The opening of the new Como Regional Park Pool isn’t the only news at Como Regional Park. From the two new electric vehicle solar charging stations to a new play area to the $2.6 million Japanese Garden Experience, here is a list of projects and improvements initiated in the park in the last year.
Two electric vehicle solar charging stations began operating in April. One station is located at the lakeside pavilion and the other is on Jessamine Avenue near McMurray Field. The City of St. Paul received federal stimulus funds to purchase electric vehicles and install charging stations throughout the city. Cost to use the stations is $1 per hour.
Work on the 1985 historic lily pond began in October 2011. The pond walls and bottom were removed and are being rebuilt in a nearly identical footprint. The pond’s fieldstone footbridge will be tuck pointed and a new railing installed. The restored pond will feature Minnesota aquatic plants. A small cascade and fountain will circulate water, a concrete walk will encircle the pond, and there will be a seating area and an overlook area. This $640,000 project, funded by the Minnesota Parks and Trails Fund, will be completed in June.
The Excedra, located in front of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, is being renovated after its stone wall, which supported the 1929 pergola and platform overlooking the frog pond, collapsed in late summer 2010. The $170,400 project began in fall 2011 and is expected to be completed in May.
Construction on the gorilla forest at the Como Zoo began in September 2011. The $11 million project is expected to open in summer 2013. It will feature two natural outdoor habitats and a large pavilion for indoor viewing. Funding for the project came from a 2010 state bonding appropriation.
Como woodland outdoor classroom: With $218,000 from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, volunteers and city staff are transforming this large wooded area into an outdoor classroom. In 2011 many invasive species were removed, 24 native trees were planted in the coniferous forest and volunteers installed 3,600 plants in the floodplain terrace forest. Plans for this year include trail-system installation, signage, seeding of prairie areas and continued removal of invasive plants. A burdock bust is scheduled for Saturday, June 23. Interested? Register at www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=1043.
The West picnic play area will receive a $345,000 renovation beginning in August. The new play area will include a large rope-climbing structure that will connect bridges, ropes and other elements to landforms, an 8-foot embankment slide and a swing bay overlooking the fire rings. Infant swings and a play area for young children will be built separate from the main structures meant for older children. The project will be funded through the Capital Improvement Budget funds and a STAR grant.
The Japanese Garden experience is a $2.625 million project fully funded by Como Friends and will include a new wing with a bonsai gallery, outdoor bonsai garden and terrace, and a realigned walk leading to the Japanese Garden. Construction fencing was installed and trees were removed last fall to prepare for the beginning of work in April. It will open in spring 2013.
The historic streetcar footbridge: The city has secured $1.2 million in Federal Transportation Enhancement and local matching funds to transform this historic bridge into an interpretive site. Engineering, design and a plan review by the State Historic Preservation Office will be completed this year. The review will determine what portions of the bridge can be preserved to allow for a future complete restoration. The cost includes historical research. Bidding and construction will begin in early 2013.