‘Vote yes’ parks group forms in Coon Rapids

A Vote Yes for Parks Committee has been formed in the city of Coon Rapids.

The committee’s goal is to generate support for passage of the Coon Rapids park bond referendum, which will be on the Tuesday, Nov. 5 election ballot.

The $17.4 million bond issue before voters is for the approval of parks, open space and trail systems improvements.

The question states, “Shall the City Council of the City of Coon Rapids be authorized to borrow money and issue general obligation bonds, in one or more series, in the amount not to exceed $17,400,000 for the purpose of renovation, acquisition, betterment and improvements of parks, open space and trails infrastructure in the City.”

The ballot question makes it clear that a “yes” vote will result in a property tax increase.

The Vote Yes for Parks Committee was formed about three weeks ago, according to Ted Schmolke, its chairperson.

Originally, the plan had be to have the heads of the sports associations in the city spearhead the committee, but with some of those people not residents of Coon Rapids, it has become a resident-driven group, said Schmolke, a Coon Rapids resident who is president of the Coon Rapids Athletic Association.

In fact, most of the committee members are individual citizens who want to see the city’s parks and trails improved, not the representatives of the sports associations, he said.

“We believe passage of this bond referendum is an investment in the community,” Schmolke said.

“We have excellent people involved which is exciting.”

The committee had a spaghetti dinner fundraiser Wednesday (Oct. 23) at the Coon Rapids American Legion with the proceeds going to pay for the “vote yes” campaign.

According to Schmolke, “Vote Yes” signs would be sprouting up all over Coon Rapids by the end of this week.

In addition, literature backing the park bond referendum will also be prepared by the committee for distribution before the election, Schmolke said.

“How much depends on how much money we raise,” he said.

The committee has also set up a “Vote Yes for Parks” website at www.coonrapidsvoteyes.com.

The website includes links to the city of Coon Rapids website and specifically the parks and trails master plan that was completed last year and was the impetus for the city council deciding to put a park bond issue on the ballot this year, as well as the two park bond referendum brochures the city has distributed this year plus a CTN cable TV video on the referendum.

In addition, people visiting the site can leave a reply with their name and email address, which will not be published, plus a comment.

The committee believes the city’s parks and trails need improving, not just for sports activities, but also for children and parents who frequent the city’s parks and those that use the trails, Schmolke said.

He gave as an example Sand Creek Park, the city’s largest park, for which the city has been talking about improvements for many years, but it has never had the money to make them, he said.

If the bond issue is approved, major improvements are proposed at Sand Creek Park, including revamping the layout to bring the park up to modern athletic field standards.

“It’s time to start a new Coon Rapids,” Schmolke said.

An enhanced parks and trails system in Coon Rapids will attract people to the city, he said.

And using amenities like the parks and trails  improves people’s health, Schmolke said.

If the bond referendum, is approved, the parks and trails improvements would be completed over a six- to eight-year period starting in 2015.

The bonds sold by the city would have a 20-year term with a property tax increase of about $42 a year for a home valued at $150,000, according to the city brochure.

Parks proposed for improvements with the bond issue proceeds, if the referendum passes, include Sand Creek, Crooked Lake, Pheasant Ridge, Riverview, Lions Coon Creek, Woodcrest, Delta, Riverwind and Mason.

There would be a new Boulevard Park created off Coon Rapids Boulevard in front of the Coon Rapids Ice Center and renovations made to the restrooms at the Coon Rapids Soccer Complex.

Trail projects included in the referendum package are the Coon Creek Regional Trail, Sand Creek Linkage Trail, 85th Avenue trail connection to Kennedy Park, Mississippi Regional Trail, middle linkage trail, northern linkage trail and filling other select trail gaps.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]