Coon Rapids hires consultant to update parks plan

by Peter Bodley
Managing Editor

A consultant has been hired by the Coon Rapids City Council to update the city’s parks, open space and trails master plan.

Acting on a recommendation from the Coon Rapids Parks and Recreation Commission, the council has authorized city staff to negotiate a contract with Brauer & Associates to complete the plan.

Brauer, a Minneapolis-based land use planning and design firm, was one of three consulting firms interviewed by a commission subcommittee – the others were LHB Inc. and SRF Consulting Group.

Initially, the city sent a statement of qualifications to eight firms, with responses coming from five of them and three of those consultants were asked to submit formal proposals.

According to Steve Gatlin, city public services director, Brauer’s professional service fee was the lowest of the three consultants interviewed.

Moreover, Brauer was the firm that prepared the city’s original parks, open space and trail systems plan in 2001, Gatlin said.

“Brauer & Associates has extensive experience working with the city on that project and similar projects since,” he said.

“The Parks and Recreation Commission felt that Brauer & Associates was best qualified to complete the update to our plan.”

Brauer plans to start work on the master plan update in mid-February and has asked the city to name a task force of stakeholders to work with it as the consultant updates the plan, Gatlin said.

Under the process, there would be public outreach and input in the March-September time period with a draft system plan completed by Aug. 1 and the final master plan submitted for approval by Oct. 1.

“There will be public engagement throughout the process,” said City Manager Matt Fulton.

“Brauer is a firm that knows us very well and we know it very well.”

The 2012 city budget has $40,000 set aside for the master plan update.

Brauer’s fee is $54,500, with the balance coming from the park improvement fund.

“The proposal by Brauer is the most affordable,” said Councilmember Paul Johnson.

Brauer has the most experience dealing with city, according to Mayor Tim Howe.

The master plan update was authorized by the council after it halted a project to reconstruct Riverview Park last year because of lack of funds.

In the past decade, the council has upgraded one of the city’s parks annually, but the last park to be renovated was Moor Park two years ago.

Originally, the council’s plans were to start the Riverview Park reconstruction work in the fall of 2011 and complete the project this coming summer.

But at a council work session June 27, 2011 Gatlin told the council that one of the sources of funding for the estimated $1.2 million to $1.5 million cost of the project did not have the revenues available for construction.

Plans were to finance the project over a two- to three-year period, Gatlin said.

But a staff-anticipated $525,000 infusion into the park improvement fund last year from park dedication fees from an approved apartment project did not occur because the housing development did not move forward as had been expected, he said.

In fact, the park improvement fund, which has derived its revenues from park dedication fees paid by developers of housing projects in the city, has pretty much dried up as the city is now fully developed and new housing projects are few and far between.

“The city can’t afford to levy the amounts needed for park renovation projects,” Gatlin said.

The master plan update is intended to identify the needs of the parks system, according to Gatlin.

For example, one area that the master plan update will examine are the needs at the Sand Creek Park athletic complex, Gatlin said.

But the consultant will also be asked to recommend ways to finance the capital improvements proposed in the plan, he said.

According to Fulton, one option the council has been discussing is a park bond referendum, possibly at a special election in the spring of 2013.

The city has some 40 parks, which include athletic fields, ice rinks, sliding hills, play areas and skate parks, and more than 20 miles of trails covering nearly 900 acres.

Development of the park system began in 1959 when Coon Rapids became a city and natural areas were set aside as public space for residents.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]