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Lakeside Village scores highest on city park matrix

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt The Park and Recreation Commission identified Lakeside Village Park as the top priority for neighborhood park development. Recently, a tax-forfeited land parcel adjacent to the exiting park became available. The commission recommended acquiring the parcel to develop a part to serve the north side of New Ulm.

NEW ULM — Lakeside Village and Upper Cottonwood park areas scored the highest on the New Ulm Park and Recreations Commission’s neighborhood park matrix.

As a result of the high scores, the two parks were recommended Monday by the commission as the top priority locations for neighborhood park development.

The location of New Ulm’s next neighborhood park has been a top concern among the parks commission, but there was uncertainty on which parks deserve top priority. To fairly prioritize park development, the parks commission created a question matrix. Each question is weighted based on its importance. The matrix divides the criteria into objective criteria, land questions and subjective criteria.

Before the parks meeting, the staff took the data on all nine potential neighborhood park sites in New Ulm to scored each using the matrix. Lakeside Village received the highest score at 425. Upper Cottonwood scored the second highest at 409.

Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz said Upper Cottonwood scored the highest objective score, but Lakeside Village received a significantly higher land score.

Recently, the city became aware that parcels of tax-forfeited land were available for purchase by the city at little cost. This parcel of land is adjacent to the existing Lakeside Village Park. The Lakeside Village Park is only 1.5 acres, small for a neighborhood park. With the addition of this new parcel, the park could be expanded to over four acres. This property would require little site preparation costs. The addition of this parcel put Lakeside Village ahead of Upper Cottonwood Park.

Currently, the city has no parkland available for Upper Cottonwood and would need to purchase land in the area before developing a park. Two parcels of land are available for sale in Upper Cottonwood but are expected to cost more than the parcel adjacent to Lakeside Village.

Schmitz said the cost of the available land in Upper Cottonwood is around $100,000.

There was potential grant money available for the top two park sites through a DNR grant program. The grant would be a matching grant with the city. Parkland funding could be used to match the grant.

The commission unanimously approved the matrix scores identifying Lakeside Village Park as the top priority for development. Later in the meeting, the commissioners unanimously recommended the city proceed with acquiring the tax-forfeited parcels in Lakeside Village and add the parcels to the adjacent park.

Schmitz said this property in Lakeside Village was shovel-ready for a neighborhood park. The development could begin as soon as next summer. This park would serve the north side of New Ulm including Traulich Estates, Hoffmann Addition, Lakeside Village and futures areas to the north.

Commissioner Carisa Buegler said Boundary Street leading into this park location would be a safety concern today, but the road is scheduled for development including a sidewalk. Pedestrian-friendly access to the park is planned.

Commissioner David Christian’s only concern with this park location was the potential assessments. He said there was an issue in this area with assessments. The lots were given away at low cost, but with high assessments. Christian did not want the city to acquire the parcel then pay high assessments.

“I am fine with that if we do get it with the forfeiture,” Christian said, “but if that assessment deal does come up, then I am voting no because then we are eating our own money.”

Buegler made the motion to proceed with acquiring the additional parcel in Lakeside Village for a future park, with a second from Commissioner Jim Bastian. It was unanimously passed.

The commission also made a motion for the city to investigate possible land acquisition in the Upper Cottonwood area for a park.

Commissioner Buegler said the commission did not have enough information to make a specific recommendation for land acquisition. She made a motion to recommend the city proceed with investigating using land parcels in Upper Cottonwood to served this neighborhood as the second priority park, with a second from Commissioner Laura Evans.

The commission unanimously approved the motion.

The commission also unanimously recommended the city authorize grant applications to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to assist with costs of land acquisition and development of a neighborhood park for the two priority parks.

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The commission recommended the city adopt a resolution authorizing the $300,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for the shade structure in the German Park amphitheater.

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Schmitz gave a Reinvest in New Ulm (RENU) update. The Recreation Center project is 50% complete. The facility will include a new aquatic center, playground, gymnastics center and expanded fitness center. The project remains on budget and is scheduled to be complete in August.

The Recreation Center will have limited uses until April 9 when the entire building and campus will close until August. The exercise machines, fitness classes and walking will be available in the Civic Center from April 19 until August.

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Commission Chair Bob Skillings announced the grand re-opening of Johnson Park will be held Sunday, June 20.

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