Proposals for Coon Rapids parks to be unveiled

The vision for the future of the city of Coon Rapids’ parks and trails system will be unveiled at an open house Tuesday, Oct. 9, 6:30 to 8 p.m., in the council chambers at the Coon Rapids City Center.

Sand Creek Park/Athletic Complex would get an overhaul if recommendations in a draft Coon Rapids parks and trails master plan update are implemented.
Sand Creek Park/Athletic Complex would get an overhaul if recommendations in a draft Coon Rapids parks and trails master plan update are implemented.

The public will be able to view various table-top displays of the parks and trails master plan update.

The public will also be able to learn about the priorities set by the Coon Rapids Parks and Recreation Commission as well as the master plan task force, according to Ryan Gunderson, city recreation coordinator.

No formal presentation will be given, but staff and consultants will also be on hand to answer any questions, Gunderson said.

The Coon Rapids City Council earlier this year retained the consulting firm, Brauer & Associates, Ltd., to look at the current parks system and help guide the future strategic direction for the parks and trails system, along with the city’s open space.

The draft plan to be presented at the open house is the result of the study plus a variety of comments gathered from the public at open house events, Summer in the City meetings and an online survey.

The commission and task force, the latter comprising residents and stakeholders (users of the parks and trails system) have been meeting regularly with Jason Amberg of the Brauer consulting firm to give their input.

Indeed, individual meetings with more than a dozen community groups have taken place, including athletic associations, church groups, seniors, realtors and schools, according to Gunderson.

A joint meeting of the commission and task force to talk about the plan to be presented at the open house took place Oct. 1.

Following the open house the city council will meet in a work session Tuesday, Oct. 23, 6:30 p.m., to discuss the consultant’s recommendations.

According to City Manager Steve Gatlin, the updated master plan has divided the city into five to six geographic areas with what is called a “cornerstone” or larger park in each area designated for redevelopment.

Improvements recommended for neighborhood parks are rated on a high, medium or low priority basis, Gatlin said.

Sand Creek Athletic Complex, the largest park in the city system, has been separated out from the rest of the parks in the system, he said.

Complete redevelopment and replacement of facilities is recommended for Sand Creek in the updated park master plan, Gatlin said.

The master plan also recommends filling in gaps in the city’s trail system, he said.

Once the final draft plan is completed by the end of the year, it will be up to the council to determine how it wants to move forward, according to Gatlin.

The recent city survey found that residents were generally satisfied with the park system as it is now, Gatlin said.

But Gunderson said in a memo to the Parks and Recreation Commission said that there is a desire to improve aging facilities, general maintenance and connectivity and quality of trails.

At its September meeting, the Parks and Recreation Commission listed its priorities, according to the minutes.

• Complete trail connections to regional parks and to Kennedy Park.

• Sand Creek Park redevelopment.

• Maintenance of park system.

• Cornerstone park development – Crooked Lake Park and Riverview Park were named.

• Add community buildings to cornerstone parks.

According to Gatlin, in neighborhoods where parks have been redeveloped in the past decade, residents have been delighted by the upgraded parks and taken pride in their upkeep.

But implementing the recommendations contained in the draft master plan update would require a bond issue, Gatlin said.

And the decision on whether to go to the voters with a park bond issue, when and for how much will be up to the council, according to Gatlin.

According to minutes of the September commission meeting, Gatlin said preliminary cost projections in the updated master plan were in the $21 million to $27 million range with Sand Creek Athletic Complex redevelopment costing between $4.9 million and $7.5 million.

The master plan update was authorized by the council after it halted a project to reconstruct Riverview Park in 2011 because of lack of funds.

In the past decade, the council upgraded one of the city’s parks annually, but the last park to be renovated was Moor Park in 2010.

Originally, the council’s plan was to start the Riverview Park reconstruction work in the fall of 2011 with completion this past summer.

But the park dedication fund, 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 after an approved apartment project in the city did not become a reality.

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

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 [email protected]