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Barsness Park plan approved by city

By Tim Douglass

What will be known as Barsness Park and the Lake Minnewaska Regional Recreational Area took another step forward last Tuesday when the Glenwood City Commission approved the master plan for the park system.

That approval, which was unanimous among the commissioners at the meeting, (Kyle Thompson was not at the meeting) already received approval from the city’s park board and now allows the city to seek designation of the park as a “regional destination.”

With the approval, the commission also directed city staff to immediately implement steps to construct a new baseball field in conjunction with the Minnewaska Baseball Association, the city and a $10,000 grant from the Minnesota Twins Community Fund.  

The new baseball field, which will be smaller in size to accommodate younger players, will be built where the skate park is now located, it was stated at the meeting.  There was no decision on relocating the skate park, but it is in need of repair, according City Administrator Dave Iverson.  According to Gordy Moen, who was at the meeting representing the baseball association, the outfield fence of the new baseball field would be installed for the spring youth baseball season and then removed each year to keep that area of the park open to the public during the summer months.  

Master plan is first step in regional park designation

The master plan, presented by Stephanie Howe of Studio e Architects, is the result of months of planning, public meetings by multiple community groups, as well as public surveys.  The concepts for the master plan came about from that public process that was financed by a Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) grant through Horizon Public Health.   With the plan comes the ability to seek the “regional park” designation and allows the park to seek state grants to not only enhance existing and add new attractions to the park, but also provide funding for marketing the park to potential visitors, according to Howe.

Howe used a Power Point presentation to show what the new park could look like and how it could be connected to the city beach area as well as connected to the lake walk, the city and existing bike and nature trails.  “We’ve worked very hard to get the public’s opinions on both the additional activities desired as well as which existing features should be enhanced,” Howe told the commission.

In a summary of the plan, she stressed that the trails and the playground areas were valued, but the public wanted improvements.  She also said that some sort of water feature, like a splash pad was a top priority for many when it comes to new activities, according to the public comments received on the park.   Howe also stated that the committee and the park board also wanted the park to be a destination for all four seasons.  
She said public opinion from surveys showed that the top priorities for existing activities at the park were: playgrounds, hiking trails, shower and toilet facility, open picnic shelters, baseball and softball fields, creek bridges, soccer fields and the Chalet building.  

Additions or added activities that were prioritized from the surveys and meetings included: a splash pad or other water feature, ice skating rink, sledding hill, tubing hill, cross-country ski trails, snow shoe trails, mountain bike trails and camper cabins.  

The information also identified the public’s priorities at the city beach and prioritized additional activities that should be added to the city beach.  The existing priorities included: the swimming beach, the beach house, swimming platforms, boat landing, picnic shelters and seating and observation areas.  The additional activities desired at the beach included: docks, dining patio–eating/drinking area, more seating areas, a flip-flop of the picnic and parking areas, bike trail head, and converting a third of the green space into boat/trailer parking.
The public also prioritized existing and desired additions to the lake walk area that connects the beach and
Barsness Park area to the City Park next to Lakeside Ballroom.

She told the commission that the first survey provided the activities desired, and a second survey, nearly 40 pages of information, provided a more in-depth look at what the public wanted.

Howe also stated that allowing private business at the park was a contention, so the survey did ask about specifically adding a mini-golf course.  The result was that there were 18 respondents who were against adding mini-golf, 11 in favor and four that were questionable.  It was determined “that mini-golf was not a highly wanted activity at the park,” she added.

She did say the city should be encouraged “because people are very interested in the park system and what it offers.”  She also told commissioners to take the time to read the information compiled by the Comprehensive Community Improvement Initiative (CCII) park and trails committee and the park board.

She also pointed out that a single-track bike trail that would wind around the 300-acre Barsness Park was also a top priority and would provide a connection with other trails and parts of the city.  She added that the walking trails at the park are used heavily in the summer and suggested that using the trail system for fat-tire bikes is also an option that would increase usage in the winter months.

Safety features, like a flashing light and crosswalk from the park to the city beach were also important additions, she said.

As far as funding the improvements, she emphasized that community groups will be encouraged to come together to “make this happen.  It gives the city a connecting point and enhances the area.  It is a step toward that goal,” Howe added.

After that presentation, city resident Dan Schliesman said there needs to be more off-street parking added to the Lakeside Ballroom area.  He also stated that if there’s going to be that many bikers coming to the city, “I’ll open a bike fix-it store and fix all the flat tires.”

Sara Stadtherr, who serves on the city’s park board and is a member of the CCII parks and trails committee, addressed the potential economic impact that the new park system could bring to Glenwood.  She cited a news report done by Minnesota Public Radio in October 2016 after Crosby-Ironton had built a park called the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.  She said the report showed the park had 190,000 visitors, and most of the vacant storefronts in the community were now occupied with businesses related to the park activity.  

“That happened because they got the regional designation and were able to get state funding for the park,” she added.  “That proves that economic growth is very possible for this community as well.”

Ralph Woehle, a retired college professor who moved to Glenwood recently, told the commission that he is biased because “I love the park.”  

He said he will be working on the regional park designation and seeking grants from the Minnesota Legacy fund.  In 2008, Minnesota’s voters passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment (Legacy Amendment) to the Minnesota Constitution to: protect drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve arts and cultural heritage; to support parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater.

The Legacy Amendment increased the state sales tax by three-eighths of one percent beginning on July 1, 2009, and continues until 2034. The additional sales tax revenue is distributed into four funds as follows: 33 percent to the clean water fund; 33 percent to the outdoor heritage fund; 19.75 percent to the arts and cultural heritage fund; and 14.25 percent to the parks and trails fund.

Woehle said he is willing to work on the application and provide his expertise in seeking the regional status and funding for the park system.  He has experience from both sides of the table– writing grants and sitting on boards that decide on grant applications.  He said getting the park designated a “regional park” by the state is the first step.  Then, he outlined the regional park application process for the commission.

The current elements of the application being used are: description of the location and four criteria.  The criteria used in the application will be that the park provides a high-quality outdoor recreation experience; it preserves a regionally-significant and diverse natural or historic landscape; it is well located and connected to serve a regional population and/or a tourist destination; and it fills a gap in recreational opportunity within the region.

Woehle also suggested the application be done as close to the beginning of the year as possible and said another important aspect was the historic value of the park, citing the former ski jump as an example.  He also encouraged the public to send him photographs of the park that show it in all four seasons.  

“I’m glad to contribute my time to this beautiful community and this beautiful park that is available for all of us,” he told the commission.

Baseball association shows rising participation levels

Gordy Moen, representing the Minnewaska Baseball Association, told commissioners that the local baseball program involves about 280 kids “and that number is growing,” he said.

He said there are three different levels: the spring league, which is for kindergarten through  6th-graders; the I-94 league that attracts kids from the region and is for 4th and 5th-graders; and the tournament team, which is for kids ages 9 through 14 years old.

Moen said the association applied and received the Minnesota Twins grant for a new baseball field “because we’ve outgrown our facilities and we need a third field.”  He said the association received the grant last year, but got an extension because the park was

The Starbuck Times
The Starbuck Times