Coon Rapids Council sets timeline for parks, trail work

A timeline for constructing projects approved by voters in the Nov. 5 park bond referendum has been presented to the Coon Rapids City Council.

Staff has proposed a two-tier implementation schedule, starting in 2014 and finishing in 2020, for completing the projects that were part of the referendum, which authorized $17.2 million for parks and trails improvements.

According to Tim Himmer, public works director, tier one, the top priorities, includes Riverview Park, Sand Creek Park and “significant trail connections.”

Riverview is proposed for 2014 construction.

That park went through the master planning process in 2011 and a concept design was developed based on public and stakeholder participation, Himmer said.

But because of the recession’s impact on its budget, the council was unable to come up with the funds to pay for the project, and that was the impetus for the updated parks master plan which led to the council’s decision to go to the voters with the park bond referendum.

“Staff is proposing to meet with residents in the immediate area to fine tune this design, if necessary, prior to advancing to final design and construction plan implementation,” Himmer wrote in a report to the council.

The budget for the Riverview project is $1.4 million. A half-basketball court, skate park, improved pedestrian access and trail improvements, tennis/pickleball courts and a looping trail system are currently proposed.

“We have to make sure Riverview gets done first,” said Councilmember Paul Johnson. “The people there have been waiting for so much time.”

Trail improvements totaling more than $1.6 million are also proposed to start in 2014, and the more the better in the view of most councilmembers.

“I would like to see more emphasis on trails in tier one,” said Councilmember Ron Manning. “I would hate to see them wait too long.”

The proposed trail extensions and gap filling were the most important part of the park bond referendum in the view of many residents and the focus needs to be on them, according to Councilmember Denise Klint.

“The trails are very important,” said Councilmember Jerry Koch.

And Mayor Tim Howe said that reconstruction of the Mississippi Regional Trail along Coon Rapids Boulevard west to the city’s border with Anoka was sorely needed. There have been lots of complaints about the trail’s condition in some areas, he said.

Himmer added Mississippi Regional Trail segment from Hanson Boulevard west of the Anoka border to the tier one projects, which also include the 85th Avenue trail to Kennedy Park, for which preliminary design work has been completed and for which the city has sought a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources grant on more than one occasion, and will try again in 2014.

Also planned for 2014-2015 construction is Coon Creek Regional Trail expansion to the Crooked Lake area and a Sand Creek Trail extension from 121st Avenue near Fire Station 2 through Wilderness Park to the Main Street tunnel, according to Himmer.

The city has received a DNR grant for the Sand Creek Trail project, which will pay 50 percent of the cost, with the city picking up the balance from bond proceeds, Himmer said.

In addition, north of the tunnel, Anoka County will construct a short segment of trail to link with Avocet Street, he said.

For Sand Creek Athletic Complex, the city’s largest park, plans are to have public involvement and design work done in 2014 with construction starting in 2015 and completion in 2016.

With a $5.7 million budget, the proposal would completely redo the layout of the park to bring the complex up to modern day athletic field standards.

New amenities and facilities proposed include softball, baseball, football, lacrosse, hockey/skating, tennis, playgrounds, picnic areas and a splash pad plus improved parking.

According to Himmer, Lions Coon Creek Park, a high priority of the Coon Rapids Parks and Recreation Commission, has been included in the tier two projects.

The commission’s view is that the park is one of the most widely used and most visible in the city, Himmer said.

But Himmer’s proposal, which the council did not change, would be to do the improvements “in pieces” because its current amenities are in good shape and there are higher priorities where maintenance needs are greater, he said.

There are also “trail issues” at Lions Coon Creek Park, which complicate the project, specifically dealing with environmental concerns, including parking runoff and creek erosion, Himmer said.

The Lions Coon Creek Park improvements are estimated to cost $900,000 and include partial renovation to improve park layout, larger picnic shelter, improved play area, basketball and volleyball courts and possibly expanded parking.

Besides Sand Creek, Lions Coon Creek and Riverview, two other larger “cornerstone parks” are scheduled for redevelopment under the park referendum.

Crooked Lake Park ($800,000) has been penciled in for 2017-2018 and Pheasant Ridge Park ($200,000) for 2017.

Staff has prioritized the other parks listed for redevelopment in tier two according to maintenance needs, according to Himmer.

Delta ($300,000) is on the 2016 schedule, Riverwind ($500,000) in 2016-2017, Woodcrest ($600,000) in 2018-2019 and Mason ($300,000) in 2018-2019.

The only new park included in the park bond referendum, Boulevard Park, located on Coon Rapids Boulevard in front of the Coon Rapids Ice Center, will have grading and turf establishment done early on in the construction timeline because of its potential to host community events, like the Fourth of July celebration when Sand Creek Park is being redeveloped, Himmer said.

Amenities such as the splash pad, play area and general picnic space are likely to come later, he said.

“We need to make it look nice from the boulevard,” Koch said.

Some $4 million remaining in the budget for trails expansion and gap filling is scheduled for 2017-2020, according to Himmer.

He is hoping to work with Anoka County to leverage dollars for work on the regional trails with the city providing the match for grants that the county is able to obtain for trail projects within Coon Rapids, Himmer said.

A meeting between city and county staff has been set for January to discuss this idea, he said.

Staff has started making preparations to gather field data (surveying and geotechnical investigations) on the larger projects, Himmer said.

In addition, staff has been meeting with various stakeholders that use Sand Creek Park (Coon Rapids Athletic Association, Fourth of July organizers and the American Little League) to get their input before refining the concept plan and taking it to the public for comment, he said.

Public meetings will take place for neighborhood affected by each park project to get their comments on the proposal before final design work takes place, Himmer said.

“My goal is to make sure the dollars go to the improvements, not to pushing paper or on pretty designs,” he said.

And to make sure the workload does not become overwhelming for staff, he has tried to mix larger and smaller projects each year, not try to do all the larger projects at once, according to Himmer.

Howe wants staff to provide the council with a monthly update on progress, he said.

“It is very important we keep abreast of this,” Howe said.

The city is planning to sell the referendum bonds in 2014 to take advantage of the still-low interest rates, according to Finance Director Sharon Legg.

The first tax impact from the referendum’s passage will appear on the 2014 property tax statements.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]