The agreement with ULL also stipulates that the university could locate some of its horticultural facilities at the park.
LAFAYETTE — The transformation of the 100-acre Horse Farm on Johnston Street into a central park is expected to take a major step forward this summer.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council in April 2011 approved borrowing $6 million to buy the large, undeveloped tract from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
It’s taken a little longer than expected to work out the legal details of the deal and do environmental assessments on the property, but the council is scheduled in July to vote on acquiring the land.
City-Parish President Joey Durel said he anticipates some form of public access there within three or four years, possibly hiking trails, but the development of the park will likely stretch out over several years.
“It’s going to evolve over a long, long time,” he said.
The 100-acre parcel, one of the few undeveloped areas in the central part of Lafayette, has been appraised for $6.6 million.
The deal calls for Lafayette to pay ULL $5.8 million and then give the university the city’s 8-acre Youth Park next to the ULL campus.
Youth Park, the site of a dog park, sports field and picnic areas, has been appraised for $800,000.
ULL has no immediate plans for Youth Park, ULL spokeswoman Kathleen Thames said.
“Everything will be like it is. Nothing will change for now,” she said.
The proposed deal, which still requires council approval, calls for the 100 acres to revert to ULL if development of the park does not begin within 10 years.
The agreement also prohibits tennis courts and fields for basketball, baseball, softball, soccer or football on the Horse Farm property.
City-parish officials have said the plan is to develop a passive park, which could include gardens, hiking trails, picnic areas and large green spaces.
Under the current plan, the Community Foundation of Acadiana, a local philanthropy group, will raise the money to construct the park and oversee its maintenance and operation.
“I think it is appropriate for the taxpayers to buy it, but after that, the expectation is that there should not be any major expense for taxpayers again,” Durel said.
The details of what will take shape on the property will likely grow out a series of public forums to gauge what residents want, he said.
“A lot of people have a lot of ideas, and it will be fun to watch how it develops,” Durel said.
He said there has been talk of using a portion of the park to house the Police Department’s horses that are used for mounted patrols, offering children the opportunity to interact with the officers in a fun setting.
The agreement with ULL also stipulates that the university could locate some of its horticultural facilities at the park, though Thames said there are no firm plans in that regard.
“We expect there will be greenhouses out there,” Durel said.
Durel estimated it would cost at least $10 million to develop the park and possibly much more if a fund is established to pay for upkeep and other recurring expenses, but the planning is not far enough along for any reliable estimate.
The idea of creating a central park on the Horse Farm property grew out of former ULL President Ray Authement’s controversial proposal in 2006 to exchange some of the property with commercial developers for land closer to the school’s main campus.
The land-swap was abandoned, but it energized a movement to create a park on the property.
ULL, the Community Foundation and Durel announced in 2009 that an anonymous donor was seriously considering buying the Horse Farm from ULL for use as a public park.
The donor later backed out, and Durel proposed in 2010 that city-parish government buy the property.