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Going green: Locals hoping to add green space to commercial district

Wadena WDA board member Toby Pierce (holding a map) speaks to Wadena Park Board members about a project to be built on the former Peterson Biddick property. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal1 / 4
The former Peterson Biddick Co. site could use some more greenery according to at least one Wadena resident. A project to add a green space there is in the works. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal2 / 4
As of Friday, Aug. 10, the view east towards Orton's in Wadena is fairly wide open. It's expected to become more open. Some discussion has begun regarding creating a green space in the area between Hwys 10 and 71. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal3 / 4
Wadena resident Kent Sheer shares his thoughts on adding a green space in what will be vacated property when Hwy 10 is reconstructed. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal4 / 4

Two locals brought forth plans and ideas for added green space in Wadena's commercial districts at a recent park board meeting.

One of those projects is planned to start soon in the old Peterson Biddick lot. The lot currently sits vacant and is gravel covered. That's a sad sight according to Wadena Housing and Redevelopment Authority board member Toby Pierce who wanted to see the entire lot planted with grass and a variety of trees added for aesthetic value and for a buffer from trains and buildings. It's an idea the WDA board has been talking about for some time. The decision was to use about one third of the lot for developing a green space, parking lot and open air museum with a plaque paying tribute to the Peterson Biddick Company, a major agriculture business from Wadena's past. The green area is planned to be fully irrigated with eight large trees. The estimated cost for the project is about $22,000 and could be paid for by several funds, according to Pierce.

The board was prompted to make the project happen thanks to a $100,000 grant from Minnesota DEED (Department of Employment and Economic Development) that was used to demolish the Peterson Biddick building in 2011. Despite DEED being focused on economic development, a condition of the grant was that one-third of the lot was not to be used for commercial development, it was to be an open air museum. If it ever was developed, the $100,000 would have to be returned to DEED.

But as Pierce pointed out, the city still has to hold up their side of the deal by creating that green space.

That still leaves much of the lot open for commercial development. And it's the hope of future development that had WDA board member Bill Stearns interested in including a parking area next to the green space. According to a plan drawing, it would include about 11 parking spaces that could be used by a business if they were to build there.

Pierce brought the plan to the Wadena Park Board last week sharing that it was not his desire to see a parking lot a part of this project, saying that Wadena does not need more parking for downtown. He noted six public parking areas around downtown are already under utilized.

Park board member Dean Krogstad asked if the parking lot was included because of some need for added parking. Pierce stated that there is no need.

"I think what we really need is a parking ramp," he said sarcastically.

Pierce urged park board members to tell the WDA board members that a parking lot was not needed. As presented he said the green space will be a nice addition to the area.

"It will be nice when it's done," Pierce said. "It's not meant to be a park. It would improve the existing site considerably."

The project is expected to begin soon with completion this fall. Luther Nervig said the Parks Foundation would cover the cost of the trees, which he said would be large trees, creating the look that the space has been there for some time.

"I think it's going to improve that whole corner," Nervig commented.

Hwy 10/71 green space

The other green space idea came from Kent Scheer, who lives at Green Island Preserve, his privately owned Wadena park he keeps open to the public.

Scheer spoke about a project that occurred in Wadena in 1990. He said it was that year that the Governor's Task Force came to spend a week in Wadena to come up with ideas to make Wadena more inviting. What came from that meeting was the idea how nice it would be to open up the view from Hwy 10 into Wadena's downtown.

"They said, 'You know if you guys could open up that viewscape from Hwy 10 into Jefferson you would show people the visual interest that your community has—you could probably draw some people off the highway to come into town.'"

In 1990 it was nearly impossible. But with a highway reconstruction, properties are being removed. The view is broadening.

"All of a sudden, it's been handed into our laps," Scheer said.

It's going to be about a 100-foot strip that remains between the highway and railroad. While a portion of that will be developable and possibly highly sought after by commercial businesses, Scheer said having this site open will greatly improve the look of the town.

Park board member Dean Krogstad brought up the fact that removing all those businesses is taking a big cut from taxes coming into Wadena.

"I would assume that's a big deal," Krogstad said.

Scheer said he has a friend that is planning to come to a future city council meeting to talk about how this property could be used. Scheer requested the park board designate someone to study this subject and come up with a recommendation to bring to the Wadena city council.

"Let's think about how that could be appealing and interesting and how it can definitely be left open," Scheer said.