Maple Island Park: Beautiful, but not well-managed by the city

By Teresa Skorseth, Guest Columnist

Beautiful Maple Island Park in Little Falls is a local showplace, but it isn’t very well-managed. The city of Little Falls has ruled that this public park cannot be reserved for private use, such as a wedding or other party. The only thing you may reserve is access to the electrical boxes in the utility room behind the patio. You can’t use the patio itself if someone got there ahead of you.

You pay $75 to “reserve” the space and what you get is about $5 worth of electricity over several hours.

Why does the city charge $75 a day to “reserve” the electrical access for the day, when many of us don’t pay that much for a month’s worth of electricity at home? The city might reply that the $75 is to cover the cost of cleaning up after your party, should you leave a mess, but unless they spend the day monitoring all activity at the park, how would they know whose mess it was?

I repeat, any citizen of Little Falls has an equal right to every inch of the park on that day, whether you shelled out $75 for the illusion of special privilege or not.

And did you know the rest

rooms at Maple Island Park are locked at 6:15 p.m. every day? It’s broad daylight until 9 p.m., and the nicest hours for sitting in the park are the mild evening hours, but the toilets are locked at 6:15 p.m. Why? Somebody has to drive to the park with the key at 6:15 p.m. to lock them, you know; would it be somehow harder to do that at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.?

On June 20, a citizen asked the Park Board if a Port-a-Potty couldn’t be installed at the park, as a solution to the 6:15 p.m. problem. On July 17, 26 days later, she asked what the progress was on the Port-a-Potty question and was told that no one on the Park Board or city staff had gotten around to looking into it yet. It’d been almost four weeks. How long does it take to make a phone call or two?

The same citizen, also on June 20, brought up the campfire ban at Little Falls parks, pointing out that a group called the Voyageurs had built a campfire at Maple Island Park and cooked a noon meal over it during the Dam Festival, in full view of the attending public, including the mayor and some police officers. But she was told in the meeting that no one had noticed that an open fire was burning in a congested public space.

She replied she had photos of this fire, whereupon she was told “someone will look into it.”

And of course, when she followed up July 17, no one had done anything.

This bothers me. It strikes me as extremely disrespectful, at a minimum. The City Council’s primary job is to be responsive and accountable to citizens, but it seems they couldn’t be bothered to answer a couple of pertinent questions about their own rules and practices, even with 26 days to prepare.

I feel they treat us like morons, override our protests, ignore our questions and pick our pockets. Either that, or they’re unusually incompetent and we’ve all neglected to pay attention. If that’s the case, shame on us.

Ask around, I’m not the only one with a story about being treated badly. I think we could do better.

Teresa Skorseth is a resident of Little Falls.