Three walls top option for Hermann Heights

NEW ULM — Three walls was the top option of the Hermann Heights Park hillside stabilization committee, but the length of the walls is still up for debate.

The Hermann hill committee was formed last year to determine the best way to relandscape the hillside leading up to the monument. The Kasota-stone limestone retaining wall currently in place in the park along Center Street has become a safety hazard for groundskeepers and park visitors. The wall is falling down in places during rain. The wall requires ongoing maintenance and repairs.

The city was presented with several options to alter the hillside, but could not determine the best option. An independent committee was created to review various options.

As of the last meeting, the committee had narrowed the options down to either a two retaining walls or a three retaining walls option. The committee reviewed alternative options to extend the wall further down the Center Street hill.

Of the options presented, the lowest cost option was the two-wall option estimated at $384,682.50. This option did not extend the retaining wall all the way to the bottom of the hill and required the least square feet of wall material.

The highest cost option was for three retaining walls that extended down to match the Martin Luther College wall. This option was estimated at $568,080 and required the greatest square feet of wall material.

The committee conducted an informal vote to determine the top two options. The three-wall option that did not extend to the bottom of the hill was the most popular and was estimated to cost $456,637. 50.

The second most popular was the highest cost three-wall option that extended down to match MLC.

City Engineer Steve Koehler favored the shorter wall option. He did not believe it was necessary for the retaining wall to extend this far down.

City Attorney Roger Hippert said the topography of MLC and Hermann hillsides was different and the city did not need to extend the walls to match the college landscaping.

Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz said he wanted as little wall as possible. Schmitz had originally asked the city to take out all the walls and slope the hillside to limit the amount of maintenance needed for the hill.

Tom Furth favored extending three walls all the way down for safety and aesthetic reasons. Without the retaining walls extending the length of the hill, he feared children would be tempted to sled down the hill right into Center Street traffic.

Furth also worried that if the wall was not extended down to match MLC, it would look incomplete. He acknowledged the extended wall option was more expensive but warned the committee about just considering the cost.

“If we just go by money we’re selling ourselves short,” Furth said. “This wall will be up for a long time.”

The committee decided to move forward with both three-wall options for further consideration at later meetings.

The next stabilization meeting will include presentations on an Artstone wall and landscaping options. The committee is scheduled to bring a formal recommendation to the city council in July.

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