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Park Rapids building numbers trending upward

Park Rapids has shown gains in project valuations for two straight years.

City planner Dan Walker recently completed a 2011 year-end report for the Park Rapids Planning Department.

"I believe that development patterns will continue to trend upward, ever so slowly," he said in the report. "We are still below what I believe is healthy and sustained growth, but we are finally trending upward."

The total number of building permits issued in 2011 was up 32 percent from 2010 and the total valuation of the projects was up by 9 percent from 2010 and 26 percent from 2009. In 2011, 43 more building permits were issued compared to 2010 and the valuation was up by $264,914.

"Overall, development patterns have been fairly similar for the past few years," Walker said. "...the tornado and wind storm in May played a significant part in the building activity this summer, as many of the permits issued were to repair storm damage."

The storm resulted in wind damage in the city and destroyed thousands of trees. The Urban Forestry Committee is planning to work with other community organizations to purchase tree seedlings to be dispersed to community members at a discounted price. The committee will be coordinating a pick up day and informational session this spring.

City staff has applied for a Minnesota Department of Transportation Roadside Partnership grant to replace trees that didn't survive the Highway 34 project or have been lost along Highways 34 and 71.

If the city receives the grant, MnDOT would provide money for tree planting and materials with volunteers doing the planting and initial maintenance.

New home construction was slow, with just two new single-family houses in 2011. Walker said he anticipates new housing development to continue to be slow.

Commercial remodels saw a larger increase in 2011.

"It continues to be a positive sign that business owners are still investing money in improving existing businesses within the city, even with tight lending," Walker said in the report. "I am optimistic that activity should continue to improve in the coming year."

Other highlights in 2011 for the planning department included work on city parks.

Phase I of the Lindquist Park project was completed in 2011 and included construction of a walking path and patio seating area with picnic tables and benches.

The project was made possible through collaboration between the Park Board, city of Park Rapids, Hubbard County and St. Joseph's Area Health Services. Phase II will include a gazebo and possibly another segment of the walking path.

A proposed Heartland Trail extension has also been part of discussions in the planning department.

Walker has worked with the Heartland Trail Association, a group with a mission to promote the existing trail and work to fulfill the master trail plan to connect it to Moorhead.

City staff is also working with the Department of Natural Resources and Hubbard County on a proposal for restoration/replacement of the Red Bridge and improvements to Red Bridge Park. These projects coincide with future plans to extend Heartland Trail.

The city applied for a federal recreational trail grant and a state legacy funding trail grant in order to construct a parking facility and trailhead on a lot owned by the city near Red Bridge Park.

Walker has also been working with a group to create a safe snowmobile route through town while guiding snowmobilers toward amenities closer to downtown Park Rapids. The group hopes to have something in place by next winter.

A group is also working to create a design for Pioneer Park in downtown Park Rapids. An initial design should be ready to present to the public this month.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561