JACKSONVILLE — When Britt Festival guests walk to concerts from downtown next summer, they will find a 6-foot-wide walkway on the west side of First Street instead of the band buses that frequently parked there.
It's one of several projects Britt and the city will collaborate on to improve access to the music festival's main entrance. Other aspects include a handicapped parking lot on First Street and permanent restrooms in the city-owned Lower Britt Gardens.
"We won't be tripping over the buses all the time over there," said City Administrator Jeff Alvis "First is a one-way street. It will go to an 11-foot travel lane. A lot of First will turn into a walkway instead of just walking down the asphalt."
"There won't be parallel parking anymore, which has been a big problem," said Britt Chief Executive Officer Donna Briggs. "It's a huge improvement for the community."
About 1,200 feet of walkways, including 120 feet along Main Street between Oregon and First streets, will be built by the city.
Britt will use what is called the "musicians parking lot" to create space for three band buses and move the Volunteer Check-In Building to create ADA-accessible parking for eight cars on a lot between Pine and Fir streets.
The volunteer building will be relocated to the Lower Britt Gardens, where a restroom will be added, replacing portable toilets.
Britt has submitted a letter of intent to the city detailing arrangements for relocation of the structure.
The proposal includes a long-term lease on the building, along with cost-sharing and work arrangements.
The City Council must approve the arrangements.
A small plaza will be constructed on the corner of Oregon and Main streets leading to the Main Street sidewalk. An archaeological exploration has been carried out in the area in advance of construction. Some of the walkways will be made of concrete, but other portions will contain pavers, said Alvis.
A ramp for wheelchair access out of the parking lot will be built by Britt, while a ramp on the other side of First Street leading to the entrance will be covered by the city, Briggs said. A crosswalk will connect the ramps.
A state Transportation Enhancement Grant will cover much of the city's costs. Alvis said the work could cost as much as $900,000, with the city paying 28 percent. Bids are being sought for the work. Money for the bathroom project will come from system development charges designated for parks use.
Britt will cover its expenses from a performance enhancement project, much of it funded with grants, said Briggs. The project includes a new, smaller performance stage on the grounds and a new concession stand.
The Jacksonville Boosters last spring put in the first plantings to recreate Peter Britt's gardens in the lower Britt park, where his house foundation still stands. An ADA walkway has been put in the park, with access that leads to the Britt Sequoia.
Rhododendrons, heaths, ferns and deciduous azaleas were planted, and similar plantings may take place this fall. Other deer-resistant plants will follow in the coming years, said Steve Casaleggio, a member of the Boosters.
City and Booster officials have submitted grant requests to secure the rest of the funding needed for replacement of lights on the path that leads from Highway 238 up to the venue. Commitments for half of the estimated $70,000 project are already in hand, said Casaleggio.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.