The Ames Park Master Plan: getting closer to finalization (straw poll on skate plaza)

skateplaza-citing-options An update on the Ames Park Master Plan is scheduled for Monday night’s Council meeting/work session. Included is the issue of where to cite the Northfield Skateboard Coalition’s Skate Park/Plaza: closer to MOM’s Ames Mill or closer to 5th St. The Council packet has this two-page PDF of the Ames Park Concept with the two options produced by the consulting firm, Bonestroo. I took photos of Ames Park during DJJD last year (to show carnival-related parking) and also some from last winter.

The Northfield News is running a straw poll on the bottom of their homepage on the skate plaza location within Ames Park. Here’s a slightly different version:

[poll id="35"]

(continued)

The Sat. Nfld News has a story titled Layouts for park come to council.

In the Feb. minutes of the PRAB:

The basic distinction is placement of the skateboard plaza in the park property. Bonestroo consultant, John Slack, is in contact with MnDOT, Malt-O- Meal, and the DNR concerning this project. There will be another public open house scheduled, perhaps in conjunction with the February PRAB meeting. General consensus of the PRAB was the approval of Concept A that situated the skateboard plaza at the North end of the property. Other comments included:

  • Moving community plaza all the way to North end of park… north end of skateboard plaza
  • Geese issues being addressed by the river plantings
  • Access from Hwy 3, 5th Street and Malt O Meal
  • Parking issues

Brian Erickson, Northfield’s Public Works Operations Engineer, has this in the agenda packet (PDF):

This update is provided to City Council regarding the current status of the Ames Park Master Plan. The plan was authorized at the March 17, 2008 City Council meeting. The final motion stated, “Approve Ames Park as the location of a City Skateboard Plaza as recommended by the Park and Recreation Advisory Board with the addition of a sidewalk safety plan on Fifth Street Bridge and the feasibility of a drop-off lane.”

In October 2008 a professional services agreement was signed with Bonestroo to prepare the master plan. Since that time the Park and Recreation Advisory Board held a public open house in December 2008 and reviewed the results of Bonestroo’s efforts in January 2009. Attached are two potential conceptual plans that have been prepared. A cost estimate will be available at the work session for review and discussion.

Here’s the blurb on Ames Park in the Park System Master Plan, Appendix A  on Ames, Aspen, Babcock, Bridge-Square (PDF) : (I’ve included cropped photos here to make them easy to view):

Classification: Community / Special Use Park — 2.5 acres

ames-park-air Character: Ames Park is located at a key entry point to the historic downtown area of Northfield, directly adjacent to the Cannon River. The park is in a highly visible location and connected to the downtown area by a sidewalk across the bridge. Overall the park is under-utilized, with much of the land maintained as open green space for community events. An existing memorial trail (dedicated to Jean Campbell Brooks) extends along the shoreline through the park. The shoreline currently exhibits some erosion. The only parking available to support the park is across the river. The view to the north of a loading dock is in need of visual screening. The powerline running through the park is also a visual distraction and functional impediment.

ames-park-streetviewDevelopment Considerations: The park’s overall aesthetic qualities need enhancement – especially given its importance as a “gateway” into the downtown area. As defined in Section 3, the park was selected as a candidate site for a new skateboard park, which if built here would require careful siting as part of an overall design. Other key amenities and improvements worthy of consideration as part of an overall master plan include: enhancing the park’s visual and functional connection to the downtown area; improving walkways, overlooks, and sitting areas; adding a shelter or arbor structure for sitting and architectural aesthetics; adding streetscape elements complementary to the downtown area; and enhancing the memorial area and specialty gardens. The shoreline of the river also needs to be stabilized and enhanced with native plantings.

Additional ornamental landscaping throughout the park is needed to improve the park’s aesthetic qualities and selectively screen or frame views. Maintaining a good-sized multi-use turf area is an important design element to accommodate annual community events and provide space for informal lawn activities. Potential Development Costs to Optimal Level: $200,000 to $300,000 for listed general park improvements. An additional $250,000 to $300,000 is needed if the skateboard park is developed. Relocation of power lines would be an additional cost.

I last blogged about this issue in Dec: Public Open House for Ames Park Master Plan tonight; focus on Skate Plaza. 33 comments are attached to that post.

Update 2/23, 1:30 pm: Bonestroo sent me this cool 4-page PDF of Ames Park.

ames-park-pdf-sshot

64 comments to  (Including 8 Discussion Threads) The Ames Park Master Plan: getting closer to finalization (straw poll on skate plaza)

  • 1
    Griff Wigley says:

    I’ve added a 4-page PDF of Ames Park to the bottom of the blog post.

  • 2

    Thanks for all the documentation of the decision-making process, Griff!

    I would flag for LoGroNo readers taking the straw poll that the Council has already approved Ames Park as the location of the skate plaza and this should mean that this is no longer up for consideration.

    The recent Way Park/closing of 1st Street issue also touched on this problem of the finality of a decision. Much as I wanted the street kept open, I believed that the decision to close it had, in fact, already been made.

    Finally, regarding the decision to locate the skate park in Ames Park, one reason given for NOT locating it in Old Memorial Park was that there was an adopted Master Plan for that park which did not include a skate park and the neighbors (much like the Way Park neighbors) came out in large numbers to ask the PRAB and Council stick to that plan and put the skateboarders elsewhere.

  • 3
    Marie Fischer says:

    Though I’m not 100% sure that I want to see the skatepark at the currently designated location, I think it would make Ames park look a lot prettier (however strange that sounds) and more current.

  • 4
    kiffi summa says:

    Griff : You’ll have to strike through and edit your headline for this thread…… The council’s action last night, re: Ames Park and the Skateboard Plaza, took a huge step back from “finalization”.

  • 5

    I wasn’t able to attend the meeting last night. What happened?

  • 6
    Griff Wigley says:

    Betsey, can you post an update to your blog about what happened last night re: Ames park and the skate plaza?

  • 7

    Update will happen tomorrow! The worksession kept me up way past my bedtime and I haven’t been able to corral my thoughts and notes yet.

  • 8
    Griff Wigley says:

    I happened to run into Mayor Rossing and Councilor Zweifel earlier this evening (yes, it involved Mardi Gras, beads, and alcoholic beverages but I can’t really say too much more about the setting) and they said that the Council ended up directing staff to try to come up with a creative solution for providing access to Ames Park and the skate plaza. I assume this means cars/parking.

    And if I heard it right, if this isn’t feasible, then the decision to locate the skate plaza at Ames Park might be ‘unfinalized’ (my word) and sent back to the Parks and Rec Advisory Board (PRAB) for a new recommendation.

    So I’m eager to hear more about ‘access’ requirements. The Park System Master Plan says nothing about access in its section on Development Considerations.

    I thought the nearby parking lots (Water St./liquor store lot) and the west side parking lot) would be adequate for car parking. Most of the younger kids using the skate plaza would be walking/biking to get there, not driving.

  • 9
    Griff Wigley says:

    Editorial in tomorrow’s Nfld News: Skatepark needs to go on back burner.

    City leaders estimated park costs at
    $235,000. On Monday, they rolled out a
    staggering figure: a price tag of
    $479,000. That amount, pared down from
    projections of $628,000, cut back on
    the skatepark in a revamped Ames Park
    at Hwy. 3 and Fifth Street.

    WTF!! How did the estimate balloon from $235K to $628K and then get ‘pared back’ to $479K?

    Were there supporting documents handed out to detail this? Were PRAB members aware of this?

  • 10
    Griff Wigley says:

    Today’s Nfld News: Skatepark plans are put on hold.

    On Monday, the council worried that
    the park design didn’t include parking
    and that access to the site was
    unsafe. In particular, they fretted
    over a narrow sidewalk on the Fifth
    Street bridge and whether Malt-O-Meal
    would grant pedestrian access across
    its Ames Mill adjacent property…
    Councilors Erica Zweifel and Betsey
    Buckheit, both concerned about the new
    price, wondered if they should instead
    focus on whether the project was a
    priority given impending budget cuts.

  • 11
    kiffi summa says:

    Once again the News seems to have been at a different meeting, or else they had their selective hearing aids on for at least part of the time.

    Betsey Buckheit consistently presented reasoning referencing why the plan should go ahead. If one characterizes her position, it would be that the decision had been made, the location fixed, and there should be no further consideration of other sites, only how to best make this site work.

    The budget for THE MASTER PLAN for Ames Park, which the council asked to be done before one portion of the amenities (skate plaza) was built, was what resulted in the big dollars……Community buildings, lots more furniture , walks and landscaping, etc.

    Certainly our wise councilors did not think that the Full Master Plan Design would come in at a price equal to the skateboard portion? Which did by the way come in at exactly what was designated: 235K. And as far as the drop-off lane, would this not have to be a negotiation with MNDOT?

    Sorry, folks, there were too many on the council, both old and new, who too often expressed not wanting the skateboard park at this location. And they have gotten their way, at least for now.

    There was no realistic discussion of the course that would have been needed to have been followed to have productive access solutions, no discussion of the parking already there on the east side of the river, no engineering/MNDOT estimates of the 5th ST sidewalk railings that Councilor Pokorney has been asking for for at least 5-6 years; It looked like a done deal, for a dead deal, from the beginning of the discussion, except for Councilor Buckheit.

    The one bright light, was the possibility of it going back to our excellent Park Board, which supports the entire idea of a skate plaza, and at that site, and has the creativity and the professional design expertise to figure out how to make the 235K skate plaza portion of the design work.

    The kids have waited long enough, earned enough, learned enough; now it’s time to build their portion of the park……Let the adults wait for the full development of the Master Plan.

    P.S. it might be added that Kathleen Mac Bride(City Finance Director), during this discussion stood up at her desk, and said it was “a CLASSIC Northfield discussion” ……..

  • 12
  • 13
    Holly Cairns says:

    What a super cool and beautiful plan! I think the park should be where the old park was, which had parking and lights, etc. Why didn’t we use that space? Is it because of the senior building near there? If so, I’m mad that was built.

    I suppose they could park by the post office and skate on 5th to the park.

    As to the plan: It probably should include devices that scare geese (some flashing things on poles or something). Perhaps I can lend a plastic owl or something.

    As to making kids wait until they are 30: STUPID! SUCH A LET DOWN! RIDICULOUS! EMBARRASSING! Get it together, adults.

    A local attraction kids’ attraction is not a waste of money or time if it is truly enjoyed by the kids. Can federal stimulus money be used for this project?

  • 14

    That Bonestroo pdf IS cool -- too bad the Council didn’t have it Monday night.

  • 15
    Tracy Davis says:

    Everybody -- PLEASE read Betsey’s blog post referenced in her comment #12 above. It adds clarity to the issues being discussed.

  • 16
    Anne Bretts says:

    This is a classic Northfield discussion. How on earth could the last council approve Ames Park for a skateboard facility without knowing whether there was a safe and affordable way to make it happen there?
    This is like drawing up a master plan for Way Park before deciding whether the street would be vacated.
    I admit I have been opposed to the Ames location, exactly because it isn’t safe to mix cars, trucks, emergency equipment, skateboards, downtown pedestrians and the Ames Mill office building. And, forgive me for being blunt, but presenting any park plan without parking and safe access is just nuts.
    Riverside Park would be much safer, as would a number of other places around town. The bike trail had a plan, but it’s not working, so it may have to be changed. Councils must be very clear to make a differentiation between giving permission to explore the feasibility of a site and giving final approval to a site. Making a bad site work just because it was approved too hastily isn’t continuity, it’s craziness.

  • 17
    Holly Cairns says:

    I read Betsey’s post. I don’t care if it says we owe an Ames Park Skateboard Park.

    The old site is better.

    Of course it costs less than anticipated. Especially if we keep talking about it for a zillion years.

    Ames Park is a dumb location, although it would jazz up the downtown. Get past that and figure what’s best for kids and get that damn park built.

    If I ever move in town I’m all over this one: re: reelection prospects.

  • 18
    Griff Wigley says:

    Before last night’s Council work session, Betsey Buckheit blogged her current thinking about the Skate Park and Ames Park. Wow. Very helpful. I’m eager to hear how last night’s session went.

  • 19
    kiffi summa says:

    Griff: You would not have enjoyed the two hour discussion which developed out of this “update” on Ames Park planning/skateboard plaza. This council is heavily influenced by the three returning councilors who were all “no” votes previously on Ames Park (for skateboard location), and Mayor Rossing does not consider a 4-3 vote good enough to secure the location.

    Mayor Rossing says she has no agenda , and does not prefer one location over the other, but argues all, the ‘positives’ of Riverside park; while putting forth the cost (100Kplus) of improving the sidewalk access , across the bridge to Ames, as a problem of unnecessary cost to the city.

    Councilor Pokorney has been pushing for that sidewalk to improved, for general safety reasons for some years, and before the possible location of the skateboard park there; he has cited the danger when biking across that bridge with his kids, as well as the number of people using it at other times , specifically DJJD .. so that’s a bit of a red herring if it is now considered to be a cost specific to the skateboard plaza location.

    There is much being made of the fact that supposedly Riverside Park was off the agenda when the Park Board made their decision to endorse Ames, but there is definitely differing opinions from both the PRAB, and nearby residents on that point.

    I believe I am correct to say that the Mayor’s opinion during the campaign period was that she would prefer a bandshell etc, in Ames rather than the skate plaza; that did not come up last night, but it was definitely the Mayor’s preference, if not insistence, that this go back to the PRAB again. She rightly says this prooject must not fail.

    On the one hand , we get a strong argument for Riverside, and against Ames; on the other hand we have had many discussions as well as a decision from the Park Board(PRAB).
    At their meeting tonight , the PRAB is asked to reconsider their decision , and provide a comparative list of pros and cons for the two sites.

    It was interesting to me that the consultant/designer, John Slack from Bonestroo, spoke quite strongly in favor of proceeding with the decision of the PRAB, although some of the design costs would transfer if the location is changed; he has contributed pro-bono time in his work with the Skateboard Coalition. Brian Erickson, a city engineer also spoke in favor of the SC.

    This issue has become way too political; Rick Vanasek the PRAB chair said that a councilor had said that Malt-O-Meal had said they would move out of town if the skatepark was built in Ames, and in his talks with with MOM, they denied that
    supposed declaration.

    Why has this become the mega issue that it has? No one wants the kids around? There’s a reason for them to be nowhere? NF ‘can’t’ spend $$ on its youth , although we are ever so worried about drug and alcohol use in the youth community? The improvements to Ames Park, skate plaza first and then the other phases of the design , cannot be seen as a great development of a piece of virtual wasteland? The sidewalk that C.Pokorney has wanted for years is now a specific cost, not a general needed improvement?

    Too frustrating …

  • 20
    Mary Rossing says:

    Kiffi,
    This is a big issue because it is very important to the community, and I have heard from many constituents both for and against all aspects of this project. We need to be able to show that we have reached a decision in a thoughtful, deliberate way. Getting is done is important, but we must get it done right.

    Although it took two hours last night, I believe this was a necessary step. The former council voted on moving ahead with Ames Park with the stipulation that the access and safety issues were sufficiently addressed. The three returning members voted against. I want to clarify their reasons and hopefully address them. We are trying to make sure that Ames Park is the best place before moving ahead.

    I am trying to help the council make the best, clearest and most unified decision they can. Whatever that is.

    I will try to clarify the issues that I see:
    1) I think a 4-3 vote would be acceptable; what I am trying to avoid is a 3-4 vote. As I said repeatedly, we can’t afford to fail with this project ($$ is just part of the equation) I want the council and then the community to be able to get behind any decision we reach.
    2)I am interested in making sure that all options were given equal weight and not taken of the table because of “bad karma”, which I don’t think is a very good concept on which to base policy decisions. We can’t be afraid to discuss a site rationally.

    3)I don’t think it is good policy to a choose a site for this or any activity based on “where we DON’T want it”. I want us to be able to say: this is what we want and this is where we want it! The skateboard coalition said last night that they lobbied for Old Memorial Field and for Riverside Park, but were willing to go along with the PRAB’s Ames Park recommendation to get it done.
    4) The issue of money is real. If one site is cheaper, then less money needs to be raised to see this project and it will be completed sooner. I believe this is a valid consideration--for the city as well as the skateboard coalition. I would love to see the 5th street bridge sidewalk widened for many reasons, but it is a more costly route.

    5) This project needs to be seen in the context of a larger recreation plan for downtown. Where do we see canoes, kayaks, and bicycles fitting in to either Riverside or Ames Park in the future? If we plan well, we can have a “sting of pearls” along the riverwalk from Babcock Park all the way to the Crossings.

    I’m sorry that this is frustrating. One of the council goals is improve the decision making process. I believe that we are trying to apply this here and ask the PRAB for concrete reasons to back up this recommendation and ultimately our decision.

    But I am always open to positive suggestions.

  • 21
    Patrick Enders says:

    Mary,
    Thank you for sharing your thinking on this process. I want to commend you on seeking consensus in a decision. Our riverfront is one of our most valuable town assets, and careful consideration should be given to putting it to its best possible use.

    I wish you the best in finding a positive, broadly supported solution!

  • 22
    David Ludescher says:

    I can’t believe that we are even considering building a $0.4 to $0.6 million skateboard park when our expected Local Aid to Government grants are being cut.

    I realize that the kids have raised some money. But, that is life. We don’t have enough money for the things that Northfield needs. Now is not the time to spend on things that we not only don’t need, but will only benefit a small class of people, who don’t even pay taxes.

    • 22.1
      john george says:

      David- Interesting comment, this:

      Now is not the time to spend on things
      that we not only don’t need, but will
      only benefit a small class of people,
      who don’t even pay taxes.

      I’m not sure how this allocation of funds is really any different than any other use of government funds. If we were only to spend government funds on projects to benefit those people who vote, then this would dis-enfranchise a large segment of the population- those under the voting age. I can think of quite a few government programs that do this, from education funding, WIC, playgrounds in public parks, the swimming pool, etc.

      Since the youth have generated a sum of money toward this facility, and it appears there are more people willing to put their money where their mouth is, then I think it prudent that the council at least consider if there is public land available for such a long term facility. If not, then I wonder if there is any private individual willing to put up the land for the project? This would be a demonstration of a real commitment to the youth in that there would be no profit or even tax write-off to do this. Just an idea.

    • 22.2
      john george says:

      David- Sorry. In my post, I refered to “people who vote”. I meant to say “people who pay taxes” in my second paragraph.

    • 22.3
      David Ludescher says:

      John: If we don’t have money to fix City Hall, we certainly don’t have the money to build a $0.5 million dollar limited playground for the dozen or so kids that might use it for the next 2-3 years.

      Was the 1/2 million dollars that we spent to get a new parking lot at 5th and Water worth the money?

      If we want to spend money like that, we should create an enterprise fund that works like the water and sewer. Each household could pay $1.00 or $2.00 per month towards park fees.

      Most of the downtown businesses are getting eaten alive by property taxes. Any expense that goes on the tax rolls falls disportionately on the businesses, who end up paying once at home and three times at the office.

    • 22.4
      john george says:

      David- We really don’t have money for a lot of things right now. The whole idea of doing any of this is a hope in future taxes coming in. Whether we put money into city hall, which would be attractive to the adult population, or put money into a limited use facility, such as a skateboard park for the youth (future adults) seems a little ridiculous to consider either way. If we don’t have money to spend or any hope of generating money in the future, we are in a sad shape, to be sure.

      I’m not sure your assertion that the park would be a “…$0.5 million dollar limited playground for the dozen or so kids that might use it for the next 2-3 years…” is accurate. We have lived here for about 13 years, and I remeber the skateboard users being a problem in the downtown area for that whole time. I suspect there will be many more skateboarders entering the scene as the older ones grow up and move away. I don’t see this type of usage as being vastly different from a municipal golf course that is used by a limited cross section of the population. Of course,there is a chance to recoup some of the expense of a golf course through greens fees, membership dues, etc. Afterall, the demographics that use a golf course are normally the mid to higher income levels of the population. The skateboarders by and large are, unfortunately, on the other end of the income spectrum. The decision is almost a little subjective.

      As far as the parking lot, I have no idea how to evaluate whether it was a wise investment or not. Since Northfield is a tourist destination town, it would seem wise to provide parking for when they arrive. Perhaps in this down economy, someone could make some extra money by figuring out some sort of survey that visitors could take that would rank our parking facilities compared to other communities. Also, the $1 or $2 per household is probably already in our taxes and we just haven’t noticed.

    • 22.5
      David Ludescher says:

      John: There is NO hope of making money.

      I think you got it right when you suggested that we don’t have any way to evaluate whether this is a wise decision or not. As far as I can tell, there is no decision matrix to evaluate expenditures of monies.

      Too often, we are ending up with government by whining: keep whining about a skateboard park -- you get it; you want to build a cul-de-sac on your road -- you get it; you want to limit how many neighbors live next to you -- you get it; you want to have everyplace in Northfield look like the East Side -- you get it.

      Government, like parenting, requires many more “NO’s” than “Yes’s”.

    • 22.6
      john george says:

      David- Amen to that! If this was Wisconsin, we might be able to get some cheese with that whine!

  • 23
    Jane McWilliams says:

    Thanks Mary, for your good work last night. Because this issue really hasn’t had the kind of contextual planning you mention, the Ames Park location may or may not be the best place for a skateboard park. We have in place all the players necessary for contextual planning (Planning Commission, Park Board, etc.,) and I think we should make better use of them before a project as complex as this one comes to the council. Time spent up front with careful planning prevents the kind of fits and starts we’re experiencing with this project.

  • 24
  • 25
    kiffi summa says:

    After going to the Park Board meeting last night I feel even more strongly about my reaction to Monday’s council meeting.
    Things that were said at the council meeting , and the comments about the councilors reasons for once again going back to the PRAB are simply not accurate.
    There were four councilors at the PRAB meeting. Even after a long discussion there , and hearing the Park Board members evaluations, some of the councilors acted as if they had heard nothing and came back with the same comments about safety etc.

    The safety issues are a complete red herring.

    Councilor Pokorney has been concerned about the sidewalk on the 5th street bridge for years before there was anything in Ames Park but Geese and a five day carnival. But when the PRAB members spoke to that issue as being one of safety for the CITY that is ongoing, there was no acceptance of that idea; Please remember that we have some internationally known architects and landscape designers on that board, as well as some long-time, very involved citizen experts.Brian Erickson, a city engineer, stated that he had spoken with Kathleen McBride, the city’s finance director, earlier in the day, and she said the money for to correct the safety issues on the bridge could be found in other places and as a safety issue , did not have to come out of the park fund.

    Mayor Mary, your statement, #3, is in not accurate in the context of the situation or the discussion. The skateboard coalition never lobbied for Riverside Park. Monday night one member said they would be glad to squeeze it into any downtown site, because it has been years and they just want to get it built, before it gets killed altogether.

    There’s just way too much more to say on this, and people who were not at the council meeting Monday, or the PRAB meeting last night do not have an accurate picture of the discussion.

    This has become way to political, and is NOT about the best site for a PARK; I fully agree with the PRAB about that as stated by them last night. Their job is to SITE a PARK.

    Mayor Mary: I completely disagree with many of the arguments you have stated here, as well as your use of them on Monday. They do not reflect a thorough knowledge of the history, in my opinion; the “karma” statement is completely out of context, etc, etc, etc.

    As reported by the chair of the PRAB, from his conversations with Malt-O-Meal, I would like to know which councilor is so eager to kill this park plan that he/she has spread the rumor that MOM has said they would move from town if the skate plaza is built in Ames Park? According to Dr. Vanasek, MOM completely refutes that statement… Are you still going to say this has not become a”political” issue?

  • 26
    Patrick Enders says:

    Kiffi,
    You wrote,

    As reported by the chair of the PRAB, from his conversations with Malt-O-Meal, I would like to know which councilor is so eager to kill this park plan that he/she has spread the rumor that MOM has said they would move from town if the skate plaza is built in Ames Park?

    That is a serious allegation, containing several implications. You (or the chair of the PRAB, I’m not sure from your post) allege that: 1) A rumor is being spread that MOM will leave if a skate park is built at the site. 2) The source of that rumor is a councilperson. 3) That councilor is so eager to kill the park plan that that councilor is willing to do so by semi-nefarious means.

    Since I was not at the meeting, perhaps you could clarify this for me:
    Was any evidence provided by the chair of the PRAB or anyone else to support these allegations?

    Thanks.

    • 26.1
      kiffi summa says:

      Patrick: At the council meeting on Monday night, and again at the PRAB meeting last night, … so that’s twice, Patrick … Richard Vanasek, the Park Board chair, reported his conversations with MOM executives, and he (RV) asked them (MOM) if this rumor that a council person was saying(that MOM would move if the skate plaza was in Ames) was true, and he ( RV) said that they (MOM) said they had never said such a thing. Indeed they are anxious to work with design issues at the North End of the park adjoining their property. Their only preference is that the skate plaza be at the south end, as they have new concerns on traffic through their property, new concerns re: contamination, which is why they cut down all their trees and bushes.

      I would not make such an assertion on my own, Patrick. When it was said at the council meeting, there was not a single question, or response from the council. The person who reported it , not once but twice, is the person who spoke with Malt-OMeal, Dr. Richard Vanasek, the chair of the Park Board. I think we can all consider his account to be impeccable.

  • 27
    Patrick Enders says:

    Kiffi,
    If I follow your post correctly, Richard states that MOM has not said they would leave if the park were built.

    Has any Councilperson said that they would? I have seen Rhonda’s post that MOM might limit access through their land, but that seems different from what you are alleging.

    • 27.1
      Patrick Enders says:

      …correction, that was Betsey Buckheit’s post, not Rhonda’s.

    • 27.2
      kiffi summa says:

      Patrick : A council person told Rick Vanasek that he had information that MOM would leave; Dr. Vanasek discussed it with MOM and they said they had never said that. The council person was either trying to play some manipulative game, make themself seem important, or whatever? At any rate, for a council person to do that, without having spoken to MOM, had that discussion with MOM himself , was, IMO, a reprehensible, manipulative, political act.

      As I also said, the council did not respond when Dr. Vanasek told them of this action, and MOM’s response, at Monday night’s meeting.

  • 28
    kiffi summa says:

    Now that I have a little more time to respond in full, I would like to cover some of the issues , raised in your comment #20, Mayor.
    Re #2: the “bad karma” comment… as I said , that comment you quote is entirely out of context in your comment, here, as it was an initial comment from the skateboarders, and their relationship to the initial park. I do NOT believe you meant to imply that this very professional Park Board would make a decision based upon “karma” rather than their best opinion of an appropriate site from those sites remaining for final consideration.
    Furthermore in #2, “we can’t be afraid to discuss a site rationally” Again, the PRAB discussions were RATIONAL, as well as long , including many public sessions before Old Memorial Field was eliminated. Riverside Park WAS part of the discussion early on, but quickly fell out because of the new developments on either side which made it an inappropriate site. (I refer to the senior housing,and assisted living on one side, and the Veterans Memorial on the other) The development of these two areas since the initial skateboard park was sited there changed the picture entirely.

    Re: #4: The cost of the sidewalk access and the safety issues are two separate red herrings, IMO. The safety issue is one that should be addressed by the City, as Councilperson Pokorney has been urging for years. The width of the sidewalk, the railings, or lack of, considering the drop-off, and the drop-off itself , are a liability to the City for One person crossing that bridge, for ANY number of persons crossing that bridge, for any kids/family riding bikes from the east side to Sechler Park. As pointed out by several members of the PRAB last night, this issue exists regardless of any development, of any nature, that MIGHT occur in Ames Park. When staff was asked by a PRAB member what the applicable code language was for the bridge sidewalks, he (staff) honestly did not know. I do not believe that the staff must know every word of every code issue BUT if it is a point of discussion as this has been, then it must be a factual argument, not rhetoric.
    More on the cost: The staff engineer who was at the PRAB meeting, reported that he had discussed the funding of bridge/sidewalk safety improvements, earlier in the day with Kathleen McBride, the city’s Finance Director, and said that she said those improvements were not necessarily only paid for out of the Park funds; actual safety improvements would have other funding sources.
    By the way, Thank you Brian Erickson,(engineer) for your general, seemingly supportive comments re; The skateboard plaza project. At every meeting on this subject that I have attended, your comments to my recollection have been fair and open.
    More on safety: As said by a PRAB member last night, the use of the word “safety” is a mechanism for shutting down open conversation. Used in this context of the Ames Park site, it has been used as a justification for re-evaluation.
    Re #5: “a larger recreation plan for downtown. ” I assumed this is why the council had ordered a complete concept plan for the development of Ames Park to be designed by John Slack/Bonestroo. It is, again IMO as a designer, rather insulting to assume that the work of designing to a specific site can not be wasted by just moving it over to another very different site.. different in its physicality in virtually every way. That would imply that the designer pulls a ‘generic’ out of his bag of tricks and attaches a bill to it, then submits it. I really don’t believe the council meant it the way it sounded in that part of the discussion Monday , but John Slack has not only done a terrific job on previous contracts (5th and Water), but has given a lot of personal time, pro-bono to the Skateboard Coalition. Thank you Mr. Slack. You also have been extremely supportive in the meetings I’ve attended.

    Further on a “larger recreation plan for downtown”. If one had been listening to various conversations with MNDOT, especially on the most recent HWY 3 revamp, it should be obvious that there will be no further curb cuts allowed on either side of Ames Park. There was intense discussion of allowable curb cuts all along that stretch of the highway and the fifth street bridge area, as well as the second
    street bridge area. It was uninformed to even imagine that might be allowed.

    So … what uses might be possible for this underutilized piece of land that is at one of the gateways to Northfield? If there will never be parking on that property, or curb cuts of any kind into it? Certainly not a bandshell (which would require parking and NO jack-brakeing highway noise… certainly not a canoe/kayak station, unless people can portage their equipment from another parking area (I’m envisioning canoeists walking across Hwys 3 and 19 , from the future transit hub,in the traditional portage posture, with their canoes over their heads…

    *Is it impossible to imagine that Northfield might want to say to the ‘world': we value our youth… and that is why we give them this prominent , visible place in the center of our community? *

    This is why my perspective is that this has become a political, rather than a park SITING process. The three returning counselors are still inclined to vote “no’ , and I am sure you did campaign on the idea of a bandshell in Ames park, Mayor, and the insistence to push it back to the PRAB which had already made a decision after a thoughtful and lengthy discussion, makes it seem purely a ‘political’ process. To what end? That the ‘adults’ have gotten their way? Excuse me, SOME of the adults… Certainly not the Park Board.

    Finally, it would be recommended that all councilors reread the Park Board minutes from the last few years, the records of all the public meetings, and the booklet which contains the Master Parks/Trails plan.
    “This recommendation” from the PRAB is well considered, fully authenticated, and lengthily documented.

  • 29
    Mary Rossing says:

    Kiffi,
    If the council was to vote on the issue of moving ahead with Ames Park today I am not certain that it would pass because too many of the councilors have too many questions about whether this is the right site. I simply asked the PRAB to provide some pros and cons for 2 downtown sites so that we could move to a decision with more information. My hope is that this additional step will lead us to a wise and more unified decision. If this is well documented then it should not be an arduous task.

    • 29.1
      kiffi summa says:

      Mayor: I believe you are correct in the ‘vote count'; and that is why I am so exercised about this.
      It is apparent , from the opinions expressed at the council meeting, that this is all being put back on to the Park Board, so that the council will not be blamed by those who support the youth of this community, if this project is ‘killed’.

      And that is why I continue to hold the opinion that it has become a ‘political’ issue, and not about the best site for a park, as determined by the Park Board, and approved by the council ( I would have thought ) when they committed to ordering a complete development concept plan for Ames Park.

      I would also like to inquire which councilor was passing, or creating, such rumors as have been discussed in several comments above; rumors which would be an embarrassment for Malt-O-Meal, one of our largest and most supportive employers?

  • 30
    David Ludescher says:

    I would much sooner spend public money on City Hall renovations.

  • 31
    Patrick Enders says:

    Kiffi,
    I suppose there is not much point in saying this again, but your statement…

    I would also like to inquire which councilor was passing, or creating, such rumors as have been discussed in several comments above; rumors which would be an embarrassment for Malt-O-Meal, one of our largest and most supportive employers?

    …presumes that there is a councilperson guilty of your accusation. Why bother with an investigation, if you already know someone is guilty?

    • 31.1
      kiffi summa says:

      Patrick : I’m not sure of the point in your ‘argument’ … I have asked for no “investigation”.

      When the Park Board Chair makes a statement to the council, at a council meeting, about the negative actions of a councilor and those actions are relevant to an issue being evaluated, I would like there to be a reaction from the council … not just the appearance of them all suddenly having gone deaf.

  • 32
    Patrick Enders says:

    Kiffi,
    I’m sorry that I missed your comment above that Rick Vanesek said that

    A council person told Rick Vanasek that he had information that MOM would leave

    I now understand why you were phrasing your recent statement the way you did.

    This tiered comment system makes it very easy to miss comments, and I am sorry that I was unable to follow your logic because of missing that comment. I wish the feature would be discontinued.

  • 33
    Griff Wigley says:

    In yesterday’s Nfld News: Parks board discusses two skatepark sites Tuesday.

    A citizen wouldn’t know this by looking at the PRAB calendar item.

    AAARRRRGGGHHHH

    • 33.1
      john george says:

      Griff- When I accessed your link above, I got an article about the positive reinforcement campaign at the high school to curb alcohol consumption among teens. Thought you might want to know.

  • 34
    kiffi summa says:

    The Park Board will meet at a special meeting tonight ( 4.21) to put together the list of “pros and cons” which the council has asked them for. This will be an extra meeting for them, having just met last week; a working session to accomplish that task for the council.
    There will probably not be time for a lot of public input, (which they are usually very generous in allowing) because they have to get the required list together.

    But anyone interested in hearing their discussion can attend to listen… public meeting, as always.

  • 35
    Griff Wigley says:

    Anyone who attended last night’s PRAB meeting have an update?

    In today’s Nfld News editorial: Now is still not the time for a skate park.

    The cost of the park still sits in the
    hundreds of thousands and the city is
    still facing serious budget issues
    that will likely result in cutbacks of
    staff and possibly services to the
    community.

    Now is not the time to devote money to
    a skateboard park.

  • 36
    Griff Wigley says:

    8:06 am KYMN news report said the PRAB meeting went on for hours with PRAB maintaining their position that Ames Park is the best place for the skate park. There will be a joint Council/PRAB meeting at next Monday’s Council Work Session.

  • 37
    kiffi summa says:

    I am very glad to hear that the council and the park board will talk at next week’s work session.
    Maybe they can clear the air on the councilor who was spreading the rumors about Malt O Meal moving; that was a reprehensible act.
    Also maybe the Park Board will have the courage to state the facts that they put forward to the 4 councilors that were at the 4.14 park board meeting. Councilor Pokorney gave a very glossed over report of that meeting when asked during the council reports last Monday.
    As controversial as it may be, it is good to be having this discussion at a time when this new council has expressed so much concern about citizen involvement. It is time for some honest and respectful exchange, not a bunch of jargony platitudes.
    I would encourage the Park Board to be as firm as they were at their 4.14 meeting, and bring forth the same two pages of reasons why they carefully selected Ames Park, and the numbers of months and meetings that were consumed with this issue.
    After all, Mayor Rossing has said she wants to “be sure”, and the Park Board sounded very sure of their reasoning at their 4.14 meeting. I hope that security in the decision they have thoughtfully made will assuage the Mayor’s fears.

  • 38
    Patrick Enders says:

    The cost of the park still sits in the
    hundreds of thousands…

    Now is not the time to devote money to
    a skateboard park.

    The Nfld News is absolutely right on this.

  • 39
    Griff Wigley says:

    Patrick, I do think all of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) projects scheduled for 2009 should be looked at with the current economic meltdown in mind.

    For example, in addition to the 235,000 for the skate park, the CIP has these park-related items scheduled for this year:

    • Old Memorial Field Park Development: 250,000

    • Lighting System Controls for Northfield Baseball and Softball: 150,000

    • Wayfinding , Gateway Projects and Related: 35,000

    Looking at the draft CIP (PDF), money for these apparently comes from the Parks Fund.

    Anyone know if the Park Fund already has the money in a ‘silo’ that can’t be spent on anything else other than parks-related items?

  • 40
    kiffi summa says:

    The cost of the actual skate plaza installation has gone down, considerably, because the kids have discussed some compromises, i.e. two levels instead of three, involvement of some grantors once a site is designated, etc. So the cost of that part of the park is lessened from where it began, and the coalition has not of yet even gone to the ‘usual suspect’ big donors because they have to have a site first, for both grants and big donations.
    The cost of the fifth street bridge improvements/safety issues, which Councilperson Pokorney has been saying are necessary for years, are safety issues, not park issues. Brian Erickson, a City Engineer, confirmed at the 4.14 PRAB meeting that Kathleen McBride, the City Finance Director said those costs should not come out of the Park fund because they are infrastructure safety improvements, and would more appropriately come out of other than Park funds.

    The base point is not whether this skate plaza should be built this year, but that a definite site be approved and the kids have a chance to continue their already successful fundraising.

    If there was no contemplation of it being in the mix this year, why was there a ‘placeholder’ for it in this year’s budget? (Budget final approval was last week in Dec, 2008… well into ‘economic downturn’ )

  • 41
    Griff Wigley says:

    That’s helpful info, Kiffi. And good point re: site approval now, not necessarily construction this year.

  • 42
    Griff Wigley says:

    Jerry Mohrig, president of the homeowners association at Village on the Cannon, has a guest column in the Sat. Nfld News titled: Flow of youth through Riverside Park would increase vulnerability of seniors.

    The Riverside Park neighborhood has become a vibrant, well used, and important area. It is home to over 100 people who are older and increasingly vulnerable. An increased flow of youth to a skateboard facility in this area will increase the vulnerability of older Northfielders. Do we want our senior citizens afraid to walk outside their homes in fear of colliding with fast-moving skateboarders on their way to Riverside Park? We hope the city council has more concern for the older, vulnerable members of our community than allowing this to happen.

  • 43
    Griff Wigley says:

    The Skateboard plaza is on the agenda for tonight’s City Council Work Session.

    There’s nothing to indicate that members of the Parks and Rec Advisory Board (PRAB) will be there to discuss things with the Council but I’ve heard rumors. ;-) 

    See pages 7-8 of the Agenda packet PDF for all the details including a table of the pros and cons of both Ames and Riverside parks for location of the skate plaza.

    See the meeting page for a list of 8 related PDF attachments.

  • 44
    kiffi summa says:

    Griff: I started to reply to this, but can’t, in any detail, yet…
    Another two hours of discussion on this recommendation of the Park Board, and in the wrap up, councilor Pokorney still echos his concerns re: access and parking, except now he has a third pressing concern: “integration”.
    I’ll leave you to wonder on that, while I go have tea…

  • 45
    Griff Wigley says:

    Thanks, Kiffi… I eagerly await your report.

    I took photos but didn’t stay for the meeting because the audio was so poor for a hearing-challenged person like me.

    • 45.1
      kiffi summa says:

      Griff: Don’t even get started on the audio; Dean Kjerland also left because of the poor audio, and it continued the rest of the evening. Then we’re right back into the ‘make-over’ of the council chambers audio-visual when Mr. Roder was there… Don’t even go there or the ‘”trolls” will start coming after you!
      Melissa Reeder is fully aware of the problem with the work session table mics, and has tried to correct it as best as possible, but new mics are required.
      No $$ for that apparently.

  • 46
    Griff Wigley says:

    I saw Councilor Betsey Buckheit briefly this morning at the Mill Towns Trail bridge placement and she said the final result of last night’s work session was the Council would vote next week on whether or not to approve the PRAB’s recommendation to locate the skatepark in Ames Park.

  • 47

    We received the Park Board’s new recommendation to locate the skateboard park in Ames Park and Grace Clark and Nathan Knutson of the Park Board elaborated on the discussion and the result.

    As Kiffi notes above, there are still questions from Council members and uncertainty about location, cost and more. At a worksession, however, we do not take action on any item so we agreed that we would bring a motion on the Park Board’s recommendation of Ames Park to an up or down vote at our next meeting.

    My understanding is that we need to establish definitively whether this Council can agree to proceed in Ames Park. If yes, we move to the questions of planning, phasing and funding. If no, we decide what path we will take.

  • 48
    kiffi summa says:

    The subtitle of this thread ( “getting closer to finalization” ) has become an irony; remember Griff won’t allow sarcasm.
    I don’t see it getting any closer, as a matter of fact, I see the votes as predicted two weeks ago as being the same, or possibly even more negative, towards locating the skateboard plaza in Ames Park.
    After sending this issue which despite the rhetoric HAD been fully debated by the PRAB, back to them for further RE-evaluation, and them spending , what ? maybe another six hours? on doing the council’s bidding of developing a list of pros and cons for both Ames and Riverside Parks, when it returned to the council on Monday ( 4.27) it seemed like the council still didn’t believe that the Park Board had done their homework.
    There were repeated questions of did you look at this, did you consider that … and when the two Park Board members answered, it seemed like the answers were never good enough in some of the council’s view, because then the questioning continued.

    This discussion went on for two hours.

    I think the Council needs to accede that there is a genuine difference of opinion between the PRAB’s POV and the council’s votes. It is in my opinion both an indifference, and yes, even somewhat of an insult, to question the citizen board to this extent, and so many times, and in such a repetitive manner, as to the validity of their decision.

    I can’t even begin to deal with Councilor Pokorney’s latest idea, around the theme of “integration”; I don’t think 3000 word posts are appropriate. Watch the tape of the meeting, if you’d like to try to understand it.

    But to my mind the crowning epitaph to the idea of a skateboard park in Northfield came when Councilor Pownell suggested, in all earnestness, (and she works very hard at this job) that it wasn’t that she didn’t trust this current group of boarders to take care of their park, but what of future kids? She felt maybe the Skateboard Coalition should consider setting up a foundation of some sort to take care of possible future maintenance issues!

    What is the name of the swimming pool’s youth initiated not-for-profit which is socking away $$$ for the day some kid puts a hole in one of the chairs? I must have missed that part of it.

    From the beginning of this project, the kids have been urged by the adults to be sterling models of procedural behavior, follow all the rules, and respect the process, and oh, by the way raise a lot of money without even having a site…
    And they have done all those things, to the best of their ability, and exceeding most expectations.

    And it hasn’t worked… and you cannot believe how much I hope I’m wrong in my assessment of this ‘adult’ process.

    • 48.1
      john george says:

      Kiffi- I’m afraid you might be correct in your assessment of this “adult process”. IMO, this just seems like beating around the bush at saying, “No, we don’t want a skateboard park.” Too bad, too, if this is what is really being communicated through the back door. It seems like a lot of time has been spent and money raised if this was the answer all along. This concern about maintainence was raised in last year’s discussion, also. If I remember correctly, there was more concern, and there is some merit for it, about cleaning up after the resident geese than the resident skateboarders.

      One positive aspect I see in having the facility at the Ames park is that it is near the Key. It seems, in my limited perspective, that quite a few of the skateboarders are also involved in the Key. It only makes sense to have a facility near their congregating point. But then I really don’t have a dog in this fight, and my opinion on the whole thing probably isn’t worth the cyberspace it took up to express it.

  • 49
    Griff Wigley says:

    Two FYI’s:

    • I neglected to turn off comments on our podcast blog post on the skatepark in my attempt to steer the conversation to existing threads. Since the horse is out of the barn now, keep tabs in all THREE places.

    • Apparently, there will NOT be a Council vote on the issue at next Monday’s May 4 Council mtg, as it’s not on the Agenda.

  • 50
    Griff Wigley says:

    Blog post: Council rejects Ames as skate plaza site and then rejects Park Board from further planning
    http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/11228/

    I’ve turned off comments here. Please continue the discussion there.

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