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Our View...Community input important to parks plan

There is something in the Cloquet long-range parks plan for everyone to hate. And like. And be ambivalent about. It is, so far, an ambitious and far-reaching master parks plan. A thoughtful plan. And an unfinished plan. In just over a year, it's ...

There is something in the Cloquet long-range parks plan for everyone to hate. And like. And be ambivalent about.

It is, so far, an ambitious and far-reaching master parks plan. A thoughtful plan. And an unfinished plan.

In just over a year, it's gone from concepts like connectivity, neighborhood parks and wayfinding ... to nuts and bolts ideas like moving the veterans part of Veterans Park over to Voyageur's Park and creating a new Memorial Park complete with flags, a picnic area, walking path and quiet space to sit and think. Members of the task force figured the move would solve two problems: creating a more dedicated space for the veterans that won't get trampled every July Fourth (and during other festivities that utilize the park) and, at the same time, opening up the current Veterans Park for more active daily pursuits, including a possible skateboard park.

Drawings for Pinehurst Park include a new "splash pad" next to the pool. Hilltop Park could get a disk golf course and a new playground. Snow making equipment is on the list for Pine Valley. Spafford Park may get more campsites. And all parks should get better or additional benches, picnic tables, litter and recycling containers, landscape improvements and signage, including a park system map so people know what's available where and how to get there.

All of these things -- from moving Veterans Plaza to the proposed splash pad -- are still simply ideas listed on a worksheet compiled by a task force of local volunteers and a pair of consultants.

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Another column on that worksheet lists "constituencies," groups of people that should be consulted before any plans become final.

In the case of Veterans Park, veterans are on top of the list. At Hilltop, neighbors, soccer groups and Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College are all listed as constituencies.

Now is the time to meet with those constituencies ... before the plan takes another step toward being set in concrete or even marked in permanent ink on a blueprint.

This is the first time Cloquet has tried to do a "master parks plan" that considers the entire parks and trails system, rather than simply tackling one park at a time. The final document is supposed to be something that our community follows for decades in developing our park system.

So take a breath and get some more feedback, from small groups about individual parks, not another community meeting that tries to tackle everything at once.

We're not suggesting that the task force in its entirety meet with constituent groups. We'd love to see committees -- made up of a couple task force volunteers, one of the two consultants, a parks commission member and a city staff member and the city councilor who represents that area -- reach out to different constituent groups and neighborhoods (as well as the Cloquet School District, please) and then report back to the task force as a whole.

It seems like the task force process moved slowly in the beginning, with all the discussion of concepts and what parks mean to a community, and now the process is moving too quickly.

The remaining task force members are committed to the process -- they're not going to stop coming to meetings just because an arbitrary deadline was missed. And if it costs the city a little more money to extend the consulting contract, so be it. What's the rush?

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Cloquet is already a beautiful place with some exceptional parks. Let's take our time and work together to make it even better.

Jana Peterson

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