Tag Archives: PRAB

Northfield’s new park could include a mountain bike / pump & jump park and save the city $280,000

Northfield’s acquisition of the Fargaze Meadows subdivision for a future park comes with an eyesore: a huge mound of dirt. In the May 28 Fbo Daily News: Northfield gains 40 acres from Rice County for parks and trails:

But converting the land will neither easy nor cheap. A giant mound of dirt lies on the north part of the land, which not only makes for a poor view, but also causes a lot of problems for the homes in the neighborhood. County engineer Dennis Luebbe estimated it could cost up to $280,000 just to move the dirt.

Eagan Pump and Jump Bike parkDavid DeLongBack in May after a downtown parking management meeting, I was chatting with Ward 2 Councilor David DeLong about my mountain biking adventures and mentioned to him that many municipalities are building bike parks (pump and jump parks) as an amenity for their citizens of all ages. Eagan has one that I regularly use (left photo), Maple Plain has one, and Cottage Grove starting building a big one this week.  Others are in the works for Duluth, Maple Grove, and Cuyuna and probably many more. When Dave learned about the cost of removing the big dirt mound at Fargaze, he emailed me, wondering whether some of that dirt could be used for a bike park. I replied:

The type of dirt used to build the features for these parks matters, as the jumps, berms and rollers deteriorate quickly if it’s not hard-pack dirt.  I’m guessing that mound of dirt at Fargaze is black dirt.

He replied:

Griff, I don’t know what the dirt is but I think there must be more than black dirt. If it was most likely there would have been greater erosion. Amateur opinion. The quietness and growing popularity [of bike parks] along with the age range of participation does intrigue me. Thanks for the links and following up.

Last night while riding my around-town bike in the area, I decided to take a closer look.  I was shocked to not see black dirt. So today I went back, took photos, and dug (heh) a little deeper. It appears that Councilor DeLong’s amateur opinion was correct.

First, some perspective:

Fargaze Meadows, Northfield - looking westFargaze Meadows, Northfield - looking southFargaze Meadows, Northfield - looking northFargaze Meadows, Northfield - looking north
The mound of dirt looking west, south, and north. Far right: looking north from atop the mound.

Fargaze Meadows outlined  - Google EarthFargaze Meadows dirt mound - Google Earth
Left: My markup of the Google Earth view of the Fargaze parcel. Right: satellite view of the neighborhood with the pond and the mound.

Fargaze dirt cutFargaze dirt washoutFargaze dirt mound showing dirt cuts/washouts - Google Earth
Left and center: two of several dirt cuts/washout areas that indicate that the mound is not made of black dirt. Right: the dirt cuts/washout areas viewable from Google Earth’s satellite.

Access point to Fargaze dirt moundFacing east at the bottom of the Fargaze dirt moundFacing west at the top of the Fargaze dirt mound Facing northwest at the top of the Fargaze dirt mound
Primary access to the dirt mound is at the corner of Ford St E and Brogan Dr. (left). Once on top, it appears that the mound is big enough to locate a significant portion of a bike park on top of it.  The dirt could easily be moved to build the bike park adjacent to / south of where the mound is. Or both.

Griff Wigley, no trespassing signtruck: City of Northfield's Public Works DepartmentAn apologetic Griff Wigley
While I was there, a couple of thugs helpful staffers from the City of Northfield’s Public Works Department pulled up in a city truck to inform me that I was trespassing. I politely thanked them and profusely apologized, promising to never do it again. (Consider this paragraph to be one of these.)

As for the type of dirt needed for a bike park, a guy I know who’s working on the bike park in Cottage Grove wrote to me:

You want to be able to make a dirt ball, like a snow ball out of it. If it holds together, maybe bounce it a little to see how it holds up. If it does, that’s good. Also look for that reddish brown color. That is mineral soil.

Soil in the Fargaze dirt moundSoil in the Fargaze dirt mound Moistened soil from the Fargaze dirt mound
I scraped some some dirt from the side of the dirt cut, brought it home, mixed it with some water and made a ball. It split apart when I dropped it from a height of about a foot so it may not be perfect.  I put it in the sun and it was baked into a hard rock by day’s end. So it’s definitely promising and probably worth the money to have a company drill soil samples of the dirt mound.

I’ve begun having conversations about all this with Nathan Knutson, Chair of the Park & Recreation Advisory Board, City Administrator Tim Madigan, and Joe Stapf and Jaspar Kruggel from the Public Works Department.

Eagle ID bike park 1Eagle ID bike park 2Eagle ID bike park 3Eagle ID bike park 4
The photos above are from a profile of a bike park in the city of Eagle, Idaho that was built by a company called Alpine Bike Parks. It has some similarities to the location and height of the Fargaze dirt mound here in Northfield:

Once the community was ready to develop the park, they reached out to Alpine Bike Parks to develop the full-service public bike park facility. Mechanized construction included slopestyle downhill trails, skills development areas, and competitive mountain cross and dual slalom courses. These trails raised the public profile of the project and assisted in developing capital for future project phases, including additional skills areas, and competitive BMX and mountain bike race courses.

  • Duration of Construction: Two months
  • Scope: Master planning, trail design, trail construction, community outreach.
  • Methods: Excavators, tracked loaders and skid steers, hand shaping
  • Budget: $130,000
  • Client: City of Eagle, Idaho

Curious as to what a pump track is all about? Like swinging higher and higher on a swing with no one pushing you, it’s going around and around the track on your bike without pedaling, a foundational skill that makes mountain biking even more fun. Watch this video of instruction for a high school mountain bike team:

httpv://youtu.be/7Vl80yZ0O-g

Lastly, I realize that neighbors in the area may have concerns about having a bike park adjacent to their property. If you’re a neighbor and reading this, please attach a comment or contact me.

Council receives Parks Board skatepark recommendation: Riverside Park plus $30K

Park and Recreation Advisory Board meets with the Northfield City CouncilPRAB member Nathan KnutsonPRAB member Neil LutskyPRAB member David HvistendahlPRAB member Grace Clark

Members of the Park and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) skatepark met with the Northfield City Council last night in a work session to discuss the recommendation to permanently locate the skatepark at Riverside Park and to contribute $30,000 towards its construction (concrete).

PRAB members Neil Lutsky and David Hvistendahl presented the details of their report which was approved earlier this month by the PRAB. Chair Nathan Knutson was there to make sure they didn’t screw up. Member Grace Clark presented her dissenting view that the skatepark should be located in Babcock Park.

I was pleased with the thoroughness of the discussion last night and if I was on the council, I’d vote to accept the PRAB’s recommendation.

I’ve turned off comments on this blog post because the current discussion about skatepark issue is happening over here (117 comments to-date).

See Rob Hardy’s amazing comprehensive collection of skatepark-related news and resources on Northfield.org.

Northfield Park & Rec Advisory Board approves ‘man boob’ swimsuit policy

Lost amid the skatepark controversy at last night’s meeting, the Northfield Park & Rec Advisory Board  (PRAB) voted unanimously approved a policy requiring males with ‘man boobs’ to cover up while at Northfield’s outdoor pool at Old Memorial Park.

The issue surfaced over the summer after a revised pool apparel policy was approved in the spring (see Revisions to outdoor pool rules now in draft), the result of a 2011 controversy involving a complaint by a parent who was told she had to put a swimsuit top on her three-year-old daughter while at the pool.

While that issue was resolved before summer, news from Seattle surfaced in June that a breastless cancer survivor was told by the Seattle Parks and Recreation department that she could not swim topless in public pool.

When two local residents inquired about Northfield’s swimsuit policy for breastless women, they were told that the issue had never come up.  In August, the PRAB appointed David Viscousdahl, Lyle Nuzky, and Gracie Quark to a task force to study the issue. They presented their recommendation to the board last night.

Jack Nicholson"We think the vast majority of Northfield residents would find it uncomfortable to view the chest of a breastless woman at a public pool," said Quark.  "But to head off future controversy and to level the playing field, we recommend a policy requiring men with enlarged breasts to cover them up with a mansierre while at the pool." Quark then held up a photo of Jack Nicholson and said, "Besides, man boobs are an eyesore anyway."

When PRAB chair Knute Nathanial asked how pool staff would go about enforcing such a policy, Viscousdahl cited the Ann Lander’s pencil test. "That type of test should work equally well for men. Plus, pencils are cheap and in-service training would be minimal. I’m happy to be the practice subject for the lifeguards, no charge."

PRAB members then discussed whether more input from the public was needed. "We’ve interviewed lots of people," said Nuzky.  "It’s no secret that we’ve been studying this. Anyone who was truly interested would have contacted us by now or shown up for tonight’s meeting."

Hearing no comments from the assembled residents, the PRAB unanimously approved the measure. It will go into effect for the 2013 summer season.

Dam birds may have to find another perch to fish if Suzie Nakasian has her way

Ames Mill dam on the Cannon River, downtown Northfield Great Blue Heron on the Ames Mill dam Great Blue Heron on the Ames Mill dam 
On Saturday afternoon as the Riverwalk Market Fair was closing up, John Thomas  (AKA Mr. JST Technology) alerted me to a Great Blue Heron that was perched on the top of the Ames Mill dam. After a few minutes, a Mallard joined it. It’s moments like that that make most Northfielders love that dam and the visually pleasing pool of Cannon River water behind it.  But it could be much more.

There’s a resurgence of interest in planning for the Cannon River as it flows through downtown Northfield, especially if the dam is removed. See the discussion attached to my 2007 blog post: Tear down the Ames Mill dam.  And the Sept 2011 PRAB minutes included this:

Council Member Suzie Nakasian reported. The City of Reno Nevada was chosen as an example of how to maximize the river corridor in a city. The planning was done around the river, recreation, economic development, and flood mitigation. A slide show presentation showed the reconstruction of the river to an Olympic class kayak run. She presented this to the PRAB to inspire creativity and thinking of the Cannon River as a park. To create a corridor along the river as parkland.

I was at that PRAB meeting and saw Suzie’s slideshow. It’s pretty cool what they’ve done along the Truckee River in Reno. See the Reno Riverwalk District, the Truckee River Whitewater Park, the Reno River Festival and the Downtown Makeover page on Reno.

Imagine something like this (smaller, of course) in downtown Northfield:

DSC00728 DSC00729 renokayakparkro6 2478640677_907d140dd5 by RenoTahoe 529539_10151062507755575_2079489686_n

httpv://youtu.be/6Sg4XKsc3Eo 

Revisions to outdoor pool rules now in draft

Northfield_Memorial_Pool_rules_2012_Draft outdoor pool at Old Memorial Park Northfield_Memorial_Pool_rules_2010 
A revised set of rules for the outdoor pool at Old Memorial Park drafted by Library and Recreation Services Director Lynne Young and Recreation Manager Allison Watkins is included in their staff report for this week’s PRAB meeting.

See the 2010 pool rules document and compare it to the 2012 pool rules draft.

One of the issues that came to light last year is the apparel policy. From the Sept. 15, 2011 PRAB meeting minutes:

Resident Anne Sabo approached the PRAB with the concern that she was unfairly approached by pool staff and asked that she dress her daughter in appropriate swimwear. She felt that this was unfair sexualization of girls. The PRAB addressed Ms. Sabo and stated that the swim apparel policy was for public safety for all those at the pool. The PRAB informed Ms. Sabo that they are aware of her concerns but feels that the PRAB is not the place to change the rules of the pool that will be handled with staff involved with the Pool.

I’ve invited Anne to comment here.

The skate park should be in a community park, not a neighborhood park. And Old Memorial Park is the best location for it.

I’ve taken a few photos the past week or so of the sites being considered for a skate park. One of them that appears to be a leading contender among PRAB members: the northeast corner of Washington Park at 8th and Union.

Washinton Park, 8th and Union Washington Park - aerial view Park development guidelines Park development guidelines - skate park

But Washington Park is a neighborhood park, not a community park, defined by the City of Northfield’s Park System Master Plan (chapter 3) as serving “a broader purpose than neighborhood parks. Focus is on meeting community-based recreational needs, as well as preserving unique landscapes and open spaces. ”

The Master Plan’s Facility Development Guidelines clearly show that a skatepark is inappropriate for a neighborhood park and instead should be located in a community park or athletic complex. (Northfield has 6 community parks: Ames, Bridge Square, Babcock, Memorial, Oddfellows, and Riverside Lions. And it has 3 athletic complexes: Sechler, Sibley Soccer Fields, and Spring Creek Soccer.) Given the close proximity of that corner of Washington Park to the houses at 8th and Union (see aerial map), it doesn’t seem an appropriate location.  Skateparks can generate a fair amount of noise.

Page 28 of Chapter 3 of the Master Plan’s discusses the location of the skateboard park, and includes a table of the pros and cons:

Skateboarders’ interests were represented by The Northfield Skateboard Coalition during the public process. The group currently has a proposal and design concept for a new skate plaza that would serve their needs. The desired size of the facility is 12,000 to 15,000 s.f. Access to nearby parking, bathrooms, drinking fountain, vending machines, benches, picnic tables, shady areas, and grassy areas for sitting is also desired. A facility of this size would have a capacity of up to 200, although daily use would be less.

A key positive aspect of the skateboard park is that it would serve an age group not always interested in other forms of outdoor recreation. The advocates also point out the importance of the social aspect of the activity, underscoring that location matters for facility success.

The importance of selecting a location for this type of facility that addresses the needs and concerns of the user group, along with those of the larger community, should not be underestimated. To that end, and after much discussion, the PRAB concluded that the facility is best located in a community park, with Ames, Memorial, and Babcock Parks being candidate sites.

The PRAB also concluded that a separate public process was necessary to adequately consider the issues from various perspectives and select the site that best balances the interests of the various stakeholders. To aid that process, the following table identifies the opportunities and limitations of each of the sites currently being considered.
Park Master Plan pros and cons for skate park location

Considering the list of pros and cons for Old Memorial Park, I think it’s a much better choice than Ames or Babcock.  And the constraints listed for Memorial “surrounding residential properties (i.e., noise,
traffic, security concerns, etc.)” and “loss of general open space” are really minor issues.

Look at these photos:

Old Memorial Park Old Memorial Park Old Memorial Park Old Memorial Park
Old Memorial Park is a huge park.  Yes, the open space is one of its assets.

North side of Old Memorial Park North side of Old Memorial Park North side of Old Memorial Park
But there are a number of places where a skate park could be ‘tucked’ into the park without affecting the open space or the neighbors. One spot seems ideal: the north side of the park, just below the sand volleyball court (photos above).

Old Memorial Park aerial viewThere is only one house nearby and it’s not that close. See the aerial view with my arrow pointing to it (right). And the night I took these photos, I met the homeowner who said that that would be a much better location than out in one of the open spaces.

DSC08492 DSC08494 DSC08495 DSC08498
Other smaller spots are possibilities, too.

Old Memorial ParkI don’t have any skin in this game.  But now that the City has the skate park equipment and the Union of Youth has the money to put towards an asphalt or concrete pad for it, it’s time to get this done.

I’m fine with a temporary location this year at Riverside or Babcock. But I think Old Memorial Park is the best permanent location for the skatepark.

Let the discussion continue here. (I’ve closed comments on the Feb. 25 blog post, Where should the Union of Youth skateboard park be located?)

Attorney and Parks board member David Hvistendahl: 3-minute mashup of trash-talking Northfield City Hall

David Hvistendahl David Hvistendahl David Hvistendahl David Hvistendahl Roger Schroder and David Hvistendahl
While listening to archived Law Review radio shows on KYMN recently, I noticed that Attorney David Hvistendahl, a member of the Northfield Park & Rec Advisory Board (PRAB), was particularly disparaging of the Northfield City Council, Northfield City Administrator Tim Madigan, and Northfield Safety Center Director and Police Chief Mark Taylor.

Here is a compilation of some of these remarks, all rolled together into a single 3-minute audio clip.

If you have trouble with the above audio player, try playing and/or downloading this MP3.

Where should the Union of Youth skateboard park be located?

2009 temporary skatepark at Babcock Park 2009 temporary skatepark at Babcock Park
I see in the minutes for the January PRAB (Parks & Rec Advisory Board) meeting (page 4 of the Feb. packet), that there was a presentation by the Northfield  Union of Youth about their skateboard park equipment.

The group is looking for guidance on the next step. The $10,000 grant they obtained will expire at the end of 2012. They are looking for a permanent place for their newly acquired equipment. Discussion with the PRAB and the group included past skate park issues, possible sites, and monitoring of the park. Staff will begin looking at the size requirements for the equipment, and costs associated with pavement, fencing and other expenses. Staff will also research user fees and costs for staffing a skate park.

For background, see this Jan. 20 Nfld News article Equipment purchase gives proposed skatepark a boost:

A half pipe, quarter pipe, a pyramid, rails and more — are all now owned by the Union of Youth, also known as The Key.

“I was like ‘sweet,’ finally,” said Jared Larson of the purchase, a deal brokered with the help of city Streets & Parks Supervisor TJ Heinricy.

Parks & Rec board launches Recliner-in-the-parks project

Recliner in Central Park, NorthfieldNorthfield’s Central Park has been chosen by the Northfield Park & Rec Advisory Board to be the demonstration site for its new Recliner-in-the-parks project.

The goal of the project is to get citizens who spend too much of their leisure time watching television indoors to spend more time outdoors.

“We know it’s not realistic for most hard-core couch potatoes to become recreational users of our parks overnight,” said Knute Nathanial, PRAB chair.  “Research shows that the use of recliners are effective at helping people make a gradual transition. And since TV programs can now be watched on one’s smartphone, the time was perfect to try this.”

The PRAB has rescued a number of recliners for big men, namely, Barcaloungers and La-Z-Boys from the colleges’ dumpsters in recent years so that no taxpayer money has to be spent on acquiring them for the project.  All the recliners will have plastic tarps stored underneath them to protect them from the elements.