ST. CLOUD – Tucked away at the south end of St. Cloud's Munsinger Gardens is an enclosure with a peacock and three peahens.
The peafowl, which are thought to have inhabited the garden for about four decades, are often hidden behind dilapidated brown fencing — something the Friends of the Gardens are looking to change in the next few years.
"We just wanted to really maximize what we have there," said Penny White, chair of Friends of the Gardens, an initiative through the Central Minnesota Community Foundation that raises about one-fourth of the budget for Clemens and Munsinger Gardens. "I think people do go see the peacocks, but they're not real visible the way they're currently housed. It just seems like an afterthought."
Friends of the Gardens unveiled this week a campaign to raise $2 million to upgrade the peafowl enclosure and nearby maintenance buildings. The project will replace the current open-air pen with living quarters that include running water, temperature controls and better conditions for the birds. Plans also call for adding a children's play area and expanding the existing restroom and storage structure, which will improve access for both visitors and maintenance workers.
Friends of the Gardens member James Ringwald said the group has been planning improvements for about a year. With donations and possibly a match by the city, the group hopes to begin construction in 2023 and open the new enclosure the following year, Ringwald said.
The 20-acre city-owned gardens along the Mississippi River draw about 350,000 people a year. Munsinger Gardens is named after the city's first park superintendent, Joseph Munsinger, who designed the park in the 1930s with the help of workers in the Depression-era Works Progress Administration. In the mid-1980s, St. Cloud added Clemens Gardens, named after entrepreneur Bill Clemens and his wife, Virginia, who helped fund it.
The project is the Friends of the Gardens' first major capital improvement project.
"It just speaks to the great citizenry and the great opportunities we have here in our community in St. Cloud," said Scott Zlotnik, park director. "I think the idea is to refurbish the area but also create a larger view shed toward the river, make it more efficient as far as building square footage and the opportunity for maintenance access, and also create community-gathering [space]."
Jenny Berg • 612-673-7299