City landmark in need of major repair, but cost prohibitive

An angel statue stands in front of a collapsed stone wall at the Sunken Gardens in Hillcrest Park. The 20-foot long wall has been in disrepair for about two years. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

A longtime Clovis tourist attraction and one of the city’s most popular wedding spots is in need of major repair.

Built as part of a nationwide park beautification project after World War I, one of the stone walls of the Sunken Garden at Hillcrest Park collapsed about two years ago. City officials have been unable to find someone to return it to its original state.

Not just an eyesore, the collapsed wall is also increasing erosion in the subterranean rose and flower gardens and constitutes a safety hazard, city officials said.

“We’ve been trying to find a contractor who has the skill to put it back to the original design,” said Rob Carter, Parks and Recreation Department Director. He said his department has made repeated attempts to find a contractor to fix the 80-year-old wall.

Only one contractor gave an estimate for reconstructing the 20-foot section of wall. The price was $18,525.

City Commissioners said the price tag was too high and asked that the project be sent out for a bid.

“Based on what little experience I’ve had in my 68 years on this earth, that seems like a whole … lot of money to get that done,” Commissioner Robert Sandoval said. “I’m confident that we’ll get some bids and they’ll be quite a bit lower than the one bid we got.”

Carter said trying to find a contractor who can replicate the old-style wall featuring irregular stones set in mortar has been difficult.

“We even tried to find the people who were involved (in the original construction) in the 1920s,” Carter said.

Carter said the garden is a valuable part of Clovis history and needs to be preserved. He believes it will be named a historical site one day.

“We’ve had a lot of vandalism over the years,” said Carter, which led to the city enclosing the garden with an iron fence. It is closed to the public but can be rented for special occasions, Carter said.

City officials are hopeful a new online bidding system being used by the city may help solve the dilemma.

“I’m pretty confident that it will get some good decent response on it,” said David Boswell, purchasing agent for the city. “We are spending the taxpayers’ money, so we want to spend it as wisely as possible.”

The online system has already been received well by contractors, Boswell said, and his department has been getting three and four times the number of bids.
The bid will placed on the Web site today, Boswell said, and will close about April 21.

Even if no bids are submitted on the project, the purchasing department can then go into the community and try to find “fair market value” for the project, he said.