Home runs and aces, baskets and 360s — this fall, renovations to handle activities from baseball to skateboarding and to improve rundown conditions will begin at Coon Rapids’ Riverview Park.

The work is the first in a series of planned improvements at the city’s parks that got the green light when Coon Rapids voters approved a $17.4 million bond request last fall.

“Riverview has reached the end of its useful life,” public works director Tim Himmer said. “[The bond is] a good sum of money. We should be able to do good things with it.”

The park design, approved in February by the City Council, features a skate park, a half basketball court, a tennis court, two T-ball fields, a playground and a picnic shelter. One of the parking lots will also function as a seasonal hockey rink, Himmer said.

The project will be up for contractor bids in the summer and the city hopes to begin demolition in the fall, Himmer said.

In all, the city will use the money approved by voters to renovate 10 major parks and to connect regional trails over eight to 10 years, Himmer said.

“Without the money, we’d never catch up,” said Tim Arntson, a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission. The city cited aging infrastructure and equipment, inefficient lighting, and deteriorating and incomplete trails as some of the main problems.

Though the council views the parks improvements as universally beneficial, the measure was approved by a narrow margin: 2,637 to 2,490 votes. City Council Member Steve Wells attributed the close vote to concerns over property tax increases necessitated by the bond. He said he was unaware of any complaints since the vote.

“We really wanted the public to be involved, and that’s why it passed,” Wells said. “There have been meetings with stakeholders all along.”

Now it’s up to the city to show that it is using the money wisely, Wells said.

“[Riverview] is the start of the bond issue,” Arntson said. “People can see what they voted for.”

The City Council discussed a two-phase approach to the Riverview project at a meeting on March 25, Himmer said. That kind of timing would accommodate the Little League — which owns part of Riverview’s land and plays on its field — by starting demolition after its 2014 summer season ends and then trying to complete construction before the 2015 season begins.

Next steps

Once the city finishes at Riverview, it will move on to overhauling the large sports complex at Sand Creek Park, Arntson said.

Residents can look forward to six softball fields, two football and lacrosse fields, two hockey rinks, a skate park, a half basketball court, and a couple of play areas, to start. The city plans to bid out that project next spring, Himmer said.

Some community parks, such as Peppermint Stick Park and Sunrise Pond Park, will also get attention this summer.

“One of the things people don’t recognize is that we still have the regular annual funds that can be used for parks,” Wells said.

Himmer said the city set aside $200,000 for neighborhood parks and $100,000 for community trails that are outside of the bond’s coverage.


Sarah Barchus is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.