Preliminary plans for entire complex unveiled; $75,000 still needs to be raised for playground
By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
With a gift of land from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and a $100,000 donation from Paul and Emily Twitchell for equipment, a playground at the site of the future Little Falls recreational complex is well under way.
Plans were drawn up by Greg Kimman of Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH), for a reduced fee of $2,000, paid for by the Mayor’s Youth Task Force.
At its Nov. 18 work session, the plans for phases of the recreational complex and estimated costs were presented to the Little Falls City Council. The playground is phase I of a project that Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem said will take years to complete.
The plan is to include a splash pad, all-wheel skate park, baseball diamonds, a community center and more.
The Mayor’s Youth Task Force has been working on the splash pad and all-wheel skate park, while the Little Falls Area Recreational Complex Task Force worked to determine plans for the property.
Councilman Greg Zylka asked for clarification on the recreational facility and the possible costs to the city.
He said he was surprised to see it’s grown a bit and felt there was a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding about the project and its funding.
Zylka said he felt bad because the perception was that he was not in favor of the project. He asked whether the city was willing to levy for dollars. “As a group we need to discuss it,” he said.
The playground estimate was given as $269,812.50, including concrete walkways, rubber mulching, landscaping, a sprinkler system and a paved parking lot. The $100,000 for the playground equipment was donated by the Twitchells, to be used only for the equipment and only on the property donated by MnDOT. The playground is situated in an area where water lines are already in place.
Noting that $169,000 remained on the cost after the donation, “We’re talking big dollars,” Council President Don Klinker said.
“I think everyone around this table would love to see the project, but we have to look at it realistically,” said Zylka.
Adam Fjeld, a member of the Youth Task Force worked with Landscape Structures Inc. (LSI) out of Delano to choose the equipment. He said the Park Board had asked Kimman to put together price estimates leaving out the paving, walkways and some of the other amenities, bringing the price down to $175,000, leaving $75,000 needed to complete the playground.
“We were able to get the land for free that would have cost $110,000, then Paul Twitchell gave $100,000,” said Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem. “Granted, that’s not all of it ….. but people in the community are willing to do the work to do it.”
Council Member at Large Brian-Paul Crowder questioned why the project was planned with so much of it left to be funded.
“Where did we think we were going to get that money?” he asked. “We get in trouble with grants, because we have to match it. Maybe we shouldn’t have accepted the gift ($100,000).”
“All of this is a rendering for us to move forward; it’s a dream,” said VanRisseghem. “We can’t get everything done tomorrow.”
VanRisseghem was convinced the community could pull together to raise the funds even without a local options sales tax proposed in October. “If we just put our hearts and souls into it,” she said. The group wasn’t requesting money, she said.
Kyle Hoggarth, a member of the Youth Task Force, said it was a big plan, with a 15-year goal. “We have the $100,000 for free and a lot of passion which I believe can raise money to get a gravel walkway and park without the use of taxpayer dollars,” he said. “I don’t agree we need to sit down and approve the whole complex.”
Zylka pointed to the first two phases (playground/splash pad/skate park) showing $22,000 in maintenance annually.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot, but where will it come from?” he asked. “I’m in favor of going forward with this if we don’t need to do a levy.”
Council Member Frank Gosiak said the project should start small, like the west side park area. “That took a lot of time to build up,” he said (land donated in 1973).
Crowder said he wasn’t sure if the community was ready for a local option sales tax, something the Council has yet to vote to pursue.
“All we’re asking is to let us show you we can do it,” said VanRisseghem.
And while he said the Mayor’s Youth Task Force deserved thanks for the work and the plans, Zylka said he’d like the Council to be clear about what the city would pay in operation and maintenance, so it could be budgeted for.
One of Zylka’s biggest concerns, he said, is that the project is so large, that the playground once built, would sit out on the acreage by itself.
The complete rendering with cost estimates for all phases of the project, including the playground, paving and utility extension, splash pad/all-wheel park, basketball courts, three baseball diamonds and property acquisition came to just under $5.9 million.
Some of the property part of the baseball diamonds and parking lot sit on in the rendering, does not belong to the city. To complete the project as planned, property would have to be acquired.
Phases and estimated cost for recreational complex:
Phases and cost estimates for the recreational complex in Little Falls include:
- Phase I: Playground – $269,812.50 (if paving and concrete walk are included).
- Phase 1A: Paving and utility extension – $474,175.
- Phase 2: Splash pad/all-wheel park – $1,085,805.
- Phase 3: Basketball courts – $491,000.
- Phase 4: Baseball diamonds – $3,552,310.
- Total: $5,873,102.50.