Como Park recreational facilities avoid elimination


What looked like bad news for the Como Park neighborhood is looking better, thanks to the efforts of local residents.

Earlier this summer, two recreational facilities appeared to be on the chopping block: the Northwest Como Recreation Center and the Como Park pool. Now it looks like both are safe, at least for the time being.

St. Paul’s 2008 budget calls for significant cuts. In anticipation of St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s August 14 budget address, city departments began making plans this summer. Parks and Recreation anticipated the need to close several recreation centers, and an early plan included Northwest Como on the list.

Some neighborhood residents who heard about the plan launched a letter-writing campaign. One of those was Pam Kottke, who plays basketball at the rec center with a group of women every Sunday evening. She sees the center as a neighborhood hub that helps build a sense of community.

“We absolutely want the rec center open — and not just for sports,” said Kottke.

Sue McCall, community organizer for the District 10 Community Council, said that neighbors worked hard and long to establish the NW Como Rec Center. Eight to ten houses were demolished in the mid-1970s to make way for its construction.

She described the rec center as a place where young families gather. “It is a walkable, bikable neighborhood amenity,” she said.

The city’s preliminary plans also mentioned closing the Como Park pool, which is badly in need of renovation. McCall described the pool, which is almost 50 years old, as “basically held together with bubblegum.”

One set of long-range plans would turn the Como pool into an aquatic center, perhaps along the lines of what was done to the Highland Park pool, which re-opened in June.

According to Bob Bierscheid, director of Parks and Recreation, there are no immediate plans in store for the Como pool. He acknowledged that the pool needs renovation but said, “Right now there is no funding for that.”