Landscape architects working on the Webber Park redesign went back to the drawing board—in a good way—with guidance from a room full of park users and advocates commenting Dec. 13 on two different plans most preferred by those who gathered in late September. January 10, they came back with a plan that will next go to a public hearing Feb. 1, time certain 6:30 p.m. at the park board headquarters, 2117 West River Road.
The plan uses a natural beach effect for the pool with a turnaround area for lap swimming. This could use traditional chemical treatments to keep water clean, or natural filtration through a separate pond area, the method preferred by 60 percent of those weighing in, in December. At the Jan. 10 meeting, “all groups wanted natural treatment. We will pursue a pilot project with the State of Minnesota,” said Jennifer Ringold, the park system’s planner in charge of outreach. She said the methodology has been proven to work in Canada and Europe, it’s a matter of getting the political/administrative go-ahead to do it.
What else did the professionals conclude? The plan consolidates the “active uses” in the north part of the park and keeps the playgrounds, basketball and tennis courts where they are now. It was determined “not feasible” to return Shingle Creek to its original alignment. Webber Pond stays in its existing location and requires pumping water in (as is done now). Those present January 10 prioritized a pond liner, if there’s additional money found.
The winter hockey rink appears in the diagram as a rounded-corner rectangle on the new pond area. The original Webber Pond would be part pond, part wetland for treating the water from the swimming area. The beach pool would include areas shallow enough for wading, areas suitable for competitive lap swimming (four to five feet deep), but would not have a diving board.
In table conversations Dec. 13, professionals asked about preferences for where to locate a new “bath house,” which also would become the skating warming house, and again tested the natural vs. chemical pool treatment options. Also, they asked whether a current “back entrance” to the park from 44th Avenue needs to stay or if it could be discouraged (looks like it’s staying).
It was requested that the planners bring some sample designs for buildings and the three small picnic shelters that would dot the more passive south end of the park, close to car access. Some of those present saw fundraising opportunities, but needed to see what their goal would be. At the Jan. 10 meeting, Ringold said the preference was trending toward a design that was “a bungalow with a boat house flair, and a turret,” Ringold said.
The plan reaches out into the Webber Parkway intersection with a traffic-calming roundabout, and calls for bumpouts to accommodate parking on the parkway. The interior parking lot becomes three times as big as the current lot. As most of those costs would be in “phase 2,” resident Stephanie Gruver suggested Dec. 13 that existing curbs be fixed to give a nicer appearance approaching the park.
Ringold said the current funds available ($4 million) would probably cover just the pool, the new bath house building, the parking lot, and the water treatment system. It would also cover redoing trails just as they relate to the parking lot.
A next phase, once more funds are found, could also include entry signage at the far south end and an amphitheater stage taking advantage of the natural slope down into the park from Lyndale and the parkway. One group Dec. 13 said they wanted to discourage picnicking at the south end, and to leave it more natural, reflected in the current plan.
While precise survey tallies aren’t yet available, Ringold said other priorities for additional dollars included soccer fields and new basketball courts, trail improvements and “lighting in general seemed important.”
To a Dec. 13 question about concessions, local park commissioner Jon Olson said that would be handled by arranging with food trucks to frequent the area. Park Board Chair John Erwin said he’d like to see night events with a variety of food trucks showing up for festivals. A participant asked about including minority contractors on the project, a question deflected to following the city’s purchasing requirements which do call for a percentage contracting with minority enterprises.
“We’re happy to have some architecture advocates,” said some of the participants in December, 20 of whom came back in January. “You could tell that they really listened.”
On the other end of the Northside park system, Wirth Park is still undergoing refinements in design to be brought out to the community in mid to late February, Ringold said.