Summer in the City event held at Riverview Park

A planned renovation of Riverview Park in Coon Rapids in 2011 never got off the ground because of a lack of money.

Coon Rapids Recreation Coordinator Ryan Gunderson answers questions from three Riverview Park area residents about the Nov. 5 park referendum, Left to right: Cindy Carlson, Mildred Wolf and Sheryl Rogge.

Coon Rapids Recreation Coordinator Ryan Gunderson answers questions from three Riverview Park area residents about the Nov. 5 park referendum, Left to right: Cindy Carlson, Mildred Wolf and Sheryl Rogge.

In the years before that, the Coon Rapids City Council had approved funds on an annual basis to redevelop one existing city park each year. Moor Park was the last.

But with the economy in recession and revenues tight, there was not the money available to spend on a $1 million-plus project for Riverview Park.

It was at that point that the council decided to consider a park bond referendum. It hired a consultant to update the city’s parks and trails master plan and work with the Coon Rapids Parks and Recreation Commission to establish priorities.

That was completed last year and the Riverview Park redevelopment was identified as one of the top priorities.

And when the council  earlier this year gave the green light to place a $17.4 million park bond referendum on the Nov. 5 election ballot, the Riverview Park project was included.

According to the park bond issue informational brochure that residents received in the mail last week, improvements planned at Riverview will cost in the $800,000 to $1 million range.

They include a half-basketball court, skate park, improved pedestrian access and trail improvements, tennis or pickleball courts, looping trail system and a T-ball field (the Coon Rapids National Little League has its baseball fields at Riverview).

It was only fitting that the fourth stop on the city council’s Summer in the City road trip was to Riverview Park Aug. 13.

This is the fifth year of the Summer in the City program, which takes place in each of the city’s five election wards at a different park each year.

Riverview Park is located in Ward 4 and that ward’s Councilmember Jerry Koch made a presentation on neighborhood issues and programs, while Mayor Tim Howe spoke about citywide projects and programs, including the park bond referendum.

“Summer in the City is a great way for us to hear from people about what’s on their mind,” Howe said.

“We are here to get information, listen to your comments and answer your questions.”

Kristin DeGrande, Coon Rapids neighborhood coordinator who organizes the Summer in the City events, estimated that some 100 residents came to Riverview Park Aug. 13.

“There were a lot of questions,” DeGrande said.

Prior to the presentations by Howe and Koch followed by a question and answer session, there was an open house where refreshments were served and residents were free to browse tables set up by various city departments.

One of those tables focused on the park bond referendum with members of the parks and recreation commission and Recreation Coordinator Ryan Gunderson there to talk about the bond issue proposal and respond to questions from neighborhood residents.

Resident Sheryl Rogge said she was in favor of some improvements included in the park bond proposal, particularly at Riverview because there has not been any work done for many years.

Mildred Wolf, who has lived across 105th Avenue from Riverview Park for many years, is concerned that the entry to the parking lot would be relocated across from her home under the proposed redevelopment plan.

But she could see the need for improvements to the park and if bushes were put in as a buffer as proposed, then that would help, she said.

Neighbor Cindy Carlson said she supports the park bond issue.

“Improving the parks will be good for the community and create a positive environment for kids and adults, as well as strengthen the city,” she said.

Lori Ballejo had not made up her mind whether to support the referendum, she said.

She wants to learn more about what is being proposed, particularly in bike trail improvements, Ballejo said.

“I do a lot of biking,” she said.

According to the park bond referendum brochure, several trail connections will be completed if the referendum is approved, including the Coon Creek Regional Trail, Sand Creek Linkage Trail, 85th Avenue trail connection to Kennedy Park, Mississippi Regional Trail, middle and northern linkage trails and other select trail gaps.

Neal Livermore, parks and recreation commission member, has attended three of the four Summer in the City events this year.

At Riverview, as well at the other two Summer in the City park locations he was at, support for the park bond referendum has been 80 to 20 in favor from the people he talked with, Livermore said.

“I am very optimistic it will pass,” he said.

But the park bond referendum was not the entire focus for residents attending the Summer in the City event at Riverview Park.

According to City Clerk Cathy Sorensen, she had three people sign up to be election judges and two more possibilities.

That did not happen at the three previous Summer in the City programs this year, Sorensen said.

In addition, there was interest from residents in serving on city commissions and some took application forms home with them, she said.

The final Summer in the City event for 2013 will be 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27 at Mason Park, 9600 Holly Circle, which is in Ward 5.

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

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