Park and Rec recommends new, Upper Cottonwood park

NEW ULM — The Park and Recreation Commission recommended the city begin the process of establishing a neighborhood park in the Upper Cottonwood Street/Dacotah West area.

New Ulm has seven undeveloped park areas, five of which are designated and owned by the city. Upper Cottonwood is one of three areas underserved by a neighborhood park and has no designated parkland or city-owned land.

The city’s comprehensive plan has a standard that no resident should have to travel further than four blocks from their home to get to a park. Adams Park is located near the Cottonwood River, but is a wilderness park and not classified as a neighborhood park.

Several area residents from Upper Cottonwood and Dacotah West attended the meeting to give their support for a neighborhood park.

Those living in the neighborhood felt a park would benefit the health of the children living in the area. There are approximately 40 kids in this neighborhood who are now limited to playing in empty weed-filled lots or backyards.

In addition, Adams Park was not a feasible option for the kids as it is mostly wilderness, said Nicole Johnson, a daycare provider in the area. Johnson previously lived on Washington and could take the kids to three parks within a six to eight-block radius. For her, the distance to the nearest park with a jungle gym is now 2.1 miles.

The nearest playground is the equipment behind the old Target building. Traveling to this park requires walking along a 45-miles-per-hour road, with no sidewalk until the Burger King.

When the Cottonwood River floods the road, the nearest accessible park is Hermann Heights or Nehls Park.

Commissioner Christopher Vorwerk said he did not realize nearly 40 kids lived in this area and said it sounded like Upper Cottonwood needed a park.

Commissioner David Christian cautioned that it would take a while to create a park in this part of town because the city does not currently own land up there.

Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz said the city does anticipate further development in the Dacotah West subdivision. He recommended starting the proces of establishing the park because it would take time.

“Now is the time to start planning,” he said.

Commissioner Melanie Griebel said there might be places in town that are further from a park, but they have sidewalks and pedestrians don’t have to cross the highway. She said it was only fair to give residents of this area a park too.

Christian ultimately made the motion to recommend the city begin the process of establishing a park.

Schmitz said it would take some time to establish a park in this area, but there was $180,000 in a parkland account for the purpose of creating a new park. No money has been spent from this account in 13 years.

Franklin School House Lease

The commission recommend the city council authorize a lease be consummated with Ron Bolduan for use of the Riverside Park Building for cultural and natural history displays.

The Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River (CCMR) submitted a notice of lease termination on July 31. CCMR operated the building for 13 years with Bolduan’s leadership. The Parks Department has no concerns related to Bolduan continuing to operate from the building.

In related news, Lee Weber gave a presentation on the Riverfront Development Advocacy Group (RDAG). RDAG is a component of the Chamber of Commerce 2020 Visioning process. Weber’s presentation included a conceptual master plan for a Minnesota River parkway.

Weber said those who formed the group saw the Minnesota River as an asset not fully used. Many of the ideas that came out of discussions were already included in the Minnesota River Regional Parkway Master Plan. This plan is on the city’s website.

RDAG has looked into improvements with the existing properties. The focus has been on the Franklin building. Recently the bathrooms were remodeled and expanded, exterior water was added, and heating changes were made.

Suggested changes included improving accessibility to the Franklin building. One method would be to create a wrap-around deck with a ramp to access the building from the back.

Other possibilities include creating trail access from Riverside to Minnecon. Another plan has the trail connecting Riverside to Putting Green.

There are also plans for a monument to The Otter, a river boat. The idea is to recreate the footprint of The Otter using planters or benches. The city is in possession of The Otter’s boiler.

Last, RDAG wanted to add a shelter to Riverside with bathroom units.

“The effort is to get more activity and more use of the Riverside area of town,” Weber said. “Other towns have done a good job of developing the riverside as an attraction.”

In other news

The commission received a first look at the Park and Recreation’s fee schedule. There is a modest fee increase of two to three percent to keep up with inflation as well as a $1 increase for open and setup gym rentals.

Commissioner Leroy Flor, Jr., did raise concerns about the cost of renting baseball fields. Fewer softball teams are coming to New Ulm to play at Harman and North Park. Flor said the Brewers at Johnson Park were also having trouble with the costs.

Commissioner Jim Bastian said New Ulm was the only city paying field rent for a baseball field because these are covered through taxes.

No decision was made on the fee schedule. The issue was tabled until next month.

The Parks Department received a $11,450 in cash donations since June. The bulk of this money was $10,000 from Barbara S. Haroldson for the Kiesling House programming.

The Days of Play events received $500 from MR Paving and OMG Midwest and $100 from the Sertoma Club for a total of $1,100. The German Park paver stones and improvements received $100 from Nancy Ginkel and Carisa Lindemeyer, and $150 was given to the Hermann 5K Race by Nuvera.

The designated bus parking sides near Schonlau Park were recommended for removal. Schmitz said bus parking is no longer a need in this area. Most days of the week vehicles are parking in this location despite the sign. The Chamber of Commerce agreed with the recommendation to eliminate the “bus parking only” signage.

The RENU Oversight Committee will meet at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Civic Center.

RENU stands for Reinvest in New Ulm, an effort to fund city improvements with a local sales tax.

Quotes for Johnson Park grandstand improvements and other updates will be reported and reviewed.

Schmitz informed the commission that Recreation Program Supervisor Joey Schugel has accepted a position as St. Peter’s recreation director. Schugel served in this position for over four years. He was recruited for the position and will take over as director in St. Peter by the end of the month.