Coon Rapids conducts an online survey on the parks

Residents’ ideas for the future of the city’s parks and trails system continue to be sought by the city of Coon Rapids.

As part of an update to the city’s parks and trails master plan, the city hosted two public open houses May 23 and May 30 to gather input.

Now the city has set up an online survey on its website to gather input as well as encouraging residents to join in the discussion on Facebook.

There are two online questions on the city’s website survey.

• What do you like most about the city’s parks and trails system?

• What could be improved or is missing from the city’s parks and trails system?

Go to http://www.ci.coon-rapids.mn.us/parks/Parks/Survey/index.php.

Brauer & Associates, Ltd., the firm hired by the Coon Rapids City Council to update the master plan it first prepared for the city more than a decade ago, will compile the public comments from the open house events and the online survey, with the assistance of city staff, to develop a preliminary strategic plan for the city.

Working with Brauer on the master plan update is a task force comprising a cross-section of user groups and members of the public.

It includes two members of Parks and Recreation Commission; one each from the city’s sustainability, planning and arts commissions; two from the Anoka-Hennepin School District (one from the athletics side and the other from building/grounds maintenance); two from the business community; one from the athletic associations; six citizens (one from each ward plus an-large member); and a member of the city council.

Prior to completing the plan update in the fall, there will be another public open house, sometime in the Sept. 1-Oct. 15 time frame, and a council workshop to hear the draft proposal and provide comments, according to Steve Gatlin, city public services director.

The final plan is anticipated to be sent to the council before the end of the year.

The master plan is designed to help guide the maintenance and development of parks, recreation and open space planning for the future.

The 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 in 2010.

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

However, a staff-anticipated $525,000 infusion into the park improvement fund last year through park dedication fees from an approved apartment project did not occur because the housing development had not gone ahead as 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 since the city has become 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.

Brauer is also being asked to recommend ways to finance the capital improvements projects proposed in the plan, he said.

According to City Manager Matt 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.

A lot of the development took place after voters approved a park bond issue in the 1970s.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com


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