Sand Creek Park project concept plan is unveiled

Preliminary drawings for a complete renovation of Sand Creek Park, Coon Rapids, were unveiled at a meeting involving the Coon Rapids Parks and Recreation Commission, city staff and park users Jan. 13.

The $17.2 million park bond referendum passed by Coon Rapids voters in November has earmarked some $5.7 million for improvements to Sand Creek, which at 50 acres the city’s largest park.

Under the proposal, the layout of the park would be completely redone to bring the complex up to modern athletic field standards.

There would be new areas for softball, baseball, football, lacrosse, hockey and skating, tennis, basketball, skate park, new playgrounds, improved parking and new picnic facilities.

Currently, the park has six regulation adult softball fields (three lighted) with dugouts, bleachers and fencing; skate park and hockey rinks; four artificial turf surfaced tennis courts; basketball courts; two lighted full-sized football fields; a concession stand and warming house.

The concept plan proposes six lighted softball fields, two lighted football and lacrosse fields, two lighted hockey rinks, an open skating area, skate park, multi-purpose building with concessions and warming house, an enclosed shelter with a restroom and trails throughout the complex with connections to the residential neighborhood.

According to Ryan Gunderson, city recreation coordinator, from discussions and consensus reached at the Jan. 13 meeting, tweaks will be made to the proposed concept plan prepared by WSB & Associates, the consultant hired by the Coon Rapids City Council to do an updated parks and trails master plan which formed the basis for the park bond referendum as well as designs for the various park and trail improvements that are part of the bond issue.

Those tweaks will be brought back to another meeting of the commission and stakeholders, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 10, Gunderson said.

Then an open house meeting will be scheduled with neighboring residents of the park to get their comments in late February or early March, he said.

“The planning and public process is scheduled for 2014 with construction to take place in 2015 and 2016,” Gunderson said.

Stakeholders at the meeting included representatives of the Coon Rapids North Star Lions Club and Coon Rapids Fire Department, who are the organizers of the annual Fourth of July celebration at the park; Coon Rapids Sustainability Commission; Coon Rapids fastpitch softball; and Coon Rapids American Little League, which owns the fields in Sand Creek Park, where it plays its games.

The existing Little League fields would not be impacted by the proposed changes to the park layout.

There was no representation at the meeting from the Coon Rapids Athletic Association because the evening of Jan. 13 was when the organization had its annual banquet, but it has been part of other stakeholder discussions, Gunderson said.

According to Gunderson, the group overall liked the concept plan presented.

The group’s consensus was that Sand Creek was an athletic complex and that a proposed splash pad should be removed from the amenities, Gunderson said.

As well, consensus was that all community events should moved to the Coon Rapids Ice Center/Boulevard Park area, he said.

A new park, Boulevard Park, built between the ice center and Coon Rapids Boulevard, is proposed as part of the park bond referendum.

That’s where the Fourth of July celebration would be moved when Sand Creek Park is shut down in 2015 and 2016 while the park improvements are under construction, Gunderson said.

“The consensus of the stakeholders group was that should be a permanent move,” he said.

Plans are to have the Boulevard Park ready to host the 2015 Fourth of July celebration, which would mean removing the concrete where the businesses were formerly located in that area, then grading and sodding the city-owned property, Gunderson said.

Initially, temporary tents would have to be provided as well as an area where bands could perform, he said.

Ultimately, the Boulevard Park is proposed to have an inter-active water feature or splash pad, play area and general picnic space with seating, according to the park referendum brochure.

With Sand Creek Park closed for two years during construction, the traditional sports activities will have to be moved to other city parks, which Gunderson does not see as a problem, although there will be fewer lighted fields to work with so games will not be able to go as late, he said.

“It should be relatively seamless,” Gunderson said.

For example, the city does all the scheduling for the adult softball leagues, he said.

Other tweaks suggested by the stakeholders included possibly removing the west road, having the concession stand serve the youth fields and play areas with a bare bones shelter for the wheel of four lighted softball fields and a desire for warm-up/open space in the park, according to Gunderson.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]