Concrete or grass for Wadena's BN park?

A Burlington Northern Park master plan was approved at a joint Wadena City Council and Park Advisory Board meeting on Monday, but not without a lengthy discussion about concrete, time lines and funding.

A Burlington Northern Park master plan was approved at a joint Wadena City Council and Park Advisory Board meeting on Monday, but not without a lengthy discussion about concrete, time lines and funding.

About three years ago, the Peterson Park Foundation approached the city and asked if it could hire a consultant and move forward with a master plan for Burlington Northern Park, said Kay Browne, city councilwoman and member of the Wadena Park Advisory Board.

The master plan was prepared by Michael Schroeder, ASLA, and Claybaugh Preservation Architecture Inc. It was prepared for Partners for a Health Wadena Region and funded by a grant from the Peterson Foundation.

Browne said the master plan had been on the park board's agenda 19 times. It has been heavily discussed, she said.

Several issues came to the table for discussion before the master plan was accepted.


Luther Nervig, representing the Peterson Foundation, expressed urgency in passing the master plan on Monday. He explained that the county is starting construction this week on Aldrich Avenue and utilities need to be located, such as electrical and irrigation lines to the park.

"Aldrich really brings this to a head," Nervig said. "The infrastructure is important. If there's something we don't like, it can be amended."

The idea is to work on the east side of the park, which is bordered by Jefferson Street and Aldrich Avenue, first, to make a show, he said.

Councilman Toby Pierce said he hadn't seen the master plan draft until last week and the first item he saw was financial figures that scared him. Estimates totalled $466,357 in the master plan.

"It seemed excessive, actually, quite excessive," he said.

Also, Pierce was concerned about the many concrete sidewalks in the master plan.

"What is more attractive? Grass or concrete?" asked Pierce.

The master plan suggests having a 12-foot-wide concrete sidewalk along the south side of the park along Aldrich Avenue. The sidewalk is suggested along the street for possible use for arts in the park, farmer's markets or vendors.


Pierce didn't think the sidewalk was needed.

"This is an overall plan by a professional," Nervig said, but told Pierce he had a right to his opinion.

"I disagree and think there should be grass," Pierce said.

In the master plan, the fountain on the east side of the park would be restored/replaced, sidewalks would be added and landscaping would be done. The west end would include an events plaza, sidewalks and landscaping.

Mike Pete, a member of the parks advisory board, said the master plan is a concept to be done over many years, at least 20 years.

Others in attendance at the meeting who represented service organizations were concerned about having the events plaza on the west side of the park for visibility reasons.

Rick Johnson, representing the Lions Club, said when the Lions have events, they are set up on the east side because there is visibility from Jefferson Street and downtown.

City Administrator Brad Swenson said he also has issues with visibility for the annual Corn and Chicken Feed for Rotary if it were moved to the west side.


John Husband, who has given input to the plan over the years, agreed that the west end has been viewed as a "backyard."

"But, this plan will change that," he said.

Sherry Linnes, representing the Wadena Area Chamber of Commerce, said chamber events were better attended on the east end.

Pete said the master plan doesn't change the layout that much and events could still be set up on the east end but there will be an area on the west end for events too.

Rick Schwartz, who has participated in farmer's markets over the years, said vendors set up now on the east side along a sidewalk that provides some shade near the parking lot in the center of the park.

The proposed sidewalk along Aldrich Avenue would not be in the shade, Pierce pointed out.

Nervig said the plans can be amended and quoted part of the introduction to the master plan that says: "The plan for the park should establish a guide for making improvements to the park over a series of years, and, possibly, through a number of methods."

Mayor Wayne Wolden asked who will own the master plan. Nervig said it is the city's park, so it will be the city's plan.


Councilman Pete Phillips said he had some serious issues with the plan.

He went to Burlington Northern Park and measured where some of the sidewalks would be.

"There would be a lot of concrete ... I am not comfortable with that," he said.

The park advisory board and representatives from the Peterson Foundation agreed the sidewalks were much too large.

"If we all don't like the plan, why adopt it?" Phillips asked.

Park advisory board member Pete said it is an evolving plan to be looked at over time. But, he said, an overview is necessary before any project can start.

"This is just a vision of a direction," Browne said. "Some of this might never happen."

Mayor Wolden brought the discussion back to the sidewalks. He said there is already a lot of green park area in Wadena for people to run through.


"Maybe we have more concrete here," he said.

"When I think parks, I think grass, trees and flowers," Pierce said.

City Administrator Swenson asked what the expectation of time was for the project and what was expected of the city as far as funding.

"To me, when you approve a plan -- any kind of plan -- there are expectations," he said, for example, building projects.

Nervig said he didn't think there was a time line.

Phillips had issue with the plan being labeled "master plan" and including specific footage and costs.

Wolden made a motion to adopt the master plan with a clause allowing amendments to be made to the plan by the city council through recommendations by the park advisory board. The motion passed 3-1 with Phillips dissenting. Councilwoman Jeanette Baymler did not attend the meeting.

The park board already had recommendations for the city council on Monday. First, they recommended the handicapped ramps on the corners of the park be widened as part of the county project. And, when the county works on the curb on Aldrich Avenue, it won't include a curb cut on the east side that had been there before. The council passed the recommendations.


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