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Northside neighborhood proposes updates to Brainerd's Gregory Park

Residents requested to partner with the city on various projects.

Gregory Park stone archway with snow
Snow covers Gregory Park Tuesday, March 1, 2022. To bolster the park’s image and use, the Northside Neighborhood Association wants to take a three-phase approach and has items on the list such as planting trees, moving benches and updating lighting.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Residents in north Brainerd want to see some updates in Gregory Park and are willing to help make them happen.

Chuck Marohn, a member of the Northside Neighborhood Association, presented a three-phase plan to the Parks Board Tuesday, March 1, outlining projects like planting trees, moving benches and updating lighting to improve the park.

“We absolutely love Gregory Park. I think it’s the gem of — not just the north side — but really the gem of the region,” Marohn said. “We think Gregory Park is really important and really important in a bunch of fundamental ways, and not only to our neighborhood, not only to our city but really to the entire region.”

He first noted some of the positive aspects of Gregory Park, like the presence of trees and benches and the memorable view from inside the park at the end of North Sixth Street, with the large fountain and the historic water tower in the background.

But there are also some missed opportunities, he said, like benches in random, confusing places; lights that create a lot of shadows and contrast; and a lack of draws for day-to-day use.

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“Certainly when we have events we can bring people out,” Marohn said. “Just on a day-to-day basis, there’s a huge neighborhood there, there’s a lot of people, and the use of Gregory Park is not what it could be. We think we could attract a lot more people and have a lot more energy throughout the park.”

Gregory Park
The iconic fountain in north Brainerd's Gregory Park is a draw. It has also been beset by vandalism in the past from damage to lights to foaming soap dumped in the water. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch.

To bolster the park’s image and use, the neighborhood association wants to take a three-phase approach:

  • Phase 1: Work on immediate maintenance and small projects.
  • Phase 2: Establish an active partnership with the city and take an active role in master planning.
  • Phase 3: Manage the park collaboratively with the city and establish local funding sources.

Projects in phase 1 would include: moving and planting trees, relocating memorial benches (with permission from those who sponsored them), placing hoods over glaring lights, trimming trees and shrubs and working with local youths on inviting signage and artwork in the park. With vandalism a longtime, ongoing issue in the park, Marohn said involving kids could allow them to take ownership in the park and hopefully cut down on illicit activities.
The first phase also includes updates to Triangle Park, a small space of less than half an acre between Fir Street and Bluff Avenue. It boasts new playground equipment but could use further updates.

“We can see this park becoming a benefit to surrounding properties and a real jewel to the north neighborhood,” Marohn said.

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The neighborhood association is not looking for money, time or other resources from the city, Marohn said. The group plans to fundraise for the various projects and already has volunteers ready to begin some of the work.

“We’re offering to help and to be partners and to actually contribute to the betterment of this park and the betterment of this space,” he said.

Parks Board member Andrew Shipe asked if there would be any liability issues with members of the public working in the parks. Public Works Director/City Engineer Paul Sandy said he would have to consult the city attorney but doesn’t foresee any issues, as there are volunteers in the parks often.

“They’re all very low-hanging-fruit kind of projects, so if you guys agree, I think that there could be a good partnership here,” Sandy told the board.

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Parks Board Chair Troy Rushmeyer requested a simplified summary of Marohn’s presentation to consult at future meetings as the board looks at master plans for the various city parks. That way board members can discuss each issue one at a time and decide how to move forward.

“I think we’re not at all against collaborating with citizens from our neighborhoods about what they might like in the parks,” Rushmeyer said. “I think that’s part of why we’re here.”

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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