The Park Rapids Parks Board voted Monday to prioritize park-related projects in the city’s comprehensive improvement plan.

Board member Larry Novak moved to recommend that the city move forward with tennis court improvements at Depot Park, replacing the pavilion at Deane Park, improving Rice Park and adding a splash pad, possibly at Depot Park, in that order.

The motion passed with no opposition.

Tennis courts

Board member Barb Thomason urged that the city set aside funds to provide a match for a Land and Water Conservation Fund (LAWCON) grant through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, possibly a part of the Park Rapids Tennis Association’s (PRTA) fundraising efforts to support improvements on the city-owned tennis courts at Depot Park.

Chris Fieldsend, the city’s public facilities superintendent, noted that the city has also been asked to fund soil boring and preliminary engineering for the tennis court project, a cost of approximately $13,000 that isn’t in this year’s budget.

Board members agreed it would help to set aside a reserve fund for tennis court improvements, similar to the $25,000 a year Fieldsend said the city has been setting aside for the Deane Park pavilion project.

Thomason stressed that while the PRTA could apply for a LAWCON grant, it could only use any funds awarded for the tennis courts. Meanwhile, she said, the city could apply for a separate LAWCON grant, for example, toward replacing the Deane Park pavilion.

Signage and parkland funds

Regarding the Ojibwe-language signage that the city council approved for selected city parks, Fieldsend reported that installation of the signs was delayed by a computer mishap.

Fieldsend said the signmaker, Innovative Graffix of Park Rapids, lost its original designs for the park signs when a harddrive failed, and the designs had to be recreated.

Regarding two donated lots adjacent to Depot Park that the city council agreed to accept from David and Marion Town, Fieldsend said he is still doing the paperwork to transfer ownership.

Fieldsend said the city’s finance committee discussed using parkland dedication funds to demolish buildings on those lots, possibly costing $6,000 to $8,000.

“We’ll make sure the water and sewer are still accessible if we plan to do the splash park there,” he said.

Fieldsend noted that parkland dedication monies can only be used for specific purposes, but he agreed with a suggestion that they could be used to fund improvements at Rice Park.

Board members noted that Rice Park, located near the Fish Hook River dam, currently has no equipment except a picnic table and two trash cans.

“We need to redo it,” said board member Ruth Ann Campton, adding, “There’s a neighborhood that’s growing now and has children” around the park.

Parks board chair Sue Cutler reported that the parkland dedication fund currently has a balance of $33,669, with a potential for more depending on whether an apartment building developer chooses to dedicate parkland or the equivalent funds as part of a current project.

Trestle bridge project

Fieldsend said City Planner Andrew Mack wants a representative of the parks board to serve on the steering committee for a project to repurpose materials from the historic railroad trestle bridge, spanning the Fish Hook River and adjacent to the Heartland Trail.

The bridge is owned by the DNR Trails Division and was previously part of the Heartland Trail before the DNR closed it to all traffic.

Campton offered to serve on the committee, which Fieldsend said would also have a representative from the city’s Arts and Culture Advisory Commission.

The parks board’s next meeting is scheduled for noon Monday, Oct. 14 at city hall.

In Park Rapids City Council action on Tuesday, four city representatives were appointed to serve on the trestle bridge steering committee. They included Mack, Campton, council member Liz Stone and arts commission member Paul Albright.

Mack noted that county, DNR and Soil and Water Conservation District representatives will also likely participate in the steering committee. He said Trails Division staff advised him that the process of decommissioning the bridge is more likely to move forward with the steering committee in place.

Council member Erika Randall made the motion to appoint Mack, Campton, Stone and Albright to the committee. It passed without dissent.