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Nisswa: Residents' thoughts sought on park development

Nisswa residents are being asked for their thoughts on development of the city's newest park - Nisswa Lake Park & Recreational Area off Hazelwood Drive on Nisswa Lake.

Nisswa residents are being asked for their thoughts on development of the city's newest park - Nisswa Lake Park & Recreational Area off Hazelwood Drive on Nisswa Lake.

Members of the park steering committee and city council met Thursday, Jan. 15, to talk about the project's history and future. Richard Roberts, co-chair of the Nisswa Lake Park Steering Committee, shared a PowerPoint presentation to show the council the history of the future park, as well as where the committee is at now.

The committee, which formed last June, will host an open house from 4:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5, at the Nisswa Community Center for residents to stop by and offer feedback on three proposed park designs. Roberts said the end result could incorporate aspects of all three designs.

For two weeks after the open house, an "online open house" will be available for people unable to attend the Feb. 5 event to still share thoughts and ideas.

After comments from the open houses are taken to develop a final park scenario, Roberts said the next phase includes an estimated $25,000 for engineering and construction drawings. That estimated funding would include $5,000 from city park dedication funds (previously approved by the council) and $20,000 from the Friends of Nisswa Lake Park, a group that has fundraised in the past few years.

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This phase would result in more accurate cost estimates to develop the park, including maintenance fees. Maintenance was a source of discussion, with some council members saying city tax dollars shouldn't be used to maintain the park.

"The immediate needs will be the city's share for engaging an engineering firm to prepare plans so that we can make application for grants," said Duane Blanck, a park steering committee member. "The second immediate needs would be the matching funds for a grant, not knowing what they are at this point."

Committee members said some grants could come with no required matching funds.

Council member Don Jacobson asked how much in city funds has been spent on the park so far. Park committee members said the city dedicated $37,500 in park dedication fees, and not all of that money has been spent yet.

At issue is whether the $500,000 the city has spent on the pocket park at the pedestrian tunnel under Highway 371 going from downtown Nisswa to the park should be included in the total park cost. Opinions differ.

Mayor Harold Kraus was concerned about city funds being used for the park. "This whole project - when it started it was said it woud be funded by private donations and there would not be any levy money spent on it," he said.

"What is being done, if anything, to arrive at raising money for the matching funds? That becomes the big question, or will become the big question for the city to address," Kraus said.

Kraus said park programs for youth are important, and he doesn't want the city's current park to lose money for those programs. He was also concerned that the steering committee may ask for funds not budgeted in 2015.

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"Be aware of what we have to look at in total," Kraus said. "If the time comes and we say no, we can't do it financially, that would not come as a shocking surprise to you."

That said, Kraus commended the park steering committee for all the good work it has accomplished.

Jacobson advised the committee to move forward slowly when implementing plans, ensuring each stage is successful and people are responding before moving on to the next stage.

Council member Ross Krautkremer said the majority of the park should be funded with donations, and he was worried there wasn't enough energy going to the donation and fundraising side. He suggested the committee emphasize at the open house that the city council's intention was for the park to be developed with no levy money.

The park committee said it has $59,494 dedicated for the park, which includes $40,388 from the Friends of Nisswa Lake Park. Other funding sources have included other donations, especially from Arnold and JoAnn Johnson, and grants.

The park steering committee also has been working with the Department of Natural Resources, which owns land adjacent to Nisswa Lake Park and plans to build a public access and pier.

For more information, visit www.ci.nisswa.mn.us/NisswaLake .

Related Topics: NISSWANISSWA LAKE PARK
Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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