Committee seeks funding for Mississippi River park

A draft concept plan from Brainerd's Riverfront Committee shows proposed plans for Mississippi Landing, a riverfront park along East River Road.

Brainerd city staffers are on the hunt for financial resources to fund the proposed Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park.

The city’s Riverfront Committee is working to develop the park along the Mississippi River on East River Road to be a community education and gathering space.

“This is not just another park,” Community Development Director David Chanski told the council Monday, March 16. “... The community can come and gather together, and it would provide safer routes for bicyclists and pedestrians through the connections to the various trails.”

Chanski presented concept designs to council members Monday night. Amenities include an amphitheater for concerts, plays and other community events; a canoe and kayak launch for easy access to the river; trails and pathways connected with others in the city; an outdoor classroom for various environmental learning opportunities; bike-fix stations; and a play area. Everything would be American with Disabilities Act compliant.

The amphitheater is something the community does not have right now, Chanski said. And the outdoor classroom would be equipped with views of the river and stormwater retention gardens, which could be used by all ages — from elementary students up to those at Central Lakes College.


Though the existing parking lot on that site would be converted into a park, on-street spots will be added to East River Road, and Chanski said a recent study showed roughly 500 parking spaces within a 10-minute walk of the park.

Council member and parks board liaison Dave Badeaux said he appreciated Chanski’s due diligence to evaluate the parking situation.

“I think that’s something that we’ve heard from the council on many occasions that we want to try and utilize on-street parking as much as possible because in the future it saves us money because we’re just maintaining the roads as opposed to maintaining a separate surface,” Badeaux said.

The next issue is restrooms, which could be costly to put in. Two restrooms already exist, though, across the street from the park site at the school district’s ball fields. Chanski said he and City Administrator Jennifer Bergman continue to have discussions with Superintendent Laine Larson and the school district’s Director of Building and Grounds Reid Thiesse to determine if those restrooms could be used for the park as well.

With the restrooms directly across the street, Badeaux said this is a good opportunity to both save money and strengthen community partnerships.

“It’s very important for us as a group to be making sure that we are connecting with other groups around us — the county, the school district — so that we could perhaps use those facilities,” Badeaux said.

Cost estimate

A cost estimate from Short Elliott Hendrickson for the concept design projects the high end price to be about $4.65 million. That includes $680,000 for new restrooms. Chanski said he wanted that price in there just to see how much it would cost if that’s something the city needs to add. The cost also includes a 20% contingency.

The riverfront committee’s goal is to find sources outside the city to fund the project. Those could include grants from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, state bonding bills and other local sources.


The committee has already received a technical grant from the National Parks Service to provide assistance with community engagement and recently applied for two recreational trail grants from the Department of Natural Resources. Those grants could amount to $150,000 each if awarded to the city.

Council President Gabe Johnson asked if there might be any sort of Housing and Urban Development funding available, as the park will be right next to the Northstar Apartments, which is public housing. Administrator Bergman said that is a great question and is something she’ll look into.

The next steps Chanski said the riverfront committee will take are applying for more grants and beginning the schematic design process.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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