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Brainerd City Council: Members OK addition to Rotary Riverside Park

An aerial diagram of the Rotary Riverside Park in south Brainerd -- including current and proposed features. Parks and Recreation Director Tony Sailor said the addition would be north of the black line. Click on the image to see the entire diagram. Satellite Diagram / City of Brainerd

For years, the Brainerd Rotary Club has gradually assembled land plots and amenities for a passive park in south Brainerd. Now the city of Brainerd is meeting them halfway.

During the Brainerd City Council meeting Monday, May 7, members voted unanimously to add roughly 8 acres of city land to the Rotary Riverside Park, extending the boundaries to Jenny Street and thereby expanding the park's total acreage to 179.

In counsel with members, Parks and Recreation Director Tony Sailor categorized the addition as a means to present a face to the community in the form of a gateway arch—thereby improving access to the walking trails, as well as providing a visual marker to attract pedestrians.

"Right now, nobody knows (the park is) there," Sailor said, who added the archway will be large enough for maintenance vehicles to pass under. "That was kind of the thrust behind it—to get up that big archway so that people can see it."

Sailor noted the extension had the approval of officials at Brainerd Public Utilities, as well as the Parks and Recreation Board prior to Monday's meeting. Now, with the council's blessing, backers of the park can take the first steps toward realizing more ambitious goals.

Largely thanks to the Brainerd Rotary Foundation, the park already features walking pathways, a pollinator seed bed currently in development, beehives. Sailor said there are also outlines for proposed wildlife observation trails, as well as a snowmobile and foot walkways that would extend across the Mississippi River in a bridge.

That, Sailor said, is all part of a larger scheme the club has been pushing for years, the end goal of which is something the city of Brainerd can be proud of. He spoke effusively with regard to the nonprofit group.

"They have done all the heavy lifting. I thank them profusely, they're taking care of all our situations down there. They've got some great vision going on," Sailor said. "They're looking at purchasing land to the east and the south. Their idea is to make it potentially the largest continuous park in Minnesota. It'd be something to hang our hat on."

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