Consultant to be hired to update parks plan

by Peter Bodley
Managing Editor

A consultant is to be retained by the Coon Rapids City Council to update the city’s parks, open space and trails master plan.

Amenities in the city of Coon Rapids parks. To see a bigger image, click on the graph. Source: city of Coon Rapids parks plan

A subcommittee of four members of the Coon Rapids Parks and Recreations Commission will interview three consulting firms Monday, Jan. 30 with a view to making a recommendation on which one should be hired at the council meeting of Tuesday, Feb. 7.

The three consultants appearing before the subcommittee are LHB from Duluth, Brauer and Associates of Minneapolis and SRF of Plymouth.

Brauer did the work on the original master plan in 2000-2001, while SRF is the engineering firm on Anoka County’s design-build Main Street reconstruction project, currently under way between Crane Street in Coon Rapids and Ulysses Street in Blaine.

According to Steve Gatlin, city public services director, the master plan update will take from six to eight months with a September or October completion date likely.

“There will be public involvement in the master plan process,” Gatlin said.

The 2012 city budget has $40,000 set aside for the master plan update.

The study was authorized by the council after it put a hold on a project to reconstruct Riverview Park last year because of lack of funds.

In the past decade, the council has upgraded one of the city’s parks annually, but the last park to be renovated was Moor Park two years ago.

Originally, the council’s plans were to start the Riverview Park reconstruction work in the fall of 2011 and complete the project in the summer of 2012.

But at a council work session June 27, 2011 Gatlin told the council that one of the sources of funding for the estimated $1.2 million to $1.5 million cost of the project did not have the revenues available for construction.

Plans were to finance the project over a two- to three-year period, Gatlin said.

But a staff-anticipated $525,000 infusion into the park improvement fund last year from park dedication fees from an approved apartment project did not occur because the housing development did not move forward as had been expected, he said.

In fact, the park improvement fund, which has derived its revenues from park dedication fees paid by developers of housing projects in the city, has pretty much dried up as the city is now fully developed and new housing projects are few and far between.

“The city can’t afford to levy the amounts needed for park renovation projects,” Gatlin said.

That’s the reason the council has decided to update the master plan to identify the needs of the parks system, according to Gatlin.

For example, one area that the master plan update will examine are the needs at the Sand Creek Park athletic complex, Gatlin said.

But the consultant will also be asked to recommend ways to finance the capital improvements proposed in the plan, he said.

According to City Manager Matt Fulton, one option the council has been discussing is a park bond referendum, possibly at a special election in the spring of 2013.

Besides the money for the master plan update, the 2012 budget includes $100,000 for miscellaneous park improvements and $100,000 for trail development.

The city has some 40 parks, which include athletic fields, ice rinks, sliding hills, play areas and skate parks, and more than 20 miles of trails covering nearly 900 acres.

Development of the park system began in 1959 when Coon Rapids became a city and natural areas were set aside as public space for residents.

According to the city’s park and trail system brochure, the goal of the parks and trails is to “encourage an active community by providing opportunities for walking, biking and using community recreational facilities.”

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]