Bill to help fund German Park

Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey

The earthen terraces at German Park have sloughed, leaving a noticeable ripple down the side of the hill. As is, the amphitheater seating is unusable for people with mobility issues or chairs.

Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey The earthen terraces at German Park have sloughed, leaving a noticeable ripple down the side of the hill. As is, the amphitheater seating is unusable for people with mobility issues or chairs.

NEW ULM — The Parks and Recreation Department could see significant funding from the state for its German Park Outdoor Performing Art Center Amphitheater project.

Senator Gary Dahms introduced a bill Wednesday, Feb. 15, to appropriate $300,000 in bonds to help pay for the park project.

“This is something that the city has been working on for sometime and this is not the first time that we have carried this bill,” Dahms said. “What we did was, we reintroduced the bill this year in order to help folks there accomplish some of the things they want to accomplish.”

The funds would primarily go to rebuilding the amphitheater’s terraced seating. The terraces were installed in the 1990s during a renovation spearheaded by the Friends of German Park.

“It was simply an earthen bowl with some earthen terracing and that terracing has since sloughed and become unusable for those of mobility impairments and you cannot set chairs on the earthen terraces,” New Ulm Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz said.

Dahms cautions that with the bill introduced, it could still take a long time before New Ulm sees the money.

“Bonding sometimes takes three or four years, sometimes more than that, before it gets included into a bonding bill because there is quite a list of projects out there,” Dahms said.

There also might not be a bonding bill this year as the Legislature is tasked with setting the budget this biennium. Most budget years do have a small bonding bill for regular expenses, but that does not mean the park will make it onto one if it happens, Dahms said.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be approximately $600,000. The city currently has just over $300,000 in donations, pledges and department funds for the project.

The Parks and Recreation Department considers the park to be regionally significant, particularly during warmer months when outdoor events are easier to host.

“There are a number of concerts and special events throughout the spring, summer and autumn that bring in participants and spectators from a wide geographic area and not just New Ulm,” Schmitz said.

The base project would install concrete-walled terraces, a handicap-accessible ramp and a central staircase with handrails.

There are several options that the city could implement, ranging from the type of surfacing on the terraces to additional stage lighting and structures to shade the terraces.

Assuming that the Legislature includes the park in a bonding bill, the city would likely not start construction until the summer of 2018, Schmitz said.

Members of the public will be able to give input on what options they want to see once the project gets underway.

While the Parks and Recreation Department is not actively raising funds at this time, Schmitz said that donations for the project or to Friends of German Park are always welcome at the department’s offices.

Connor Cummiskey can be emailed at ccummiskey@nujournal.com.

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