Anyone See Some Waste Here?
By Andrew Richter
Plans by the Three Rivers Park District and Brooklyn Park to redevelop the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park and the neighboring Brooklyn Park Environmental Nature Area have now reached the concept phase. The Brooklyn Park City Council members received their first look at the plans during the April 4 work session.
I mean how can you stand the excitement!
The concept plan, created by Three Rivers planners with community input facilitated by the city, includes a tree canopy walk to elevate park visitors over the park, a nature-based play area and a mini river that allows children to play and manipulate the water flow, as well as trails throughout the park to connect users to the river, nature and learning opportunities.
The park district is already shifting events to the park and is committed to the work of redeveloping the park, DeJournett stressed.Three Rivers Director of Planning Kelly Grissman presented the plan, and Three Rivers commissioners Jennifer DeJournett and Steve Antolak and City Recreation and Parks Director Jody Yungers discussed the plan and the larger goal – to connect park visitors to the Mississippi River. The working name, at this point, for renaming the park is “Mississippi River Regional Park,” DeJournett told the council.
“We’ve already done that (shifted programming) to show that we mean what we say,” she said. “The board wants to do right by this park.”
The trails lead users to nature connection points that can facilitate fishing, hiking and biking, skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, access to the river for canoeing and kayaking and nature exploration such as bug collecting, wetland and water quality observation, Grissman explained.
Bug collecting? Wetland observation?
The plans call for small and medium picnic areas, available without reservations. The first-come, first-serve shelters are a response to community needs, she said. The larger shelter would be used for park programs, but isn’t the large space the city is discussing with the signature event area task force. Grissman called the shelters “friends and family” size and available for impromptu picnics and gatherings. “We did hear from the community and across our parks, people want flexibility,” she said.
The tree canopy walk could be created using the elevation changes of the deep ravine behind the current visitor center, Grissman explained, noting that the structure would be accessible to everyone and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The walk could be connected to the play area, perhaps with a slide down and a climbing spot to get back up to the walkway. “It’s basically a suspended boardwalk in the tree canopy,” she said. “You get to pretend you are bird for a day.”
We get to pretend we are a bird for a day!! Hilarious!!
The plan could use the existing visitor center or include a new building, Grissman explained, as the plan doesn’t address the future visitor center possibilities. A shelter would be added in the southern portion of the 160-acre park and would be used in warm weather for education outreach and school field trips and in cold weather as a warming shelter for winter weather activities. The plan calls for the park to be open and accessible all year.
The plan includes a tunnel under West River Road to safely connect visitors between the park and the environmental area, Grissman explained. The off-leash dog park and archery areas would be revamped, and picnic shelters for up to 75 people and available for advance reservations would be featured. There would be paved and natural trails and nature connection points throughout the 97-acre parcel.
The city and Three Rivers began working on the plan last year, and the planners want feedback, Yungers explained to the council. To present the plan to residents and gather their responses, the city is hosting two open house events, on Wednesday, April 13 and Thursday, April 14, at the Community Activity Center. Both events are 5:30-7:30 p.m. with presentations of the plans at 6 p.m. each evening.
In an effort to involve residents near the parks, the city sent postcards to residents of five neighborhoods around the park and along the Mississippi River inviting residents to the open house events, Yungers explained.
Post cards for an open house? Let me translate; you can come see the plans after the plans have been made!
The presenters stressed that amplified sound is not part of the discussion for the park. In fact, amplified sound is prohibited in all Three River parks, DeJournett stressed. “That would be a departure for us, and for all of our parks,” she said. Amplified sound, Yungers noted, would go against the goal of connecting the park and park visitors to nature.
The plan did not impress Mayor Jeff Lunde, who said he’d be the toughest critic on the council regarding the park plan. “I feel that I’m getting a tree house,” the mayor said after the presentation. “I’m not to ‘wow’ yet.”
Oh yeah Mr. Lunde, we aren’t spending enough for you right? Maybe we need to put light rail next to it.
Antolak stressed that park district planners are still working on plan details. The typography of the land, the floodplain and the uniqueness of the park will come out in those details. The conversation between the city and park district must continue, he said, adding that the continued discussion will push the plan further. “We need to hear that conversation, otherwise (the park) will be something ordinary and plain,” he said.
In other words, there’s plenty of time to spend more!
The park, Lunde stressed, should already have impressive features, and the plan simply elevates it to what should already be there. “I’m getting what this park should have had,” he said.
This guy is unreal!
DeJournett stressed that it would not be fair to judge the design by what isn’t there and by the decisions and investments of prior park boards. The plan delivers “lots of bang for your buck” with many elements in the small part of the park that is developable land.
“This is a plan that will give you a beautiful amenity that is actually realistic,” she said. The park will be unique, Yungers said. But, as with many things, it is the details that make or break it. “The devil is in the details,” she said. “This could be exceptional. I am convinced. The canvas we are working with is in itself special.”
Councilmember Mike Trepanier questioned the benefit to the city, whose property gets improved but not dramatic new features in the plan. He concluded that the project will not be cheap, but that the park deserves to be well kept like others in the park district. “I do think we are getting towards ‘wow,’ but it is good to keep pushing, he said.
Is anything ever cheap?
The city’s next step in the process, Yungers said, is to formalize the planning partnership with Three Rivers. The city has budgeted $200,000 this year for master planning. The agreement and the funds would be used to advance the planning into the design development phase, where the plans become much more detailed.
The city and park district could also apply for National Park Service grant funds, she said, as the Twin Cities area is one of eight focus areas in the country where the Park Service wants to get residents outdoors. The grant would be fully matched to $750,000. The council will get more information about the grant possibility as the planning process moves forward, she said.
Oh yes, go get that “free money!” Sick to your stomach yet??