmett said he would like to see the park adorned with a checkerboard pattern built into the lawn.

“I would love to see a checkerboard integrated into the grass with paving squares,” he said. “It could be used for outdoor checkers or chess.”

A water feature may be installed in the park at a later date, Swift and Jameson said.

The goal is to have the revamped park ready for use by Mustang Days, the Lovell Inc. duo said.

Jameson said she is grateful to the Cody Walmart store and store manager John Dickson for the grant, noting that a letter from Walmart Senior Director of Community Giving Kabir Kumar spoke of the retail giant’s long history of giving back to local communities and quoted Helen Walton as saying, “It’s not what you gather but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived.”

Hyart lot

Another early focus of the Placemaking committee has been the lot directly west of the Hyart Theatre, but concerns about old plaster on the west-facing wall of the Hyart being a potential hazard have slowed progress at that park.

Lovell Inc. has reached out to Chad Carr of Carr Coatings LLC to see about removing the plaster, and Carr has responded with pricing. Now funding must be found.

Meanwhile, the Western character fence with local brands is being rebuilt and repainted by Trey Wardell as an Eagle Scout project. The fence will eventually be moved to the north, Jameson and Swift said, and limestone gravel for the park has been donated by Montana Limestone.

If the plaster issue can be solved, the committee members believe the park can be a pre- or post-movie gathering place for Hyart Theatre customers and others. Ideas include a wall mural, seating and a small stage for music.

Other downtown spaces have been discussed including installing a putting green in the space next to Johnson Home and Land.

Citizens are welcome and invited to participate in the Placemaking process. If interested, call the Lovell Inc. office at 307-548-6707.

By David Peck