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Mississippi riverside park takes shape in Brainerd

The majority of the work on Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

People in yellow safety vests and hard hats look out at the Mississippi River
Members of Brainerd's Riverfront Committee look out at the Mississippi River Monday, June 6, 2022, after a groundbreaking ceremony for a new park along the river on East River Road.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Construction on Brainerd’s newest park is underway.

Fragments of crumbled blacktop met city officials who ceremoniously broke ground on Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park Monday, June 6.

As crews get to work, new green space with trails and pathways, a community amphitheater, an outdoor classroom, steps down to the river and other amenities will take shape along the shores of the Mississippi River on East River Road, replacing the existing parking lot in that area.

A map showing the Mississippi River and East River Road in Brainerd.
New green space with trails and pathways, a community amphitheater, an outdoor classroom, steps down to the river and other amenities will take shape along the shores of the Mississippi River on East River Road, replacing the existing parking lot in that area.<br/><br/><br/>

“This park is kind of special to me because obviously this is the first park that I get to be a part of creating,” Mayor Dave Badeaux said during Monday’s ceremony. “But moreso, it is the first park that we get to actually take up a physical parking lot and remove it and turn it into green space.”

Often speaking against parking lots and for more on-street parking, Badeaux said he was honored to contribute to the project.

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“If I can be a part of a project that is involved with removing a hard surface, getting the parking onto the street where it belongs and then creating a space that our citizens can use today but also our generations of citizens can use in the future, it’s something that I am proud to be a part of,” he said.

Work on the new park dates back to 2014, when the Brainerd City Council created the Mississippi Partnership Plan and created the Brainerd Riverfront Committee, tasked with connecting the city’s neighborhoods to the river. In 2017, the group came up with the idea for Mississippi Trailhead Landing Park.

“The idea of Brainerd connecting with the river — not just any river, the third largest river in the world — is not a new idea,” said Riverfront Committee Chair Don Gorham. “This was an idea brought up by others. And people tried, and people kind of got a little cynical like, ‘Oh, we’ll never get it done. It’s just another good idea that’s just gonna stay as a plan and that’s what’s going to happen.’ We were able to prove them wrong.”

A large group of people in yellow safety vests and hard hats stand in front of the Mississippi River with shovels, with fragments of blacktop in front of them.
Brainerd city officials, past and present, along with project managers, pose in front of the Mississippi River Monday, June 6, 2022, during a groundbreaking ceremony for Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

The majority of the park is expected to be completed this summer, with city officials hoping to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony by the end of the year.

Funds for the project came in the form of $2.85 million from the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund, awarded by the Minnesota Legislature’s Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. But with bids coming in under the budget, the city is expected to have more than $500,000 left after the park’s construction. That money does not have to be used until 2024, so city officials can decide what kinds of additions or upgrades they want to make when construction is completed.

Though the park is finally coming together, Gorham reminded those in attendance Monday the Riverfront Committee’s work is not yet done.

“This is a beginning. We have a lot more work left. We have so much more potential in our town,” he said. “... Our basic mission the City Council gave us in 2014 was connect the neighborhoods in Brainerd to the river. That was the basic mission. I don’t think it’s done. I think we’re just getting started. I see a lot of exciting projects in the future and many different ways we can do this. We can make this a river town again.”

Mississippi Landing park design rendering
A design rendering from WSB shows the design for Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park.
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THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.

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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