Lum Park is decidedly the best spot for Region Five's proposed children's museum, according to the Brainerd City Council.

That's the primary spot council members agreed Monday, April 29, to pitch in response to a request for proposals from the museum's board of directors.

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As a secondary location, the city will also submit a proposal for the Brainerd Public Library property.

About the project

In 2015, Council President Gabe Johnson explained, Sourcewell (then the National Joint Powers Alliance) came forth with the idea that many children's programs within Region Five-which covers Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties-could all be worked into a children's museum. Sourcewell then established a planning group that worked alongside the community to develop the idea and come up with a master plan for a children's museum.

According to information on the Minnesota Legislature website, the goal of the Region Five Children's Museum is to bring children and families together and provide "dynamic, material-rich environments, exhibits, events and programs" to engage children in a unique learning experience. Six indoor and outdoor exhibit areas are proposed to include activities and learning experiences related to lake fishing, gardening and growing one's own food, woodland exploration, travel and other recreational themes.

Now, planners are at the site selection portion of the process and gave Region Five entities until Friday, May 3, to submit their proposals for the museum's location.

When choosing a location, the board of directors' request for proposals stated they would evaluate a site's economic activity, including retail and tourism; accessibility to major highway corridors; and scenic value. Placing the museum in proximity to the Highway 210 corridor through Brainerd and Baxter and the Highway 371 corridor from Baxter to Pequot Lakes, the request for proposals stated, would likely provide the best access from across the five-county region.

Choosing a location

During Monday's special council meeting, Brainerd Community Development Director David Chanski provided the pitches for three locations-Lum Park, library property and the city's undeveloped Mississippi Riverfront property, located south of the Northstar Apartments.

These options, Chanski said, came from a committee made up of select city staffers and council members.

After discussion Monday night, however, the council agreed to nix the riverfront property in favor of the other two, with Lum Park proving to be the No. 1 choice.

Council member roll call

Sue Hilgart: While recognizing the potential benefit of packaging the children's museum with the library, Hilgart noted there could be additional costs associated with renovating the library space to fit in with the museum.

Kelly Bevans: While recognizing how great of an asset a children's museum could be for the community, Bevans said he was leary about giving up the library or riverfront property for that purpose, while they have potential for other projects. Lum Park, he said, would be the best spot in his opinion.

Dave Pritschet: Similar to Bevans' comments, Pritschet noted three to four years-the length of time still to go before the museum would even open-is a long time to tie up valuable riverfront property, which could have other commercial value, while there are no development plans, as of right now, for the space at Lum Park.

Dave Badeaux: The city's biggest strength, Badeaux said, is Lum Park and it's nearly 40 acres of outdoor space, as ample outdoor recreation space was a big part of the board of directors' request. He also noted Lum Park will eventually need new amenities, and partnering with the children's museum could be a good way to tackle those future projects.

"I would like to see us put our best foot forward and actually have a proposal that goes after what we think is our strength," Badeaux said, noting he doesn't think any other city will be able to propose a property as unique as Lum Park.

Jan Lambert: Lum Park, Lambert opined, would be the best location, as it could help get some movement on the east side of Brainerd. She also liked the idea of having a second option, especially as the library is close to downtown, but noted she was not too keen on the riverfront property.

Gabe Johnson: Lum Park was Johnson's No. 1 choice, as he also mentioned the development opportunities for the east part of Brainerd that could come along with it.

Council member Kevin Stunek did not attend Monday's special meeting.

If either Lum Park or the public library property are chosen for the children's museum, the city would lease the space for $1 a year.