Triangle Park began to reclaim its parklike look Thursday as a landscaping crew planted the first of about 70 Imperial honey-locust trees slated to go back into the tiny downtown Lexington oasis.
Renovations to the 30-year-old park, which began in May, will include a central lawn, outdoor cafe, a winter-time ice skating rink and an activities area for games.
The $1.3 million in improvements are being made by the Triangle Foundation, which built the park with private money and contributes annually to its upkeep. The park — in front of Lexington Center — is owned by the city but is under the care and control of Lexington Center Corp.
The park's original Bradford pear trees had to be removed because many were dying of fire blight, a rapidly growing bacterial disease.
Lexington's excessively rainy summer slowed work, but otherwise, "All is going as planned," said Steve Grossman, president of the Triangle Foundation.
About Nov. 14, crews will begin assembling the ice rink, and around the rink will be small tables, chairs and a skate rental area.
As many as 20,000 skaters might take to the ice this winter if projections hold true from other cities with ice skating rinks, Grossman said.
Stardust Cruisers of Monticello is manufacturing the cafe structure. Applications are due Friday from firms wanting to operate the food service. If the cafe is not completed by the time the skating rink opens, there will be food carts set up to sell hot chocolate and cider, Grossman said.
A heating element is being installed in the big stair-step fountain so it can operate year-round. "We won't have to close it down in the winter," Grossman said, except perhaps on the nastiest winter days when the apron in front of the foundation might become coated with ice. "We'll probably turn it on this fall for a little bit. It's something we are still working out with Lexington Center."
Flowering shrubs will be planted along the back of the fountain along Vine Street to make it visually more attractive when looking out from the Lexington Center.
In the spring, after the ice rink is taken up, the park will be closed for a short time, Grossman said, so sod can be laid, ivy planted "and we make sure everything is perfect." After one final cleanup, a rededication is planned around the opening of the Keeneland spring meet.
Next summer an inflatable screen will be set up for a new downtown attraction — movies in the park. And the YMCA has agreed to offer free yoga classes on the lawn. "We want to program activities to get people in there, make it a people park, Grossman said.