Phil Ringstrom, Sartell
I believe council member Mike Chisum should be commended for pulling the “engineering and soil testing item” regarding the Sauk River Regional Park from the consent agenda during the Jan. 28 Sartell City Council meeting. When an elected representative performs his/her due diligence, their effort should be praised for representing their constituents and democratic principles.
One year ago, the Sartell City Council was undecided on how to spend the $950,000 remaining grant money for either amenities as overlooks, shelters, restrooms or for recreational facilities to be made available by June 30, 2020, and operated by the city. One item considered was a pedestrian bridge to connect 14 acres across the Sauk River. It was disclosed at that time that it was up to the City Council to present the options to the public. Then Mayor Nicoll stated the “bridge was pretty expensive” and was not sure to be the right choice. Well, here we are now, looking at soil testing to build a bridge without plans for amenities other than a promise that city staff will complete or use remaining state funds.
I ask where/when was the public provided an opportunity to discuss, explore options? What was the recommendation from the Sartell Park Commission? What collaboration have we had with the Mayors of the Mississippi Rivers Initiative for the sharing of educational, environmental and recreational impacts and benefits? Have we conferred with the Sauk River Watershed District for collaboration on educational kiosks describing the legacy of the Sauk and the Mississippi rivers confluence? Have we explored the historical significance of the indigenous people’s utilization of this area?
When I look at the efforts of the Sartell Lions Club that established the Lions Park on Pinecone Road, I think of the many opportunities that exist for the Sauk River Regional park to benefit those less physically able to access outdoor spaces. Our small Lions Park maintains a paved walking trail with handrails. We constantly attempt to keep the paths clear by volunteers and with assistance from city staff. We have plans to upgrade our playground equipment for safety and accessibility. We are raising funds to build a shelter with restrooms and a kitchen that meets ADA standards. These efforts are possible from local, national and international Lions Clubs contributions and local volunteers who maintain the gardens. I ponder what more could we do if provided a fraction of the dollars that exists for the Sauk River Regional Park. Well, as a committee member of the Lions Park, we voted down building a bridge for a number of reasons, most obvious was the practical need of accessibility and recreational opportunities and eventually an overlook to the Watab River.
I hope my letter helps to open a dialogue among the citizens of Central Minnesota and Sartell so we may all have an opportunity to explore our options for this beautiful stretch of land and water and so as many people as possible may experience and participate in its legacy.