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Park & Rec Commission hears about RENU updates, fees

NEW ULM — The Park and Recreation Commissioners received an update on Reinvest in New Ulm (RENU) projects. Hermann Heights Park will receive a new parking lot, and Monument Street will be relocated.

Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz said this is a safety project. The intersection at Center and Monument is considered hazardous due to poor traffic visibility when traveling up Center Street Hill. The street and intersection are being relocated further west on Center Street. The parking lot will be organized and expanded to improve parking.

Bolton & Menk, Inc., are moving into the final design for the Hermann Heights improvements. The city council could award the project this winter. The project could begin in the summer of 2020, but it could be delayed until 2021 if the city chooses.

The preliminary concept for the Recreation Center has been approved by the city. It includes the new aquatic center, indoor playground, regional gymnastic center and co-located fitness center.

Schmitz said the aquatic center will be an addition to the building and take up the south parking lot area. The existing aquatic center will become the gymnastics center. A new entrance will be created for the building near the existing administrative offices.

The north end of the Recreation Center will remain mostly unchanged. Schmitz said the fieldhouse and the racketball courts will remain the same.

Schmitz said the improvements to the Recreation Center will be nice, but modest.

“We have a very finite amount of money,” he said. “We’re trying to hold it at $9.5 million in construction costs.”

Johnson Park improvements are scheduled for completion in 2019. Weather delays are a possibility, but the project remains on schedule.

Fee Schedule

The Planning Commission recommended the city council adopt the proposed 2020 Park and Recreation fee schedule.

The 2020 fee schedule calls for an increase of 2-3 percent to keep up with inflation. Admission fees to the Recreation Center, Civic Center and Hermann Monument will increase by 25 cents. Schmitz said admissions are kept flat for a few years before increasing fees by a quarter.

Schmitz said the philosophy of the fee schedule is to keep it affordable, adjust for inflation, recoup true costs where feasible, subsidize youth activities rather than adult activities, favor regular small increases rather than few large increases, and keep fees user-based.

The commissioners unanimously recommended adopting the fee schedule.

Donations

Park and Recreation received several donations for the German Park Amphitheater project. Schmitz said following the city’s formal decision to move forward with the project, several pledge checks were received.

The German Park Amphitheater donations include $100,000 cash, fulfilling a pledge from an anonymous donor; a $10,000 cash pledge from Herbie Hedgehog to fulfill a pledge; $4,600 cash from Stephen Somsen; $1,000 cash from Ruth McCrea Simpson towards a pledge of $3,000; $500 from Lisa Hagen honoring Arnie Schweiss; $100 from Marvis Davis; $100 from Dwight and Mary Nilson Heating & Air Conditioning; and $50 cash from Jackie Forst honoring Pete and Dodie Wendinger’s 50 anniversary.

The department also received $100 cash honoring the Ring Kids for the German Park paverstones and improvements.

These donations total $116,450. The commissioners recommending the city accept these donations.

Minnesota River

State Trail

The commission recommended the city adopt a resolution supporting Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MNDOT) and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’s (DNR) planning efforts related to the Minnesota Rivers State Trail. The DNR is working on planning and developing, an incomplete section of the Minnesota River State Trail.

This trail begins Big Stone Lake Park to Mankato then northeast to Fort Snelling State Park. This is a multi-decade project by the DNR.

MnDOT is continuing plans for the expansion of Highway 14 between Nicollet and New Ulm into a four-lane road.

Both MnDOT and DNR are seeking resolution from New Ulm, Courtland and Nicollet to support placing portions of this trail in the Highway 14 construction plans.

The commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution of support.

Splashpad Update

Schmitz said the splashpad construction in North Park is scheduled to be completed this year, but the completion date is closer to Halloween than Labor Day.

A splashpad is an aquatic play feature with no standing water or depth. With no standing water, a lifeguard is not necessary. The splashpad is described as a playground with water features.

Last year, the city received a cash donation for a splashpad from Barbara Haroldson. In May, the council chose to place the splashpad in North Park.

Schmitz said while installation will likely be completed by October, the ribbon cutting and open house for the splashpad will be delayed until the start of next summer.

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