City Parks, 1997

Government.36.1: Griff Wigley (griff) Sat, 04 Oct 1997 06:59

The NCO Web Cafe will host a two-week web forum on Northfield’s parks, to begin here in the Government conference, topic #36, on Wednesday, Oct. 8 and continue through Friday, Oct. 17th.

Featured participants include:

* Randy Distad, Parks & Recreation Director
* Scott Neal, City Administrator
* Peg Prowe, Council member, liaison to Park Board
* Char Carlson, Chair of Park Board
* Chris Robbins, Planning Commission member, Cannon River Watershed Project
* Gordon Kelley, Planning Commission member

The forum will focus on the following issues:

* Development of a long-term master plan for city parks, trails, and open spaces
* The land along the city’s waterways: Cannon River, and the creeks (Heath/Rice/Spring). Pros and cons of buying the land to preserve it; process used to acquire.
* The new city Parks and Rec dept under new director Randy Distad: programs, parks, staff, responsibilities, budget, etc.
* The city’s need for more/bigger sport/recreational complexes (hockey, soccer, swimming, etc.)

We’ll open up this topic for everyone once all the featured participants have posted their opening remarks.

Government.36.2: Griff (griff) Sat, 04 Oct 1997 09:54

Here are links to some recent parks-related articles in the Northfield News:

Sept 19

A walk in the parks: Changes coming soon to several local greenspaces due to help from residents – Photos and Text by Tad Johnson

Sept 26

Our View: Park land plan is important

Sept 26

Schilling donates land for city park By Tad Johnson, Staff Writer

Government.36.3: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 05 Oct 1997 22:02

I’d like to first welcome our panelists. Thanks much for being willing to participate in this forum.

To get things rolling, please introduce yourself briefly in a short paragraph. What’s been your background, interest, and involvement with parks, both Northfield’s as well as other places?

Secondly, we listed 4 major “themes” or topics for the forum in post:1. Which one is nearest and dearest to your heart, one that you’d really like to get into?

After each of you have made your introductory remarks, we’ll open it up for others to chime in.

Government.36.4: Gordon Kelley (goldgopher) Tue, 07 Oct 1997 19:43

By way of introduction to all, my interest in park planning extends back 20+ years and during that time I have also acquired an interest in park management. My background also includes grad level classes in Parks & Rec and assistance on 100+ park plans for communities of all size. In park planning, my major thrust is land conservation and wise management of the land. I have been on the Nfld Planning Commission for the past 6 years appointed by mayors Grundhofer and Hager. Gordon Kelley.

Government.36.5: Charlotte Carlson (parkschair) Tue, 07 Oct 1997 21:07

I have been on the park board for 19 years. My major area of interest has always been making sure we are planning for the future and providing for the present. Land is critical to this process. The board has always felt strongly that we need to preserve all types of land for present and future parks. Providing for the citizens today is not easy. We work very hard to not duplicate services that are provided elsewhere in the community, but at the same time access to all facilities for everyone is important. Using our resources carefully, including the capital to improve the land, is our goal.

Government. 36.6: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 07 Oct 1997 21:07

Kudos to you, Gordon, for being the first panelist to post here. And my apologies for misspelling your last name. You’d think a guy whose name is regularly botched (e.g., Grig Wiffley) would pay attention to those details!

Gordon, while we’re waiting for the others to post, can you tell us who else is on the planning commission besides you and Chris Robbins?

Government.36.7: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 07 Oct 1997 21:12

Welcome, Char. I had no idea that you’d been on the Parks board for 19 years. I’m impressed! I guess you’ll be our parks historian.

Can you list the names of the other members of the Parks board?

Also, I picked up the March ’95 Parks planning document at the library tonight and photocopied a few pages. Has the park board issued revised planning documents in ’96 and ’97?

Government.36.8: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 08 Oct 1997 06:21

I thought I’d post a few friendly tips about forum protocol for all participants here, both panelists and pedestrians!

– avoid lengthy posts, ie, anything longer than a screenful. It’s the equivalent of standing up in a living room conversation and giving a lecture. If you do have a long piece, eg, an article, put it in a “hidden” post, explaining in a separate post what it’s all about.

– use lots of white space, ie, paragraph returns, to make your posts easier for others to read. Paragraphs should be no longer than 8-10 lines, preferably shorter…. even if it violates what you were taught in grammar class.

– since we’ll be discussing several issues “simultaneously” here, all piled in one topic, learn to make use of the linking ability of the software, especially the word “post”. For example: “Gordon, you talked about your background in parks in post:4. Could you….” See how just typing the word “post” with a colon and number after it automatically creates a link? Cool, eh? It helps others to know what you’re talking about and makes it easy for them to follow the link back to see what was actually posted.

– Of course, avoid personal attacks on others who disagree with you. But also: 1) avoid sarcasm; and 2) avoid using the “third person” tense when referring to someone else who’s participating here. For example, “Gordon seems to be the type of guy who always….” It’s insulting. So try to talk (write) as if others are right here in a room with you. “Gordon, you seem to always be…”

I’ll assess reasonably small fines to offenders. 😉

Government.36.9: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 08 Oct 1997 20:28

While we’re waiting for all the panelists to post initial comments, I’d like to invite the mayor, city council members, park board and planning commission members, and candidates for city office to join the discussion.

And if you just can’t wait to post comment, let me know and I might let you up on “the stage” ahead of schedule.

Government.36.10: Chris Robbins (robbins) Wed, 08 Oct 1997 21:22

Hi. I’m Chris Robbins, the newest member of the Planning Commission. I have been working for the Cannon River Watershed Partnership for 4 years and have done various kinds of environmental work for the past 20 years. I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland that was designed in the 1910’s and 20’s with greenways along the streams. These linear parks were so successful that I would like to see them happen here. They were places to walk in the woods after a snow storm to see the branches covered with snow, to catch butterflies in the meadows, or to ride bikes and walk dogs.

I think that parks should be for recreation and for preserving a bit of nature. City parks can have just as much of a role in natural areas protection as county and state parks. We could do a natural resources inventory of the areas within our planning boundary, then decide how to acquire or protect those areas we think are important.

Government. 36.11: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 08 Oct 1997 21:366

Welcome, Chris. And thanks for being willing to be a panelist again.

I heard, via the grapevince, that you made some remarks to the city council on Monday night during the open mike slot about the Schilling land. Would you be willing to post a bit about what you told the council?

Government. 36.12: Peggy Prowe (pprowe) Thu, 09 Oct 1997 13:24

My physical education background brought me to Northfield after many summers of guiding canoe trips in the Boundary Waters. When my children entered school I became involved in Hatpin’s environmental education program in Sibley Marsh and Prairie.

Fairy shrimp and purple loosestrife inspired me to serve six years on the Environmental Quality Commission, which led to City Council Membership in 1990.

At the same time, a group of citizens organized the Board of Mill Towns Trail, to connect Northfield to the Cannon Valley Trail in Cannon Falls and the Sakatah/Singing Hills Trail in Faribault.

Between teaching swimming at Carleton and for Community Education, Council work and the Trail grant writing, easement acquisition, planning, I seem to keep busy.

When visiting my daughter in San Francisco and my son in New York City, I enjoy marvelous parks and hunger to make Northfield’s parks their equal.

Government.36.13: Peggy Prowe (pprowe) Thu, 09 Oct 1997 13:25


While the general park issues are of great interest to me, I’m pretty focused on the trails to connect the parks. I’m advocating walking paths around Northfield’s holding ponds, such as in North Park. When walking/jogging/cycling/skating around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, one has a real sense of the need for public circuity of water.

The addition of a full time park and recreation director has been such a strengthening of the work of Northfield’s very committed Park Board. I fully support Randy Distad’s proposal to develop a long-term master plan for city parks, TRAILS, and open spaces. The great needs for families to have places to recreate and for teams to have fields to play on will demand careful planning.

New sports such as in-line skating and skate boarding present demands for community space which the Council has chosen to provide. More difficult is the need for a forty acre development for soccer facilities. A master plan will help stage the acquisition and development of public space.

Government.36.15: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 09 Oct 1997 13:32

Hey Peggy, glad to have you join us. I know it’s been a very busy week for you with all the Mill Towns Trail stuff going on.

Government.36.16: Randy Distad (rldistad) Thu, 09 Oct 1997 15:15

Hi, my name is Randy Distad. I am the new Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Northfield.

Prior to working in Northfield, I worked for the City of New Ulm’s Park and Recreation Department as its Recreation Division Manager for five years.

Before working in New Ulm, I worked in Eau Claire, Wisconsin in a treatment facility for 6.5 years. I was the Director of Recreational Services. I worked with adolescents who were emotionally and behaviorally disturbed. It proved to be quite interesting work.

I have a B. S. degree from Mankato State University in Parks, Recreation and Leisure Studies and a Master’s of Education Degree from the University of Minnesota in Parks and Recreation Administration.

Government.36.17: Scott Neal (scott) Thu, 09 Oct 1997 15:24

My name is Scott Neal. I am the City Administrator in Northfield.

Earlier this year the City Council approved my recommendation to restructure the way in which the Northfield city government addresses parks and recreation issues in the City.

Prior to January 1, 1997, the Parks Department was a subunit of the City’s Public Works divisions, specifically tied to the Streets Department. It was called the “Streets & Parks Department”.

Prior to January 1, 1997, community recreation programs were carried out in the community under the direction of the Community Education & Recreation Department. Community Ed & Rec, as it was known then, was a department of the Northfield School District, and received City funding of approximately $70,000 per year.

Why the change??? In my experience, when park maintenance and management responsibilities are under the tent of a Public Works Department environment, they tend not to get the appropriate amount of attention and budget. I can’t say I know exactly why, although I have a few theories. When parks are stacked up against water, sewer, and streets, most Public Works people will rank parks last in importance. Same story for budget rankings too.

Carving out the responsibility for the provision of recreation services was done for a different reason. First, I wanted to foster a system that would integrate our park system and our park facilities with our community recreation programs. If theses two systems are integrated, we can better plan our community recreation program.

Near the end of 1996, the five member office staff of the Community Ed & Rec office suddenly started to shrink. Mike Allen retired. Audrey Moe retired. Carolyn left. And Margie Jordan took another job within the district. That left Nancy Guth. It just looked like the timing was right to make a change to City recreation services because we were ready to assume those duties.

Community Ed & Rec was doing great things, and is still doing great things in conjunction with the Park & Rec Department. It has been a good marriage so far.

More later………….

Government.36.18: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 09 Oct 1997 15:48

Allllllllllriighty then, the panelists have all arrived.

Good to have you both here, Randy and Scott. And be sure to extend an invitation to any other city staffers who have an interest in these issues.

Panelists, feel free to ask questions of one another, as well as comment on each other’s comments.

I’ve flipped the “panel-only” switch off so that now ANYONE can post comments. You should see a text-entry box at the bottom of your screen where you can type your comments.

Government.36.19: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 09 Oct 1997 16:01

While we have the big issues to talk about, let’s not forget current park-related events:

Schilling land gift

City’s purchase of the buttes

Mill Towns Trail land purchase

If people have questions, comments or info about these, step right up.

Government.36.20: George Kinney (georgek) Thu, 09 Oct 1997 20:00

I know Chris and Peg both have ideas about how to use the Schilling land gift, and also how the restrictions on the gift will work with some uses, such as camping and picnicing while biking along the Mill Towns trail segment. I’d like to hear a discussion of the possible uses.

As the Chair of the EQC, I’d like to support the greenway/greenbelt concept, including the areas along the creeks and streams. The potential of industrial development along the streams or in the watersheds of both Heath Creek and Spring Brook (the trout stream). I think it fits in well with some of the sustainability issues we have discussed here and in other forums in town.

I know one of the frustrations I’ve heard in the past (from Char, Gordon, and others) is the lack of flexibility when small developments come in — parks cannot be sized adequately for the many different uses needed when the developer is only doing 15 acres. How can that issue be addressed?

Government.36.21: Charlotte Carlson (parkschair) Thu, 09 Oct 1997 20:12

Good to read everyone’s introduction. Several items came to mind.

Chris — With the Schilling land being in the flood plain, what are your view of potential uses for the land? Are their restrictions that we should keep in mind? How does the Cannon Valley Watershed project feel about a footbridge over the river to connect to the parkland on the west band and the two streams that flow into the Cannon?

Peg — The park board has always worked on connecting parks with trails or at least making sure that they are easily accessible from existing roadways and sidewalks. Holding ponds are not part of parks, but we do try to locate parks near or connected to holding ponds for the very reasons you list. What ideas do you have for making this work better?

How will the bike trail fit into the plans for a possible campground/RV park on the Schilling property?

Scott — I agree with your comments about parks being at the bottom of the list when parks are combined with streets, etc. However, I must add that Northfield has done a reasonable job of starting to build a good park system. The city has supported us in our efforts to get every park on a 7 year review schedule for improvement. The addition of Randy is great! The development of a master plan is lone overdue. Our current open space document is outdated.

To all readers — I would really like to hear from you about your ideas for ways the parks can better meet the needs of all citizens.

Government.36.22: Scott Neal (scott) Fri, 10 Oct 1997 09:09

I could really ramble with this topic, but I’ll try to keep my brief historical review brief. After the City decided to pursue the Parks & Recreation Department arrangement, we knew we needed to staff the thing with a good leader. We created a job description and advertised heavily. We used the Minnesota Recreation & Parks Association and its Executive Director Jon Gurban to assist us in our search and selection process. The MRPA was very valuable.

We had many quality applicants, but honed the group out and selected Randy Distad from new Ulm. Randy was the Recreation Supervisor for the City of new Ulm’s Park & Rec Department.

He was a great choice and is now in a position to manage the maintenance and development of the City’s park system, provide professional staff assistance to the Park Board, serve as an intra-city parks & Rec advocate, and integrate the parks with our recreation programming efforts.

BTW, he’s doing a great job.

Government.36.23: Randy Distad (rldistad) Fri, 10 Oct 1997 11:17

In regards to Mr. Kinney’s comments on park dedications for small developments Post:20, we need to look at the periphery of the development as the area that we want to be dedicated for parks. Then with the next development we can tell the developer that we want the park dedication to occur next to the previous dedication so that now rather than having one small park, we have a park that can be doubled in size or larger depending on the size of the new development.

We are currently looking at doing this in several area including the Prairie Hills third addition and the Northridge fourth addition. The Park Board has also been examining the Southeast area and identifying the area that has the most potential for parks, so that before the concept plan comes in, the Park Board has already identified some areas that should be dedicated for parks.

Sometimes, it just may simply be the best route of accepting cash-in lieu-of-land rather than dedicated land. This will obviously be dictated by the location and size of existing parks and if the existing parks meet the needs of the newest development.

Another solution might be that the City goes out and buys up the land before the developer does, and then that way the developer will have to plat his development around the location of the park.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this one?

Government. 36.24: Randy Distad (rldistad) Fri, 10 Oct 1997 11:50

First I want to say what a nice gift the City received from Dorothy Schilling. If the City received more of these types of gifts/donations, we wouldn’t have to worry about having adequate space for parks, trails and open space. Unfortunately, donations such as this don’t come along very often and are usually an exception rather than the norm.

The Schilling property has a lot of potential for use as a RV park and campgrounds. It would be a nice fit for the proposed Mill Towns Trail as it could serve as an area that bikers can camp and spend the night. If this were the case, it could mean a significant economic impact on the community.

An issue that will need to be addressed is that the property is located in the flood plain and we will need to determine if it will be feasible to develop this area as an RV park and campgrounds.

It obviously will take some funds to develop this property, as we would probably need to put in a bridge over the Cannon River to connect the Schilling property with Sechler Park so that bikers would have a route to get to the park from the Mill Towns Trail. Plus we would need to put in a trail that would connect the property to the trail that currently exists in Riverside Park and goes underneath the Cannon River bridge on Hwy 3. Plus, there will probably need to be a number of studies done to determine what kind of impact it would have on the river and the environment around the river. However, I feel the potential for a significant economic return and the accessibility to this area, warrants such an expenditure. Now we just need to find a way to fund the project. Anyone with an idea on how we can fund this project, please let me know!

Government.36.25: Gordon Kelley (goldgopher) Fri, 10 Oct 1997 13:38

I also would like to express many thanks to Dorothy Schilling for the donation of land. Suggestions of using this land for an RV park or campground merit extensive study. The question I have asked several times is “If an RV park or campground is needed why hasn’t the free enterprise system responded?” I would like to hear comments about the need for this park/campground. If the city had this facility are they prepared to manage same?

I feel the property has excellent possibilities for trail location. Trails often are located successfully in flood planes. What else can be done with this “park?” We do not need to “develop” all our park space. We can have city parks in more natural conditions. Comments?

Government.36.27: Griff Wigley (griff) Sat, 11 Oct 1997 13:57

A parks-related article in this week’s Nfld News:

City approves $50,000 purchase of 4-acre wooded hill

By Tad Johnson

Government.36.28: Peggy Prowe (pprowe) Sat, 11 Oct 1997 18:15

Dorothy Schilling’s generous gift of 14 acres of river front natural area for citizens to enjoy is marvelous. As she discussed with the Park Board, her interest is very much in the RV park which the Convention Visitors’ Bureau has been strongly advocating for several years. Trail connections along the river north to town will be thru Babcock Park to Riverside Park. Our city guests will have a beautiful ride.

Char — The Park Board’s careful planning of parks beside holding ponds has given people a valuable sense of their public space. Hopefully the Council will enact new subdivision requirements for paths around the storm-water detention ponds as part of new subdivision development.

The Mill Towns Trail being constructed this season is on the west side of the Cannon, will join Sechler Park in Northfield with the city park in Dundas. The DNR has just extended our funding for the construction to allow for further work on easements. The Trail is a prime example of citizens and two cities and Rice County, the DNR collaborating on a large project through several jurisdictions.

Government.36.31: Peter Hamlin (hamlin) Sun, 12 Oct 1997 09:30

I’m Peter Hamlin (Mr. Chris Robbins). I teach music at St. Olaf. We’ve lived in Northfield for about 6 years.

I’d like to echo Peggy Prowe’s comments in post:13. Parks have many values (land preservation, recreation, and so forth), but if they are also thought of as transportation corridors that actually let you go from place to place they become all the more valuable. This is why I’m so excited about the planned Mill Towns Trail. It will connect a number of existing parks and trails, and ultimately Northfield will become a part of a huge regional trail network that includes the Root River Trail, the Sakatah Singing Hills Trail (and other trails in Faribault) and the Cannon Valley Trail.

Thanks also for Randy Distad’s comments in Post:23 about trying to encourage contiguous park lands in adjacent developments. Thinking comprehensively in this way about the city park system would make the parks serve many more purposes for the citizens.

Government.36.32: Peter Hamlin (hamlin) Sun, 12 Oct 1997 09:31

Occasionally I see a development that has incorporated scenic hiking trails, sometimes providing quieter and safer pedestrian passage away from main roads. I wonder if a city like Northfield could think along these lines more often so that developments have coherent pedestrian transportation corridors connecting them, even when they are designed as cul de sacs?

There is one of these on one of the small streets off Lincoln Parkway, and it would be wonderful if this kind of thing could be more common. I also came upon something like this in Des Moines, with a trail system connecting several developments, a lake, and some other public spaces. It served beautifully as a traditional multi-use recreational park as well as a well-functioning transportation corridor for walkers, joggers, bikers, and on-line skaters.

I’d be interested in any comments about that from people who know about city planning. When I see this kind of thing, it seems like such a great idea I wonder why it isn’t done more often.

Government.36.33: George Kinney (georgek) Sun, 12 Oct 1997 10:49

Welcome, Peter!!

As one who works in the ‘burbs to the north (and, on occasion, has bad-mouthed their planning), one good thing that has occurred in Apple Valley and Eagan is the series of long bike/hike/blading trails, with some veering from the ‘sidewalk’ area into and through parks. I know several people who can walk to work on these paths, which certainly gets their day of to a better start that most suburbanites!!

Government.36.34: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 12 Oct 1997 20:32

According to reporter Tad Johnson’s council report in last week’s Nfld News (not on their web site from what I can tell), the city has $32,000 dedicated towards constructing the Mill Towns segment from Sechler Park to the Dundas city park. This money is from the city’s “park trail development fund”.

Many of the comments thus far have been about the importance of connecting parks to one another, as well as for things like greenways and paths along and around waterways.

I’d like to know more about the city’s park trail development fund, ie, how much is in the fund, how much is likely to budgeted for ’98, the decision process used for allocating the money, etc.

Government.36.35: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 12 Oct 1997 20:33

Can someone post some details about the Mill Towns Trail group or post a pointer to its web site?

When and where the meetings are held? What are the plans for raising the $18k for the Dundas/Sechler segment?

Government. 36.36: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 12 Oct 1997 20:48

Interesting paragraph in Tad Johnson’s Nfld News “walk in the parks” article a couple of weeks ago:

“Involvement hasn’t been difficult with the neighbors of Central Park, who throughout the year maintain the park. Each year, neighborhood residents gather to plant new flowers around the centerpiece of the park, which was once a fountain. Also park benches have been added with donations from residents.”

What are the pros and cons of doing this throughout the city, ie, a more formalized neigbborhood “adopt-a-park” plan of some kind?

I don’t know if it saves the city money in staff maintenance but the gains in neighborhood “ownership” would seem to be worth it. I started thinking about this last winter when the warming house at Riverside kept getting trashed and vandalized every so often. City staff were always quick to repair it and clean up messes, but I wonder if we, the neighbors, took more responsibility if it wouldn’t discourage much of the abuse.

Could this be a parks board initiative?

Government. 36.37: Randy Distad (rldistad) Mon, 13 Oct 1997 10:02

In regards to Peter’s comments post:32 and griff’s comment’s post:34, the 1998 budget was submitted with trail development as a separate line item. In past budgets, trail development was included in the overall park development budget. By creating a separate line item, it should allow the Park Board and the Parks and Recreation Department to better target the money specifically for trails. When trail development is included in Park Development, it can sometimes easily be sacrificed at the expense of other park development projects.

In 1998, the Park Board and Parks and Recreation Department will be targeting specific areas that we feel have priority for trail development. Several that are currently being reviewed, include linking Jefferson Park and Tyler Park with a trail and the linking of Jefferson Park and Truman Park with a trail. The intriguing part of a trail being developed through Jefferson Park to both Truman and Tyler Park, is that hopefully the trail will eventually run all the way to Bridgewater Elementary School. If this happens, you will see a tremendous amount of youths using this area to go to and from school, as well as accessing the park facilities.

Lashbrook Park is another park that will have a trail running through it. In fact, we have been working with the consultant who originally designed the concept plan for Lashbrook Park, in staking a trail this Fall, for development in 1998.

Another trail that has just been discussed is the possible trail that would link the Schilling property with Babcock Park and eventually Riverside Park. Even though this is something that might be a few years off, we need to begin looking at this as a link with the proposed Mill Towns Trail.

Finally another possible trail development plan that has been submitted in the 1998 budget, is the hiring of a consultant to develop a Master Trail Plan for the City. A Master Trail Plan will help create a vision for the City to follow for future trail development. During the process of creating this trail vision, the City will be looking for the general public to become involved in the process by attending and providing input at public meetings.

I am sure others have ideas about where our trail system should go. I would be interested in hearing other people’s opinions on this.

Government.36.38: Randy Distad (rldistad) Mon, 13 Oct 1997 10:25

I would like to address Griff’s comments about Adopt-A-Park Programs, post:36. When I worked for the City of New Ulm’s Park and Recreation Department, we had an Adopt-A-Park Program. Unfortunately, it was not a real active program in that not a lot of recruiting was done to get groups to adopt-a-park. However, from what I have seen thus far in Northfield, indicates that such a program in Northfield could be successfully implemented because it appears that people in Northfield seem to be more willing to volunteer for such a program than people in New Ulm did. Based on personal observations, I think that there is an incredible amount of pride in the parks that we have that would warrant such a program. The Park Board has discussed this at several meetings and felt that we should move forward with the adopt-a-park program. My plan is to assemble the information for the Park Board to examine over this coming winter and then develop a program that would be in place before the Summer of 1998. If this program were to happen, I feel it would be a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Does anyone have any information about other adopt-a-park programs that they have run across? I would sure appreciate any literature, brochures or flyers that others have on adopt-a-park programs.

Government.36.39: Gordon Kelley (goldgopher) Mon, 13 Oct 1997 15:52

I would like to respond to Randy Distad’s comment Post:23 about contiguous parks in developing areas. I am sure the Planning Commission will support this concept and work with him.

Peter Hamlin’s comments Post:31 and Post:32 about pedestrian transportation corridors throughout developments I surely support. In the Jefferson Park addition we have parkland corridors connecting 300 homes. I wish we could have more of this type neighborhood. It functions well for hikers, bikers, cross country skiing, and many other rec activities year-around. I can only endorse Peter’s remark “when I see this kind of thing, it seems like such a great idea I wonder why it isn’t done more often.”

George Kinney’s comment Post:33 noted how people walk to work in a park and I would like to add that H S students walk to school (their work) by walking through the Jefferson Park finger parks. Northfield also has some of this. You just made that comment to see what my response would be, didn’t you George?

Government.36.40: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 13 Oct 1997 18:35

Randy, a quick search of the phrase “adopt-a-park” on a couple of Web search engines turned up these:

– Lion’s Park in Aurora, Ontario. A great use of the web to chronicle the need, the plan, and the process, including before and after pics.

– city of Woodbury, St. Paul suburb; helpful guidelines

– city of Ft. Dodge Iowa; includes a nifty Playground Enhancement Partnership Program

Government.36.41: George Kinney (georgek) Mon, 13 Oct 1997 19:33

So— connect Adopt-a-Park with the Block Party concept — clean the park, have a party, and meet all your neighbors!!!

Gordon and I live on Jefferson Park, with our houses on cul-de-sacs. Our areas have quite a community feel because of this layout — quiet streets (hey, they’re all dead-end!), and our lawns run into a park in the back. The park, for those who aren’t familiar, extends throughout the entire development, with several openings to the street. Some have said that the design is such that the park is more private than public. I’d point out that the park is also the drainage for stormwater, and is (love our clay soils!!) pretty soggy a good part of the year.

Randy — if you’re going to put ‘paths’ through this park, pick the high ground!

Government.36.42: Nancy Gruchow (ngruchow) Mon, 13 Oct 1997 20:23

I grew up in the Twin Cities with a great variety of parks and open spaces. We had canoe facilities on Lake Calhoun. There was a bandshell on Lake Harriet, and a rose garden too. There was a wildflower garden and a bird sanctuary. There were swimming beaches and sailboat slips and bike paths. There were playgrounds, but there was also tennis courts, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, hockey rinks, and swimming pools.

It seems to me that all we are building here in Northfield is tot lots. Little playgrounds for little children. Now, I am not against little children, but I believe there should be some parks for people over age 5.

What about a bandshell on the park behind Malt-0-Meal–the one used for carnival rides once a year? What about a canoe portage trail so people can canoe from Faribo to Cannon Falls more easily? How about a garden of prairie flowers? How about some city-owned tennis courts–the only courts in town are owned by the high school or the colleges. There is no lighted soccer field in town, unless you count Memorial Field, which is a combo football/soccer field, and we all know who takes precedence.

I want some imagination.

Government.36.43: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 13 Oct 1997 22:00

Hey Nancy, good to have another council member here. And a candidate, too!

Your point about more park facilities for adults is one I’ve never even considered. I wonder, tho, if instead of lack of imagination (a seemingly harsh criticism of the people on the parks board and planning commission), it’s the prioritizing process that you take issue with. Nfld is a “family town” it’s often said, so it’s not surprising that “tot lots” are so common… tho I’d guess other people might wonder why we have so many athletic facilities that cater to older youth and adults.

I was surprised to find out that the 25 Nfld parks (yep, 25) are all on a schedule for minor, medium, or major development through the year 2002, maybe beyond, since I’m looking at a 1995 planning document.

I’d be interested to know more about how the process works for upgrading these parks and, in light of Nancy’s suggestions, how these are weighed against kid-oriented needs.

Government.36.44: Gordon Kelley (goldgopher) Tue, 14 Oct 1997 13:30

George Kinney’s comments about the Jefferson Park area in Post:41 were interesting. I would like to add to his remark about some people saying that this park is more private than public. There are some 200 to 300 homes in the Jeff Park addition and nearly all of these have the type of access he describes where “our lawns run into the park in back.” 300 homes with access to the Jefferson park, how can anyone say this is more private than public? I would like also to point out that George’s remark that this area has “quite a community feel” was totally unsolicited from me. This is for all of you who know I am supportive of cul-de-sacs.

I would like to hear comments about the purchase of the “bluffs” by the city council. What are people saying about this?

I have one park issue I would like to place in front of people and possibly start some dialog. Let me explain it like this: Ivanhoe Park was recently closed by City Council action and the land given to adjacant homeowners. As I understand, many years ago access to this park was restricted by neighbors, city maintenance crews were unable to maintain this park, eventually city crews no longer maintained this park and the citizens petitioned for the park to be closed and the land given to neighbors of the park. The city made limited attempts (or maybe no attempts) to open the restricted park access. Giving this land away cost the city several thousand dollars, when it was all said and done. How will citizens know that their parks will not be given away in the future?

Government.36.45: Ken Sargent (ksargent) Tue, 14 Oct 1997 15:39

Hi, I’m Ken Sargent, membership chair for the Mill Towns Trail group and I would like to respond to Griff’s questions in post:35. Our group has a board of 15 members and a mailing list of 138. When spouses and family members are included we probably have a membership close to 200. We don’t have a web site, but it sounds like a good project idea for the future. We meet the second Wednesday of every month at 7:00 PM at the Dundas City Hall. The 18K for the Dundas/Sechler segment has been raised through membership donations, gracious donations from Northfield banks and other businesses, and from the Northfield Rotary. The Rotary has sponsored the Jesse James day bike ride for the past three years and has donated most of the profits to the trail project. While our long term goal is linking the Cannon Valley and Sakatah trails, our short term goal of a Northfield to Dundas loop is very close to reality. It has been a slow process with tons of behind the scenes work. Hopefully it’s completion will spur more interest and help to build the remaining segments. We are always looking for more members and anyone who would like more information can attend a meeting, phone me at 645-8106, or E-mail me at

Government.36.46: Randy Distad (rldistad) Tue, 14 Oct 1997 16:41

What I would like to propose to do in the future with our parks, is to hire a consultant to develop concept plans for all of our neighborhood parks. The concept plans would include all park facilities and amenities that the neighborhood would like to see in the park. This does not necessarily mean that everything that citizens want in the park will be purchased and placed in the park. What it does do is create a vision for what the park should ultimately look like when it is fully developed. Then when we go back and review our development plan, we can budget accordingly for items identified in the concept plan. This process gives the neighborhood an opportunity to give input into the design of the park. It then will provide a direction for the Park Board and Parks and Recreation Dept. to take when putting together a proposed annual budget.

These neighborhood park concept plans could then become part of our Master Park Plan. Right now the parks development plan is limited to what kinds of information it provides. It does provide a schedule, identifies roughly how mush money should be spent on development and/or improvements of a park and prioritizes parks for improvements and development. What it seems to lack is that it doesn’t address any programming issues in the parks. It doesn’t tell us what we should be putting into our parks in the way of facilities and amenities. Currently this is being left to the Park Board and the Department to make those decisions.

A concept plan would sure be nice because then we can begin to address some of the issues that Nancy Gruchow in post:42 talked about and Gordon Kelley talked about in post:25. I have done a little research on the cost of a concept plan for each neighborhood park and it would cost about $3,000 for each park. How do people feel about spending this kind of money on concept plans for all of our neighborhood parks? Obviously we wouldn’t have to do concept plans for all the parks in one year but how about doing concept plans on the parks that are up for review each year as part of the development plan. Any thoughts on this????

Government.36.47: Charlotte Carlson (parkschair) Tue, 14 Oct 1997 21:10

Good comments by several people.

Kelly in Post 44 (I think) asked a lot of questions about the Ivanhoe park. This is the type of situation we are trying to avoid not with the 7 year cycle of reviewing each and every park. About 10 to 12 years ago we started the process with a 5 year cycle as the city at that time had several pieces of parkland that were not developed and in cases like Ivanhoe were not even maintained by the city. This process brought out a lot of issues about land use and what people considered their property. The Park Board proposed that a path be placed thru the Ivanhoe Park to provide the off street walking in an area of town that does not have sidewalks. There was no support from the city staff, city council or the residents around the park. The end result was the council voted to return the land to the residents based on a theory of not developed into a park in a reasonable length of time.

The parkboard now has the 7 year cycle to insure park land is developed on a timely basis. In fact the subdivision ordinance states that when an area is 50% developed the park will be placed on the development plan. Hopefully this will prevent the Ivanhoe situation from happening again.

Government.36.48: Charlotte Carlson (parkschair) Tue, 14 Oct 1997 21:25

Another topic: Tot Lots vs Older Aduld uses of the Parks Nancy made comments about the lack of adult parks in Northfield. I would disagree with her. In fact, the comment that we the board often hear is just the opposite — too few tot lots too far from where I live.

As I mentioned in my opening remarks, providing for the entire population is a major task for the board. We try to provide natural areas, large sports fields, tot lots, picnic areas, hiking trails, scenic areas, etc. Sibley Swale is a wonderful park that the residents do not want a trail. But go walk in this park and enjoy the birds, swamp, bugs, whatever! And at each end stop and play on the play equipment or enjoy a snack on a bench. Roosevelt Park will have a trail back and around the development that leads through the woods to the newest park area ‘the buttes’. Have you watched the ducks on the holding pond in Hidden Valley Park? (No tot lot here.) Lashbrook park will connect with the St. Olaf wetlands and does and will provide some of the most scenic views in the area. North of North addition 4 (Arnies’ development) is a wonderful new park that is all woods with the trail already cut through (Thanks Arnie). In the heart of the city are the quiet places along the river in Riverside park. The trail with benches provides the walker, biker, inline skater with a good view of the river and downtown. Thanks to Norwest Bank for all of the plantings in Riverside.

Sports areas take up a lot of parkland. We need more to provide for the youth and other the first class facilities we need. Tennis courts are missing and have been identified by the board. Randy’s plan to put in place a concept plan will be a big help to the board in our planning.

Government.36.49: Chris Robbins (robbins) Wed, 15 Oct 1997 08:21

I am reading “The American City” by Alexander Garvin. He points out that a century ago, when the MPLS chain of lakes, the Chicago lakeshore and Central Park were being created, parks were regarded as ways to generate high-value development. In fact, the MPLS Board of Trade encouraged the formation of the Park Board, saying that in the future, the parks would “add many millions to the real estate value of our city.” Our developers seem to feel that they will lose value if scenic areas are public instead of part of private lots. I think they could be wrong and would like to find some info. on the effect of parks on housing values. From what I’ve read, parks (not necessarily tot lots) do increase property values. Perhaps we should think about some pro-active park development instead of relying only on our park dedication requirement to acquire open space. Developers might also think about the benefits of donating open space now and then. It’s done in Owatonna, apparently with hefty tax advantages for the developers.

I also wanted to answer Char’s question about the Schilling property. Since it is a floodplain, it serves many functions such as water storage and wildlife habitat. The Cannon River Watershed Partnership has goals including increasing water storage and wildlife habitat, having buffers along streams, protecting and increasing wetland acreage, and not filling floodplains. This might be a good place to park some RVs among the trees, but I would not like to see it extensively cleared or filled for that purpose. I think Randy’s idea of having trails connecting from there to Babcock and Sechler Parks, and possibly further south when that land is available, is great.

Government.36.50: Lois Stratmoen (stolaflois) Wed, 15 Oct 1997 08:43

My husband, Noel, and I have lived in Northfield for 32 years and raised our family of 2 sons entirely here in the city. During their growing-up-years we used the city parks regularly for summer play and winter skating. We have seen, over those areas, the number of times that developers began the process of giving the required amount of land, based on the size of the development, to the city for park use and the number of times the city decided it could not afford to develop that land and took money instead. I’ve often wondered whether that money was then used to further improve existing parks or if it got lost in general budget spending. Was it intended for park development? Was in undesignated?

I’d like to add my commendation to several earlier writers who have have noted Dorothy Schilling’s generous gift of park land. I was unaware that Arnie Nelson had done some trail clearing work on the land in his development being designated for park land. Could he, too, be publicly recognized for his contribution–perhaps to become an example to other developers? He had a community spirit and a pride and love for Northfield that is wonderful to share.

Government.36.51: Evelyn Hoover (ehoover) Wed, 15 Oct 1997 09:55 I like the adopt-a-park idea. It’s used extensively in Burnsville and seems to work well there. I think our neighbors would be quite willing to adopt the park near our home.

I also like Randy’s park concept plan. However, I wonder if the price tag isn’t a little steep, especially in light of other needs within the community? Isn’t there any way to make the idea a little less expensive?

Tad Johnson, the reporter at The News who covers city issues, has been unable to get his password to work, so he’s been unable to get online with this discussion. The problem should be corrected soon, so he’ll be asking some tough questions. However, as a staff, we were discussing the parks issue today and someone pointed out that it’s difficult to develop a good park system without sidewalks to get people from their homes to the parks safely. Any thoughts? Yes, we’re all aware of the sidewalk referendum’s defeat.

Government. 36.52: George Kinney (georgek) Wed, 15 Oct 1997 12:24

The park concept plan seems like a natural, guess the city just needed to get Randy on board! I think we’d all like to see it move forward. My questions would surround the comments Char made – post:48 – regarding Sibley Swale — what happens when the Concept Plan says a trail should go through a park, swing sets should not be placed in a park, etc, and the residents around the park disagree? Public meetings?

Government. 36.53: Tad Johnson (tj007) Wed, 15 Oct 1997 16:58

I finally found my way into the cafe! I don’t use exclamation points very often so you know I’m very excited to be here. I’ve read the postings so far and have had one of my questions answered over and over, “why do we have parks?” It sounds like a simple question to answer, but we rarely think about the intrinsic value of parks. It’s true they don’t bring the city any new revenue, but the value of parks is easy to see through the joy they bring residents. Anyway, I’m here to ask questions, so here we go.

Randy, you would likely be the best person to answer this. What does the Americans with Disabilities Act require of city parks, in terms of playground equipment regulations? access to parks (like the one the city recently approved on the two buttes southeast of Northfield)? and how is the ADA enforced?

Government.36.54: Amy Gage (agage) Thu, 16 Oct 1997 04:51

Maybe it’s just that journalists like to stick together, but I agree with Evelyn’s point about sidewalks. A discussion about trails, recreation, exercise and family fun can’t overlook the fact that pedestrians are unsafe on many streets in this town. Parks are a priority, but so are sidewalks. So is a walk bridge over Highway 3, which could be a work of art (think of the bridge that connects Loring Park to the Sculpture Garden in Mpls), a safety feature and a literal link between the west side of town and downtown.

Sidewalks and a Hwy 3 walkbridge would encourage more people to walk. They’d discover the joys of exercise and then they’d want to use the parks. Voila!

I love the ideas posted so far for bike trails, connecting the existing parks and building a bridge across the Cannon River. But let’s not forget the infrastructure, too. All of the former will help bring people (yes, tourists) to the latter. We need to make sure they can get around.

Finally, regarding Nancy’s point about tot lots: I think the most successful parks have something for people of all ages. Aside from its lack of water, I love the park behind City Hall because my 7-year-old can shoot baskets, my 2-year-old can climb around on the Landscape Structures playground equipment (a great woman-owned company) and I can pretend to be a kid again in the larger swings.

Government.36.55: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 16 Oct 1997 05:22

Hey, good to have some more voices here. Welcome, Ken, Lois, Evelyn, Tad, and Amy.

Lois, post:50, as far as I know, any funds the city collects via park dedication (a slightly confusing term – it means land or cash in lieu of land is required to be dedicated when property is platted for development)is put into the Park Dedication Fund and used to help fund park developments. It’s not supposed to go into the general fund. Is this correct Randy/Scott?

The 1995 parks planning document says that requested budget amount for the years 1995-2004 is $100,000/yr. Is that the plan for 1998?

This money is just for development, but all park maintenance costs (personnel, equipment, mowing, plumbing, electricity, downtown maintenance, park shelter cleaning, sprinkler systems, garbage collection, etc.) are all paid out of the General Fund. Is that still the case? If so, how much does it cost per year to do all that?

Lastly, when’s the last time the city issued a bond issue for funding park improvements? Has it even been considered recently? We’re about to vote (overwhelmingly, apparently) to maintain our excess levy for schools for about $2.5 million per year. I’d certainly be likely to support a bond issue for park and trail development, especially if it was based on a long range master plan like Randy suggests.

But that raises a question: Randy, what’s the difference between the Master Plan you’ve talked about and the individual “concept plans” you’d like to see done for each of the 25 parks for $3k a piece spread out over several years?

Government.36.56: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 16 Oct 1997 05:31

We’ve talked a little about the contributions that individual people, corporations, and organizations have made over the years to the parks.

The ’95 planning document suggests that the city create a Gift Catalogue – a way to identify areas of needs within the parks and rec system for those who would like to contribute and take a tax deduction. Has this been done? If not, why not? And let’s get it up on the city’s web site!

Maybe as part of this Gift Catalogue, the city could recognize all the park donors for the past 10 years or so. This would be easy to do on a web page but it should really be on a wall someplace at city hall.

Government.36.57: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 16 Oct 1997 05:41

By the way, even tho we only have about a dozen or so people who have posted comments here thus far, there are another 30 people who are reading along.

This is similar to a forum and discussion held in the meeting room at the public library where 6 people are on a panel at the front of the room, another 6 people from the audience ask questions or make comments, and another 30 or so audience members just listen.

I’d like to invite those of you who’ve not posted yet to go right ahead and plunge in… even if it’s with a “Hi, I’m here, nothing to add right now…” type comment.

Government.36.58: Gordon Kelley (goldgopher) Thu, 16 Oct 1997 11:26

I’m also glad to see members of the local press on board. I want to fully endorse Randy’s comments in Post:46 that we should develop concept plans for each park, several each year.

Also comments about Gruchow’s Post:42 and Char’s Post:47 I agree that we need a different mind set, all parks to not need to be “developed” example Jefferson park grassy areas where ball games go on all summer. Also lets remember that parks are to serve the entire population but we can never meet all parks/rec needs of all our citizens. We can only strive to meet as many needs as possible. Don’t have “meeting all parks/rec needs” as a Park Board goal.

Griff in Post:55 you mention Bond issues. A popular topic in MN now is the bond issue passed a few years ago in Maplewood. And this was not for traditional parks and rec but for open space.

Chris in Post:49 you are correct, there have been studies and research on the issue of parks contributing to real estate value. I remember from ny work at Texas A & M U, there was a classic study around Central Park in New York city. You could contact Jim Jack at Mankato State Univ Parks, Rec and Tourism Dept (Randy knows his phone #) or you could contact Carson Watt at Texas A & M Univ (I could find his phone # if you want it). As I recall the Central Park study, I would add this comment, that “natural” resources are what contribute to this measured increase in real estate value. Example, Mpls chain of lakes. Also, Chris, if we were to put RVs in the Schilling park, could we please not pave the roads, campsites, etc.

Government.36.59: Bill Kelly (bmeowk) Thu, 16 Oct 1997 13:35

Good ideas abound. I hate to bring this up but one of the key reasons why Northfield seems awash in UNDEVELOPED parkland is the amount of tax-exempt property in this city. Just ask any businessperson and you will get an earful. At present we have a host of ideas all of which compete for the beloved tax dollar – Highway 3, so-called affordable housing, TIF assistance for new business ventures, and, of course, parks and trails. I’m not here to suggest that any of the aforeraised concepts are out of line but, they all must be prioritized and, this is the tough one, afforded.

We can, if we are not too careful, create a town in which only the “elite” can afford to live. Would this be a community to which we would look forward to belonging? I’m not too sure.

Northfield has a history of small groups promulgating community projects and expecting the “little people” to sit by and write checks as required. The sidewalk plan was created this way and the referendum was a reaction to the plan. I suggest that if Northfield develops a park plan. that we be careful as a community to involve a broad group perhaps even including a few opponents, to assure success.

Government.36.60: Gordon Kelley (goldgopher) Thu, 16 Oct 1997 14:13

I also wanted to add that I agree with those who say Arnie Nelson should be recognized for his park land gift. Lets not forget everyone who gives to the city parks; Patrick & Karen Mader and their children also gave a nice cash gift recently for shade trees in Grant Park. BTW, their children are 5 and 6 years old. When we see Arnie Nelson, Dorothy Schilling or the Mader family we should all take time to say thanks to them.

The reason I raised the question about the bluffs a couple of days ago is that situation is similar to Arnie’s development on the north side of town. In both cases the land was not developable as told to the Planning Commission. In Arnie’s case he choose to give the land to Northfield. In the other case the developer wanted credit for 4.8 acres of his future park dedication requirement, in other words “banked park land.” Situations like this have happened in other cities and have been dealt with as follows: Give the developer credit for park land dedication, but not the full 4.8 acres of credit. Often a 3 to 1 ratio is used. If that were used here the developer would have received credit for 1.6 acres of “banked park land” toward his future development. That would have been a win-win situation for the city and the developer.

An article from Newsweek was circulated to all Planning Commission members and city council (in June 1995 I think) about “What is wrong with our suburbs.” Northfield is not a suburb, at least not yet, but the article is often quoted to indicate what is wrong with Northfield’s development. The article had suggestions about how to improve our suburbs. One of those suggestions sticks in my mind; “people like to have park land close.” That is a worthy goal of the Park Board and the Director.

Since we are nearing the end of this on-line forum, I want to ask for comments about a few related issues. Are these community facilities part of or should be a part of the Parks & Rec Department? A youth center of some kind, a senior citizens center/community center, ice arena and swimming pool. These type of facilities are included in Park & Rec in some towns. This perhaps goes to the issue raised at the start of the forum about what should be the role of the newly created Park & Rec Dept in Nfld. I think these facilities should be part of Parks & Rec since that is the Department which deals with managing land and facilities and that is the Dept that deals with people activities.

Also, Randy’s idea that each park should have a plan is an excellent idea and this is how I envision it working.

First thing we do is create a philosophy statement of Northfield parks and then identify management philosophy for individual parks within that overall philosophy. This statement should recognize that: ** parks are a valuable component of the community, ** parks provide recreation, esthetic beauty, open space and a place for citizens to regenerate or re-create themselves and ** parks contribute to the overall quality of life in Northfield.

Citizens need to be assured that parks are clean, safe and accessible; that parks belong to them.

We could also have a Park Board Mission Statement indicating: The Mission of the Northfield Park Board is to assist the city in management of the Nfld Park System by detailed planning for park use and development; and long range planning for land acquisition through: ** recommendations to the City Council and Commissions; ** promoting appreciation, understanding and support for Nfld parks and rec; ** serving as liaison between citizens and city government; ** interpreting parks needs and provide for those needs; ** promoting understanding of the park planning process; ** keeping public and officials informed of the status of the park system.

Implementation of the Park philosophy and mission statement: ** regular Park Board meetings (at least monthly), ** the Park Board will assemble a set of criteria for future park land dedication for developers and citizens, ** Park Board members will keep well informed and updated by membership in professional park/rec organizations and ** the City Council will annually budget sufficient amount for all Park Board to attend at least one professional conference.

I also agree with Bill Kelly’s comment that we can be creating a community where only the “elite” can afford to live. Do we want this? And also, yes we do have a history of small groups promoting their projects, but I think in regards parks, we can have community meetings and public input enough so that planning can reflect more of a community wide support. Parks are generally well supported by citizens and we need to assure them that they can speak up when we are planning the park system for the next millenium (or at least for the next 10 years).

Government.36.61: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 16 Oct 1997 15:18

Gordon, I’ll tip my hat to the Northfield News staffers here, too. Rich Kleber and Evelyn Hoover have been consistently active here in the Cafe for many months… no other newspaper anywhere else in the state of MN that I’m aware of can claim this. Good to have reporter Tad Johnson here as well… and Annalee Larson just registered.

FYI, we have a “local media” topic here in the Cafe: topic:bridgesquare.29 in case anyone wants to head over there.

Government.36.62: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 16 Oct 1997 16:50

BTW, we’re working with KYMN and the Nfld News do follow-up stories on all this so as to maximize the community’s attention to these parks issues.

The idea is get all three media (print, broadcast, and online) to give a community issue simultaneous treatment.

Government. 36.63: Nancy Gruchow (ngruchow) Thu, 16 Oct 1997 17:33

One of the things I would like to see in any park plan is signage and labels. labels on maps–including the telephone directory map. Signs at the parks. If we had a sign at the Ivanhoe Park, and if it had been labeled on city maps, then the residents would not have believed it was merely their back yard. This is critical with undeveloped parks.

I would also like a map of the city posted at the law enforcement center, which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The parks would be labeled on this map. Then out-of-towners would not have to wonder where we are hiding Memorial Field–the high school football field–which is not next to the high school.

How many people know where Cherry Park is? I live three blocks away from it, yet due to its lack of signs and labels I have never noticed that it was a park. Lois said we must prevent loss of future park land to private hands, and I really think public signs and labels are a good way to notify the world that it is park land.

Of course, I also think the park Gordon Kelly lives near–Jefferson Park–should have a public sign and label. Perhaps the 300 homes nearby all realize this is public park in their backyard, but if I am a newcomer, or just from the northern part of the city, I would feel uncomfortable walking through their backyards. And unwelcome. public land should be labeled as such.

Government.36.64: George Kinney (georgek) Thu, 16 Oct 1997 18:09

I agree, Nancy. I think labeling is a good idea and I’d go further — in some cases, such as Jefferson (seem to be spending a lot of time on it) the ‘public’ needs a map, as it winds in and out, and it does cover a lot of territory.

Randy/Scott — does the new role of Parks and Rec include the ice arena and future facilities? How does Randy’s job change the roles within the city staff?

Government. 36.65: Peter Hamlin (hamlin) Thu, 16 Oct 1997 22:50:56 CDT (19

Bill Kelly mentioned an issue I hear referred to often, the issue of tax-exempt land in Northfield (post:59). Sometime, I’d love to see someone do a study to determine what kind of economic value Northfield receives, at no cost, from such spectacular assets as the Carleton Arb and the ring trails around St. Olaf. What would it cost Northfield to operate and maintain such facilities if they weren’t run by the colleges? (You could also add in arts activities, sporting events, library services, etc. in such a study)

I don’t see such tax exempt land as lost revenue for the city, but rather as a huge free benefit for the community. I would bet that if you tallied up the economic value, it would be far more than the lost revenue from taxes.

Speaking of the St. Olaf trails, I’d like to encourage everyone to explore them. The College has been doing wonderful work on the trails, taking you through woods, near ponds, and alongside farmland. You can take a nice long walk all around the campus: from near Lashbrook Park, to the ponds and fields over by Skoglund, to the woods of Norway Valley. It’s a really beautiful area in all seasons. Peter Hamlin

Government. 36.66: Randy Distad (rldistad) Fri, 17 Oct 1997 10:42

In regards to Tad Johnson’s questions about the ADA post:53, it has really altered the way parks and recreation agencies operate. It has required us to take a step back and put in place a plan that makes our playgrounds, facilities and programs accessible. When you think about it, we should have been doing this all along. Afterall, why should a disability keep some one from accessing a program or a facility!!!

Based on information that I have received at workshops on the ADA, playground equipment has to be made accessible if it is altered in any manner, or new equipment is installed. I think it is good practice and good public relations to make all of our parks accessible to all people regardless of their ability. In regards to trails, the law does state that if it creates a financial burden or unreasonable hardship on an agency to make a facility, program or park accessible, it does not have to make it accessible. However, when you look at the court cases that challenge the accessibility issue, most of the cases center around what constitutes a financial burden or hardship on an agency.

In a number of cases, the courts have determined that agencies were not to be found in compliance with the law and that what the agency thought was a financial burden, the courts said that it wasn’t. The City is also required I believe, to have a staff person who is responsible for compiling a compliance report and plan in place to bring all areas of accessibility up to the requirements of this law. Scott Neal may want to comment on this one.

Government.36.67: Randy Distad (rldistad) Fri, 17 Oct 1997 10:46

In regards to George Kinney’s comments about what to do when a neighborhood doesn’t want something in the park post:52, this is why I think it is crucial that we begin to develop concept plans for our parks to include the neighbors in the planning process with not only the concept plan, but also when we develop the Master Trail Plan and the Master Park Plan. Public meetings are essential I believe, to the success of our park systems.

Government.36.68: Randy Distad (rldistad) Fri, 17 Oct 1997 10:54

Nancy Gruchow’s has hit the nail on the proverbial head when she state that we need to have signage and maps indicating where our city parks are located. I have begun initiating some of this with Northfield Printing. We have a rough draft worked up that will be discussed at the next park board mtg. I am proposing that this map indicate where our parks are located, what amenities are found in each park, location of existing trails, location of proposed trails and the size of each park. I did have a crude map put into the Community Education and Park and Recreation Fall brochure. However, I would like to have a map made that has color to it, representing parkland, existing trails and proposed trails. My hope is that we can get this printed and distributed to the general public by the first of the year. I think this will help the general public get a much better perspective of the park and trail system that we have in Northfield. OF course, since the City continues to grow, the map will need to be updated on a regular basis.

Government.36.69: Randy Distad (rldistad) Fri, 17 Oct 1997 11:05

Lois Stratmoen’s question in post:50 is one that probably not a lot of citizens can answer. The City has a #205 Fund that is targeted as the site for cash-in-lieu of land payments. It is not part of the general fund but rather is used for issues related to park development or improvement. It could possibly be used for purchasing land for future parks, it could be used to build a structure in a park, or it could possibly be used to develop a Master Park, Trail and Open Space Plan. The money is set aside to be used in the way the park board feels it should be spent. Of course, the park board would first make a recommendation to City Council for approval, before it would be spent.

Government. 36.70: Randy Distad (rldistad) Fri, 17 Oct 1997 11:10

FYI The National Recreation and Parks Association has initiated a Benefits Are Endless Campaign a campaign that illustrates the benefits of parks and recreation. Chris Robbins might be able to get some good information or resources about how park land may increase the value of real estate. Do a search under the title of NRPA. Not sure about the exact web site.

Government.36.71: Gordon Kelley (goldgopher) Fri, 17 Oct 1997 12:18

In response to Nancy Gruchow’s comment Post:63 I would like to add that I also think signage is good, not just good but great. Nancy, no one should feel “uncomfortable” walking in Jefferson Park even in the “finger parks.” People walk and move about there all year long and no one ever bothers them. I’ve heard this reference several times from Park Board members and I welcome them all to walk past my home in Jeff Park at any time!!!

I wanted to make one last comment about parks in Northfield before we terminate this forum: I have always felt that Northfield city officials (elected, appointed, and hired) should always be upbeat and supportive of Northfield and our parks. Sort of be the “Cheerleaders” for Northfield. Say positive things about our town and, since this forum is about parks, say positive things about all our parks. We offer a great variety of things in our parks, and not every one likes the same things. But, just because it is not your “cup of tea” doesn’t mean it’s not good. Cherry Park is hidden away and needs signage but it is still a good park; Jeff Park with its fingers is heavily used year-around (and easy to maintain); Babcock, Sechler and Riverside are all excellent in their own way. I for one am proud of all our parks, for a town this size.

Government.36.72: Evelyn Hoover (ehoover) Fri, 17 Oct 1997 16:17

I must agree with Gordon’s comments about being proud of our city’s parks. Since moving here in March, we have utilized many of the parks for different reasons. For the most part, they’re well-maintained and offer a variety of uses, especially for a city of our size.

Government.36.73: Chris Robbins (robbins) Fri, 17 Oct 1997 21:32

This forum has gone by so fast that I have not had time to plug something that I think would be a great opportunity. We have two gorgeous creeks on the west side of town: Heath Creek and Spring Brook. If we could create greenways along both creeks, or at least along Heath, it would make a wonderful side trip off the Mill Towns Trail and a way to allow residents of the west side, and the whole city, to enjoy these beautiful resources. The city’s comprehensive plan shows them as open spaces, but I don’t think we know yet how that could be accomplished. These small creeks are just as scenic as the Cannon River in Northfield. They don’t have the extensive muddy floodplain, and they have some bluffs along their banks. Spring Brook, because of the brook trout in it, should probably have minimal development around it. But Heath Creek could form the centerpiece of a wonderful neighborhood. I would like to see a greenway done the way it is in MPLS and in my home town: houses, road, trail, then stream. No houses backing up to the stream. A pedestrian/bike bridge crossing the creek. Kids could ride all the way downtown on trails. I’m sure a park like that would make the area very desirable.

Government.36.74: Griff Wigley (griff) Sat, 18 Oct 1997 00:19

That was a great flurry of comments to end the forum. I’ll leave this topic open for a few more days in case anyone else has something to add, but essentially, the party is over.

I’d like to thank our guest panelists who took time out of their already busy lives to participate here. A set of golden kudos goes to Randy Distad, our new parks and rec director. Randy, thanks much for your consistent participation, conversational style, and thoughtful responses. I think we’re lucky to have you in Northfield.

Government. 36.75: Bill Kelly (bmeowk) Sat, 18 Oct 1997 10:17:25 CDT (21

I’ll be the first to admit that activities at the colleges as well as parks like the arboretum can be an advantage to any community. However, if the two colleges and all the other exempt properties in Northfield were taxed as residential properties, the income to the County, the School District and the City would be greater than two million dollars. Ask yourself what two million dollars would do for these three entities.

Since the remainder of the community – that is, you and me – must make up for this financial exception, financing new parks, trails etc. must be prioritized with schools and city and county services. We can indeed afford a huge committment to parks if there is general agreement to finance this huge committment. But, this committment must be made with the realization that a whole lot of property in Northfield is exempt from taxes.

Complicating the equation is a seeming resolve by the community’s leaders to limit growth – particularly growth in the commercial and industrial sectors. This limitation only increases financial pressures on what remains. In fact, this may be the key issue in November’s election.

Government.36.76: Susan Hudson (shudson) Sat, 18 Oct 1997 12:08:05 CDT (54

My first postings. I have spent most of my hours reading the postings, and I have yet to read all of them. I have some specific concerns:

Schilling gift – I would like for this land to not be used for RV camping, or any other camping, will make this area mostly utilized by people from outside our community. Gordon Kelley has a point. Let the free enterprise system answer this need, not our park board. Didn’t the city turn the lot to the north of Southgate Cinema into an RV access area a few years back? Is it ever used? I see semis parked there quite frequently, but no RV’s with the exception of Jesse James Days, and then it’s used by those associated with the rodeo.

Adopt-a-park – Yes, The neighbors of Central Park have worked hard to reclaim this underdeveloped park for over 5 years now and the results are truely amazing. But I doubt that there is a committment around the city to duplicate this effort in other parks. As for the comittment of time, please consult Christie Clarke. You need a person or persons as committed as Christie to make this fly. Shouldn’t these people be paid for their ‘extensive’ volunteer committments? Should this system relieve the Park Board of it’s responsibility to maintain city parks?

Park Maintainence – Who should shovel parks in winter? At times, the area between Fourth and Second Streets around the river have been closed by the city because the area is not a high priority to shovel. Is Central Park’s inner sidewalks shovelled during the winter? In the past I have noticed it is not. Here we have a park that people cannot even enter in the winter months because of the lack of cleaned sidewalks, while residents of the city are being assessed for failure to clear sidewalks. Both this year and last, this area is also being used as the school district’s bus exchange lot. While the perimeter sidewalks are somewhat clear. the cross sidewalks inside the park are not.

Bandshell – In year’s past, the bandshell was part of Central Park. All of us might agree that currently this park does not have the land suitable to dedicate to this size structure. I would love to see a bandshell. Lots of groups in town would benefit from this type of outdoor performinance structure. Ames Park (behind Malt-o-Meal) might be the perfect location. It is centrally located and there is ample land and sitting area available.

Northfield Garden Club – As a member, I am aware of the hours logged by members of the club to create an appealing look for our city. Not only do we plant the center circle in Bridge Square, but also the baskets throughout the square, and the gardens around the signs at Ames Park, Odd Fellow’s Park, and Riverside Park. Not only is this labor intensive, but it also requires ingenuity since the three latter parks have no water access. We have had in the past a cool reaction from the Strrets and Parks department in helping us overcome obstacles. I hope that we have proven ourselves throughout the years and that the newly form Parks and Recreation departement will be more responsive.

Government.36.77: Peter Hamlin (hamlin) Sun, 19 Oct 1997 11:52:31 CDT (23

Re: Bill Kelly’s comments (post:75) Bill, if all the tax-exempt land in Northfield were residential, the city would not get two million dollars to help pay for current projects. That money would be needed to pay for new schools, infrastructure, and other support services the residents would require like police and fire, etc. etc. etc.

It seems to me you are seeing the glass as half-empty and I’m seeing it as half full: You see lost revenue from the tax-exempt land, and I see invaluable community amenities that are being provided at no cost. And we haven’t even begun to discuss all the other economic benefits the colleges bring to Northfield.

I think it’s a misconception that growth will finance parks and other city needs. Basically, taxpayers pay for growth just as we pay for parks. Communities can overestimate the net economic benefit of growth, especially growth that has not been properly planned for. On the other hand, we underestimate the huge economic benefit of parks (including the “free” ones run by the colleges), which increase property values, bring customers to town, and attract new businesses to the area.

Government.36.78: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 21 Oct 1997 05:22:30 CDT (6

Peter, what’s your take on last week’s article in the Nfld News:

Mill Towns Trail running into speed bumps

By Tad Johnson

Government. 36.79: Peter Hamlin (hamlin) Tue, 21 Oct 1997 08:12:18 CDT (26

The recurring difficulty with our trail project is that there is not a single available route (like an abandoned railroad) ready for us to build on. The Mill Towns Trail is driven by the logic of connecting two huge existing trail networks (the Cannon Valley Trail from Cannon Falls to Red Wing, and the Sakatah Singing Hills Trail from Faribault to Mankato as well as the impressive and growing trail network in Faribault.)

But because there isn’t a single existing trail in our case, we have to be much more patient, and we expect that this trail is not going to come together as quickly as we might hope. We were disappointed by the recent setback mentioned in the article. But we hope that we can still get the first leg of the trail (from Northfield to Dundas) installed within the next year. I am also certain that when people start seeing a real physical trail, the momentum for completing the project will broaden and build.

My impression is that there is very strong support for this trail (from area individuals and businesses to city and county governments, civic groups, and state officials who are connected to trail issues). All of us who are actively supporting the trail continue to be driven by a conviction that this will be a wonderful project for the area, and in the end we’ll have forgotten about the little setbacks!

I’d like to remind anyone interested in getting involved with our effort (either by donating, or by working with us) to check Ken Sargent’s posting (post:45) about the group. Public support has been vitally important to us.

Government.36.80: Gordon Kelley (goldgopher) Tue, 21 Oct 1997 10:57:52 CDT (22

I agree with Hamlin’s remarks in Post:79 about the Mill Towns Trail. Like many projects, when all completed we seem to forget the road bumps we travelled over. Another major problem needing to be resolved eventually is the different management of the two connecting trails. And in a greater sense, the management of connecting trails all over the state which are operated by different entities with different agendas and therefore different management philosophies. Sakata trail allows snowmobiles and Cannon trail doesn’t. But that is only one of the differences. We have federal, state, county, etc. highways all over this country and have resolved the management of these. We should be able to do same for trails.

Another thought, I am sure the trail people realize this but maybe for everyone else; Northfield has a larger than average number of people who “walk to work” as is noted by the census. (yes the census does include this type of information) With this population, we seem to be real supportive of the new trail.

I have enjoyed this forum, I have always felt that parks contribute greatly to a community in many ways we don’t always realize. Northfield can be proud of its parks, I know I am. Thanks to the NCO for this opportunity to explore this topic.

Government.36.81: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 21 Oct 1997 21:34:51 CDT (7

You are welcome, Gordon. I’d like to revisit this issue on a regular basis. BTW, I printed out all the comments from this forum and gave a copy to Char Carlson before tonight’s park board meeting at city hall. I hope to have a lightly edited transcript up on our web server within a week or so.

Government. 36.82: Evelyn Hoover (ehoover) Wed, 22 Oct 1997 08:17:54 CDT (3

I, too, enjoyed this forum. It was good to see a variety of comments from a variety of people. Am I correct in assuming that a synopsis of comments will be supplied for publication in The News?

Government.36.83: George Kinney (georgek) Fri, 24 Oct 1997 12:45:23 CDT (1 line)

I’m sure that was directed to Griff!!

Government.36.84: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 24 Oct 1997 20:35:57 CDT (13

Evelyn, I wasn’t planning to do a synopsis. I was just planning on putting up a lightly edited transcript on the NCO web site (like we’ve done for the other forums).

I was hoping that Tad would write an article about some of the issues raised and disagreements that surfaced during the forum and that at the end of the article, he’d include a link to the transcript.

It would be great to run the piece on Wed, Nov 5 or Fri, Nov 7, as it would coincide with KYMN’s Tuesday Talk show on parks on Tues, Nov 4. Whadya tink?

Government.36.85: Griff Wigley (griff) Sat, 25 Oct 1997 07:04:42 CDT (2

BTW, Evelyn, I got the impression that Tad was going to write a story from him! See his post:BridgeSquare.29.142

Government.36.86: Bill Kelly (bmeowk) Sun, 26 Oct 1997 09:38:19 CST (25

Peter, my comments do NOT address the “value” of the colleges in Northfield. I am aware that aesthetic (as opposed to truly factual) arguments can be made that attempt to show that Northfield is benefitted in an unlimited way by the presence of the two schools. One, thing is, however, certain. If the land owned by the two schools was all residential, we could have afforded the additional public services we would have needed by this time as we would have had the taxes yielded by the residentail development to which you refer. A look around the state and the metropolitan area shows that other communities have been quite successful in this regard with lower taxes than those paid on the typical home in Northfield.

The fact of our smaller tax base suggests we must be careful and frugal. Our representatives must listen a bit harder to those who pay the bills. Like the Pohlad family now at the State Legislature, we have our local “Pohlad families” who make all sorts of demands that we “little people” simply can not afford.

I take no swipe at the tax-exempt status of either the schools, or the many other tax-exempt entities in Northfield, We had no say in the matter. The decision not to tax was made at the Federal level. We get to make, however, those decisions that will tax and spend right here. I suggest our City Mothers and Fathers be careful and frugal not due to some inherent evil in St.Olaf and Carleton, but definitely due to a decision made off in Washington D.C.