Vision for city’s park and trails

The public had the chance to see the vision for the future of the city of Coon Rapids’ parks and trails system at an open house Oct. 9.

An open house took place at the Coon Rapids City Center Oct. 9 to unveil an updated parks and trails master plan for the city. Some 40 residents attended along with city officials.
An open house took place at the Coon Rapids City Center Oct. 9 to unveil an updated parks and trails master plan for the city. Some 40 residents attended along with city officials.

It will be the Coon Rapids City Council’s turn at a work session Tuesday, Oct. 23, 6:30 p.m., when Brauer & Associates, the consulting firm hired by the council, will present its draft update of the city’s parks and trails master plan,

At the same time, the recommendations for implementation by the Coon Rapids Parks and Recreation Commission as well as a task force of stakeholders, which comprised residents and parks and trails users, set up by council to work with the consultant will be presented.

According to City Manager Steve Gatlin, the council will receive cost estimates for the various recommendations outlined in the plan.

“The council will be asked to talk about implementation of the plan,” Gatlin said.

From those discussions, the consultant will go back and complete the plan containing the proposed implementation timetable and Gatlin hopes that a final draft will be completed by the end of the year.

At the open house, some 40 people who attended viewed displays of the parks and trails master plan update plus a slide show.

In developing the updated master plan, Brauer & Associates split the city into five geographic areas defined by physical barriers such as roads and railroad tracks that would pose difficulties for convenient travel for people from where they live to the parks and trails.

In each “service sector,” as the geographic areas are called, there is an anchor “cornerstone” park, a larger park in which a broader range of quality facilities would be provided and become a focal point for the area, according to the plan.

The “cornerstone” parks identified in the plan and their proposed improvements are:

• Crooked Lake – full renovation to improve layout, access and circulation; renovate tennis courts, trails and playground; improve beach; splash pad and skate park.

• Pheasant Ridge – interpretive nodes along trails; improve trails and connections; update playgrounds and amenities; add group shelter; ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) improvements; passive space improvements; and improve identity at entry points.

• Lions Coon Creek – select renovation to improve layout and circulation; improve group shelters; play area renovation; and splash pad.

• Al Flynn Park – renovate tennis courts; improve layout and circulation; splash pad; and new playground and amenities.

Under the updated master plan, the city’s largest park, Sand Creek Athletic Field, is treated as freestanding facility outside the five “service sectors.”

A full renovation to improve layout, orientation and circulation is proposed for Sand Creek Park plus an improved skate park and tennis courts.

“So much has been shoehorned into the park that orientation is difficult,” Gatlin said.

According to the master plan, neighborhood parks will continue to offer a “baseline” level of service to keep them viable and aesthetically pleasing.

The master plan calls for filling in the gaps in the city’s trail system and connections with regional trails with expansion of the trail system a major point of focus.

Recommendations from the Parks and Recreation Commission and task force have been divided into three tiers – high priorities, medium priorities and low priorities.

As presented at the open house, the tier one high priorities are redevelopment of Sand Creek Park and Crooked Lake Park as well as creation of an Evergreen Dog Park with the elimination of a dog park at Trackside Park.

According to Gatlin, there was sentiment at the open house to make Riverview Park redevelopment a tier one top priority instead of Crooked Lake Park since it was the Riverview Park that was abandoned for lack of money and was the catalyst for the council ordering a parks and trails master plan update.

In the commission and task force recommendations, Riverview Park was listed in the tier two medium priorities for redevelopment.

As for an Evergreen Dog Park, the city owns property in Evergreen Business Park on which it stores public works equipment and a portion of that could be turned into a dog park, Gatlin said.

Under that scenario, the city would still continue to pursue a dog park in the area of the Bunker Hills Compost Site with Anoka County and other cities, he said.

The high priorities recommendations also include work on the Coon Creek Regional Trail and Sand Creek Linkage Trail as well as the 85th Avenue trail connection to Kennedy Park, for which the city has twice been unsuccessful in applying for state grants.

In addition, the commission and task force have identified as a top priority an increase in the park system maintenance to pre-budget cut levels.

Besides the complete renovation of Riverview Park, the commission and task force list as tier two medium priorities several trail and sidewalk projects to close gaps.

Improvements to the city’s other parks have been deemed tier three low priorities.

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

The commission and task force met regularly with Jason Amberg of the Brauer consulting firm to give their input.

In addition, individual meetings with more than a dozen community groups took place, including athletic associations, church groups, seniors, realtors and schools, according to Ryan Gunderson, the city’s recreation coordinator.

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 had 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]