Plan for Richfield band shell is music to some residents' ears, but others object

  • Article by: MARY JANE SMETANKA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 1, 2014 - 2:10 PM
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Those who oppose the band shell project say that it could duplicate a performance space planned for the redeveloped Lyndale Gardens, on the site of the old Lyndale Garden Center, pictured above.

Photo: GLEN STUBBE , Star Tribune

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Supporters of a Richfield band shell have organized with the support of the City Council and hope to raise more than $1 million to have the structure built next year in Veterans Park.

While music lovers are delighted, the plan has raised the ire of some park users. They say building yet another structure in the park would harm wildlife and take away much-needed green space.

As of last week, more than 260 people had signed an online petition opposing construction of a band shell in the park. Deborah Clarke, who lives nearby and walks in the park, is one of them.

Clarke said she thinks building a band shell is a great idea, but not at Veterans Park. With an ice arena, pool, playground, picnic area, mini-golf, farmers market and areas for Frisbee and volleyball, building in the park is at “a tipping point” she said. She said deer, fox, beaver, opossums, flying squirrels, coyotes and more than 200 types of birds have been spotted in the park, and the city needs to protect them.

“Taking up green space and stressing a delicate ecosystem will harm what we are striving so hard to protect,” she said.

Jim Topitzhofer, Richfield’s recreation services director, said the park at 6335 Portland Av. S. is a community rather than a neighborhood park and is supposed to be used by the city as a whole. He said the master plan done when the park was created in 1990 included an amphitheater that was never built.

“So I think [a band shell] is an appropriate amenity for the park,” he said. “We do care about wildlife, and we don’t want to do anything to impact wildlife.”

Music lovers have been pushing for a band shell in Richfield for some time. With the task force, planning has begun in earnest. The city has a band shell Web page at www.cityofrichfield.org/index.aspx?page=779 and expects to have fundraising links on the page soon.

“We all are striving to make Richfield a great place to live, work and play and to keep the small-town appeal,” said Rick Jabs, chairman of the band shell task force. “We need to make sure we have a place to enjoy the outside and the arts.”

Veterans Park was chosen as the site partly because of amenities like bathrooms in the nearby ice arena and parking. While the south side of the park seems to be the logical place for a band shell, Jabs said, the exact site depends on the result of soil borings, consultation with an architect and an assessment of the impact on wildlife.

Before it became a park, the area had been a dumping ground for concrete from the construction of Hwy. 62, Topitzhofer said. That could affect the band shell location.

Jabs said the state Department of Natural Resources has been contacted about the project.

“They know what’s going on here,” he said. “We want to make sure we’ve done our homework.”

A band shell is expected to cost $1 million to $1.2 million. The city has earmarked $250,000 for the project from 2015 municipal liquor store profits. David Butler, a musician who has been a big booster of the band shell, is in charge of fundraising.

Jabs said the task force hopes to bring everyone from Richfield High School band alumni to local companies into the fundraising effort.

“Between local businesses and grants and large corporations, we’re pretty comfortable that we can raise that kind of money,” he said.

The goal is to have fundraising complete by late fall, with the band shell built by August 2015.

Those who oppose the project say it could duplicate a performance space that has long been in plans for the redeveloped Lyndale Gardens, on the site of the old Lyndale Garden Center. Topitzhofer said city officials thought it was more appropriate to have a band shell on its own property, and Jabs said there will be more parking at Veterans Park.

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