Sand Creek Park concept gets green light from council

A concept master plan for the complete renovation of Sand Creek Park has been given the green light by the Coon Rapids City Council.

The plan prepared by WSB & Associates with input from city staff, the Coon Rapids Parks and Recreation Commission and existing users of the park was presented to the council at a work session March 25.

“It’s a workable plan,” Mayor Tim Howe said.

By reaching consensus, the council has given staff the go ahead to present the concept plan to an information meeting of neighborhood residents, which will take place either later this month or early May.

The neighborhood meeting is part of the planning and design process which will continue the rest of this year with construction on the estimated $5.7 million project – the most expensive of the parks and trails projects that were included in the $17.2 million park bond referendum approved by Coon Rapids voters in November 2013 – to start in 2015 and be completed in 2016.

“Construction will take two years,” said Public Works Director Tim Himmer.

The council agreed with the stakeholders that the annual Fourth of July celebration, which has taken place at Sand Creek Park since 1976, will be moved to a new location permanently. Those stakeholders included the Coon Rapids firefighters and the Coon Rapids North Star Lions Club, who jointly put on the celebration each year.

“Sand Creek Park should be the city’s showcase athletic facility,” said Councilmember Paul Johnson.

There was also consensus that the Fourth of July event should move to the city’s new Boulevard Park, that will be constructed beside the Coon Rapids Ice Center.

“Boulevard Park is a good place for it,” said Councilmember Bruce Sanders.

Under the city’s plans, complete development of Boulevard Park, which was one of the park projects earmarked in the park bond issue, would not take place right away, according to Public Works Director Tim Himmer.

The first priority is to get the park ready to host the 2015 Fourth of July celebration, Himmer said.

That will involve grading and irrigating the park area as well as putting in turf and a few benches, he said.

Shannon Moen, representing the firefighters, and John Leggate, of the North Star Lions Club, told the council that it made sense to move the Fourth of July celebration from Sand Creek Park to Boulevard Park.

“We are comfortable with the move,” Moen said.

There are some issues that will have to be addressed, specifically the location where the fireworks display is set up, he said.

The biggest concern for the Lions club at Boulevard Park is the availability of power, according to Leggate. “We will figure it out as we go along,” he said.

Under the Sand Creek Park plan, the 50-acre park, the city’s largest, will be completely redesigned to bring it up to modern athletic field standards.

The concept plan features six lighted softball fields; two lighted football and lacrosse fields; two lighted hockey rinks; an open skating area; a skate park; a multi-purpose building with concessions; two mini-shelters for concessions, one adjacent to two of the softball fields and football/lacrosse fields and the other adjacent to the other four softball fields; a centrally located play area; two tennis courts; a half-basketball court; an enclosed shelter and play area at the southern end of the park; and trails throughout the park connecting to the adjacent residential area.

The current main entrance from Northdale Boulevard as well as the existing access to 113th Avenue will remain, but the entrance from Northdale adjacent to the railroad tracks will be limited to maintenance and emergency vehicles through gates that will only be opened to regular traffic in times of high park usage.

Also proposed are four parking lots totaling 525 spaces.

Not part of the redevelopment plan is the Coon Rapids American Little League complex that is located in the park. That’s because the Little League organization owns that part of the park property, although some land property line issues need to be worked out and some land swapping might have to take place, according to City Manager Steve Gatlin.

The city will be working with the baseball organization so that park construction does not disrupt its baseball seasons in 2015 and 2016, Gatlin said.