The Park Rapids Parks and Beautification Board on Monday discussed the possibility of purchasing a piece of art to display permanently in a city park.
Board member Liz Smith said she wrote a letter to Heartland Arts chair LuAnn Hurd-Lof, whose board was meeting at the same time as the parks board, about common issues for the two bodies to address.
Among the priorities was a desire to purchase the sculpture “Ant-Venture” by Minnesota artist Albert Belleveau and make it a permanent exhibit at Deane Park.
“I talked with the artist and his wife about the cost of installing the sculpture,” said Smith. “They gave a quote of $6,000, which is half the normal cost. It can be purchased in three equal installments of $2,000 a year for three years.”
Smith discussed seeking donations and grants to fund the purchase and meeting with the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce about this. She voiced hope that Heartland Arts would have advice about sources of funding to go after.
City Planner Andrew Mack suggested preparing a grant application for the city council to submit to the Park Rapids Area Community Fund.
Mack also advised that city parks staff will want to place the sculpture on a concrete pad to facilitate mowing, and estimated this would cost about $300.
The parks board discussed written feedback from residents of the Kaywood Park neighborhood, where a special meeting was held on Sept. 2 to gauge their feelings about how the park should be improved.
Nine written comments were submitted, three signed and six unsigned. Suggestions included leaving the park area unimproved; adding a playground for small children; building a path to a picnic shelter; building a walking path through the woods; adding berry trees to attract birds, a large purple martin house, wildlife and tree identification signs, signs restricting ‘non-authorized’ vehicles on the trail and advising people to clean up after their dog; making the grassy area more level and accessible; cleaning up the wooded area a little; and adding benches and picnic tables.
Meeting guest Elmer Schoon, who lives in the neighborhood, said there is interest in a playground on his side of the subdivision, along Forest View Ave., where more families with children live.
Board members discussed inviting residents of the neighborhood to respond to an online survey about their preferences for park improvements.
Andrew Mack updated the parks board about replacing the city-owned tennis courts at Depot Park, noting the city council has approved a task order for engineering services up to the point of putting the project out to bid.
This includes a study of soil borings, which Mack said is to determine whether it is structurally safe to build post-tensioned concrete tennis courts on top of the existing asphalt courts, or whether the asphalt needs to be removed.
The bidding phase of the project will begin only if an outdoor recreation grant being awarded for an outdoor recreation grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Land and Water Conservation Fund (LAWCON), Mack said. Last year’s request for a LAWCON grant was denied, but the city is reapplying for the grant this year.
Mack added that once the project is put out to bid, the city can also submit a grant request to the U.S. Tennis Association for up to $50,000, toward the city’s local match. Meanwhile, he said, City Administrator Ryan Mathisrud has recommended that the city council consider funding up to 20 percent of the total cost, estimated to be around $70,000.
Board member Barb Thomason noted that the public school district owns four of the tennis courts at Depot Park, and though the Park Rapids Tennis Association offers volunteer upkeep on all eight courts, the school courts are not included in the city’s tennis court replacement project.
Noting that all the courts are used, Thomason said it would be a “mistake” to abandon the schools’ Depot courts. An upcoming bonding ballot question to fund the replacement of tennis courts at Century School does not mention the school’s courts at Depot Park.
Parks board members took stock of the status of a proposed joint project with a local Lions Club to develop a “splash pad” water feature at Depot Park.
Andrew Mack noted that this concept has never been added to the city’s capital improvement plan, which is in turn used to place projects on the budget.
Board members noted that at a recent city council meeting, Mathisrud questioned whether the area of Depot Park the board had in mind for the splash pad was really the best place for it.
Factors to be considered include proximity to public restrooms and the desirability of having off-street parking nearby.
Schoon and board member Kim Donahue, who are both involved in Lions Clubs, suggested involving multiple Lions Club chapters and looking into requirements for a 50 percent grant from the Lions Club International Foundation.
For example, Mack suggested that they find out whether the demolition cost of the former Marion and David Town house, recently donated to the city and added to Depot Park, would count toward the grant’s local match.
The Park Rapids Urban Forestry Committee, also meeting Monday, heard from Emma Schultz with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources about a grant-funded project to look for emerald ash borer in the city, while also taking an inventory of trees on city-owned property.
According to Mack, Schultz told the committee that the project is being postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She also said the tree count can look for signs of oak wilt, which was recently detected in Cass County.