Parks Task Force focuses on ‘neighborhood’ parksInterested residents are invited to fill out a second survey linked to the city’s website at www.ci.cloquet.mn.us. Residents without Internet access or who have questions can contact Caleb Peterson at City Hall at 218-879-6758.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
It took some discussion, but members of the Cloquet Parks Master Plan Task Force and representatives of various veterans groups in Cloquet agree on one thing — relocating the current Veterans Memorial Plaza to the eastern end of Dunlap Island is a good idea.
What is now known as Voyageurs Park (with the big wooden statue and stockade) would become Memorial Park. Tentative proposals for the park include a flag walk, a veterans’ memorial, a memorial lawn area as large as the current plaza as well as parking improvements, a picnic area, a river overlook, a walking path and a green area around the statue. The stockade would likely be torn down.
Of course, everything is subject to change, consultant Michael Schroeder stressed more than once during the Task Force group’s Monday night meeting at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.
It’s been more than a year since the volunteer task force was formed with the stated goal of formulating a master parks plan, something the city has never done before. Although Cloquet boasts a number of park features, from sporting fields to cross country trails and more, the system has been built piece by piece over the years.
On Monday, Schroeder briefly summarized the three main ideas that have gained the most support over the past year:
+ The idea of developing certain parks into neighborhood parks that serve the needs of a particular area of the city. Those parks include Sunnyside (by Churchill Elementary School), Athletic (on 14th and Prospect), Pinehurst Park (with the swimming pond) and Hilltop (which is mostly soccer fields now). Neighborhood parks are different from high intensity destination parks, such as Braun Park, which is largely used for baseball and softball games and tournaments.
+ The notion of taking the various parks on or near the St. Louis River and making them one interconnected unit with trails and common signage to help people travel between them.
+ Making travel easier for cyclists and pedestrians between existing parks.
Schroeder presented a plan that focused mostly on changes/additions to the four neighborhood parks as well as the relocation of the Veterans Memorial Plaza.
A general outline of the neighborhood park plans follows:
Pinehurst Park – Tentative plans showed the addition of a splash pad to the swimming pond area at Pinehurst Park, an expanded playground and construction of permanent boards at the hockey rink with hard surface infill for non-winter activities such as basketball or “pickle ball” in the summer. Plans also included creation of expanded parking by converting the existing road to a parkway with diagonal parking and paving the existing parking lot. The tennis courts weren’t shown on the plan, something at least a couple task force members didn’t agree with.
Athletic Park – Plans included replacing the current playground as well as creating a new restroom and picnic pavilion at the playground area. The high school baseball field would be changed to an informal play field. A hockey rink with permanent boards and hard surface infill for non-winter sports and a new warming house were also in the plans. The proposed skateboard park was not in the plans; rather there is more support for locating the skate park at Veterans Park on the corner of Highway 33 and Cloquet Avenue.
Hilltop Park – Replacing the current ancient playground equipment was top of the list at Hilltop, which is now primarily used for soccer and college football practices. Plans also included construction of a new park pavilion and restroom building, upgrading existing fields, plus adding a field, a disc golf course and expanded parking north of the park behind the 14th Street Apartments and the gravel pits. Schroeder also suggested talking to FDLTCC about installing artificial turf on a field to be used for college football practice and possibly games.
Sunnyside Park – Although Sunnyside already has many of the components of a neighborhood park, plans included renovating the fields for improved play quality, permanent boards and hard infill for the hockey rink, improved warming house and restrooms and improved parking, as well as a possible paved walking path around the park.
A very preliminary estimate for making all of the recommended improvements at the neighborhood parks and at Veterans Park was more than $6 million, a figure City Administrator Brian Fritsinger said wasn’t a huge surprise.
Task force members, however, seemed to indicate they would prefer to make improvements at more parks rather than putting so much focus on a few.
“I think you need to set aside some time at the next meeting for some of that ‘pushback’ you talked about earlier,” said task force member Tom Urbanski, referring to a statement Schroeder made when he noted that focusing on the neighborhood parks plan didn’t leave much funding for Pine Valley Park (a big winner at the community meeting) or the Riverside Parks idea.
Assistant City Engineer Caleb Peterson, who is the city liaison to the task force, said he hopes the task force and the consultants will have a draft plan to take to the Park Commission and Cloquet City Council in June or July.
The date for the next Cloquet Parks Master Plan Task Force meeting has not been set. Interested residents are invited to fill out a second survey linked to the city’s website at www.ci.cloquet.mn.us. Residents without Internet access or who have questions can contact Caleb Peterson at City Hall at 218-879-6758.