Jan. 15, 2007

LP considers proposal for revitalized downtown park

Council requests resident input

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

People know it by different names, including “Central Park,” “Gazebo Park,” and “Downtown Park,” but one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that the park near the center of Lester Prairie’s business district is not very appealing.

In an effort to change that, a committee was formed last year to come up with a proposal to revitalize the park.

After months of research and discussion, the committee, which is made up of concerned citizens, brought its findings to the park board.

The park board unanimously approved the committee’s proposal, and the two groups brought the proposal to the city council during Monday’s meeting.

Park Board Member Chris Schultz said the proposal would take care of the bandstand issue, add significant aesthetic value to the downtown area, and provide a focal point for the continuation of trail projects in the city.

Schultz noted that the lease issue with the county has been resolved, clearing the way for improvements to the park.

Schultz also stated that the committee prepared the plan without incurring any engineering costs.

The committee said the goal of the proposal is to:

• provide a positive image of downtown Lester Prairie for both residents and visitors.

• provide a place of leisure and relaxation.

• provide a place for entertainment and other activities for local organizations and groups.

• provide a positive area for youth activities.

What is proposed?

The committee determined that the old bandstand is deteriorated beyond repair.

There is a plan to remove the existing structure at no cost to the city.

The proposal is to construct a new bandstand to be centrally located in the park.

It would be constructed from low maintenance materials, and would include a concrete floor, lighting, and electrical outlets.

The structure would be built with volunteer labor.

An imprinted concrete walkway would be built from Central Avenue to the bandstand.

The walkway would extend west to a proposed parking area and Legion memorial.

Seven colonial-style streetlights would be strategically placed along the walkway.

Landscaping would include the planting of a variety of trees to fit the park.

Five maintenance-free park benches would be permanently installed around the bandstand.

The proposal also includes a wing wall climbing structure for children.

An area will be set aside for the Legion near the corner of Central Avenue and Juniper Street for a memorial.

Other secondary proposals include the construction of a skating rink and a warming house that would resemble the old railroad depot, skating rink lighting, a youth dirt bike track, and an electronic programmable sign to be located along Central Avenue that could be used to advertise community events.

Schultz told the council that any approval will require a clear commitment from the city to maintain the park to preserve the aesthetic value of the project.

The total cost of the project is $103,200.

The cost includes:

• bandstand $35,000.

• walkway and gazebo foundation $29,000.

• parking lot $6,500.

• electrical $13,200.

• landscaping $11,400.

• park benches and trash receptacles $2,600.

• climbing wall $5,500.

Schultz said it might take more than one year to fund the project, but stated it would require a commitment of $65,000-$70,000 from the city in the first year.

Some of the funding would come from park funds and park reserve funds.

Additional funding could come from grants and donations.

Council Member Art Mallak stated that the application deadline for the $15,000 General Mills park grant is Tuesday, May 15.

Mayor Eric Angvall said that the park board needs to prioritize what it wants to do.

Schultz asked how much was in the park budget and in the reserve fund, but the council was unable to answer the question during the meeting.

Angvall said the park board could work with City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk to determine what funds are available.

“We are at a point where we really need to do something,” Schultz commented, noting that the bandstand issue has been on the park board agenda for nearly 20 years, and nothing has been done about it.

The council generally seemed to support the concept.

“This would be a great enhancement for downtown. We need to move in a positive direction,” Council Member Ron Foust said.

“I would like to keep them in control of the project,” Schultz said of the committee, noting he did not want to see everyone agree to the project, and then not have it completed.

“There are a lot of concerned citizens on the committee, and they have done a terrific job,” Mallak said.

The committee’s goal would be to encourage as much use of the park as possible, and the bandstand could be used for a variety of activities, including music in the park and art in the park, according to Schultz.

“This could be a steppingstone to stimulate revitalization in other parts of downtown,” Schultz said.

Angvall said that the council has been criticized in the past when it has made decisions to spend money.

The council decided to seek public input on the proposal before taking any action on it.

Two meetings were scheduled to provide opportunities for residents to learn about the proposal and provide comments.

A park board meeting is scheduled Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 6 p.m., and a special city council meeting is scheduled Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.

Both meetings will take place at the Lester Prairie city hall.

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