School deeds land to city for Mississippi River park project
“The biggest desire from the city is to activate some space where people can have interaction with the Mississippi,” Brainerd Mayor Dave Badeaux said.
The Brainerd School Board agreed to deed a 0.39-acre parcel of the district’s land to the city of Brainerd for use in a new park.
Efforts to develop land along the Mississippi River off East River Road began in 2014, and plans for Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park followed in 2017. Earlier this year, the city secured $2.85 million from the Minnesota Legislature’s Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources to fund the project. Proposed plans for the park 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.
The school district owns a small parcel of land within the park area, which does not have any structure on it with the current designs but the city requested to have use of it to prevent any issues in the case of future expansion.
"“The biggest desire from the city is to activate some space where people can have interaction with the Mississippi."
— ,” - Brainerd Mayor Dave Badeaux.
The school board unanimously approved transferring the deed to the city Monday, Nov. 22, but not before asking how the park will affect the parking lot in that area near the high school baseball, softball and football fields. That parking lot is used for high school sporting events, and the school district previously had an agreement with the city to use it for permitted student parking during the school day while construction took place on the high school’s north campus, with some students still using it for parking.
“The biggest desire from the city is to activate some space where people can have interaction with the Mississippi, including steps down into it, a classroom where children can learn, an amphitheater,” Brainerd Mayor Dave Badeaux told the school board Monday. “But really it’s about taking a parking lot and moving towards a philosophy that the city is adopting, which is more on-street parking, which is a more financially viable solution for us moving forward.”
Part of the park project includes widening the adjacent section of East River Road and adding diagonal on-street parking. City Engineer Paul Sandy said the number of on-street parking spaces will be roughly equivalent to the amount of spots in the lot right now.
Even though the road itself will be wider, on-street parking often makes a road feel narrower, Badeaux said, which in turn serves as a traffic calming measure, prompting motorists to drive slower.
“We’re looking at safety as well as usage,” Badeaux said. “Obviously a flat surface parking lot, that has a lot of cost to it, but it's also fairly unsafe when you start looking at the roadway itself and the speeds that people will travel.”
Board Chair Ruth Nelson said student parking was her biggest concern with the project, especially as there is not much high school parking right now.
Reid Thiesse, buildings and grounds director for the school, said he does not believe a lot of students use that parking lot on a daily basis, and it is much less desirable in the winter. He also added that another parking lot with about 160-170 stalls is set to be completed on the east side of Fifth street near the high school’s north campus next summer.
Sandy said he hopes to go out for bids on the project in February or March and start construction in the spring or summer of 2022. Nelson said she wants to make sure there will still be ample parking for events this coming spring, like baseball games and high school graduation.
Sandy said the project could be done in phases, and the city could explore the option of making the parking lot the last phase of the plan to be done later on in the summer after graduation, which Nelson said would be appreciated.
THERESA BOURKE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .