On February 1, the MPRB Planning Committee gave a unanimous nod of approval for the Webber Park Master Plan and on February 15 the full MPRB did the same. The approved resolution 2012-125 reads, “Resolution Approving the Webber Park Master Plan and Authorizing Pursuit of a Natural Water Treatment Pilot Project for the Aquatic Facility.” The votes were seamless, and the process was thorough, beginning with the approval of a MPRB budget that would invest $4 million in aquatic improvements at Webber Park over two years. Public participation into the plan included surveys, focus groups, a three-day charette, two follow-up meetings and a public hearing prior to the vote.
Cliff Swenson, Director of Design and Project Management, presented the Master Plan to the Park Board Planning Committee, highlighting the aquatic design, which will be a pond/pool hybrid. He described it as a natural swimming feature with a zero entry depth and lap lanes with cement walls in the deeper end of the pool. There will be a beach surrounding the pool and a new changing building. In the short term, the old pool area will be converted into more picnic space. The project planners will work with the State of Minnesota to get a variance to state rules to allow the natural treatment. Later phases of the Master Plan include, changes to Shingle Creek, which would make it a more prominent feature in the park and parkway improvements, including a possible roundabout at the Fremont intersection.
Ten Camden area neighbors spoke at the public hearing. Two spoke against the proposed plan, stating that they would prefer a more traditional pool, with standard filtration. Tom Schmidt expressed concern about the water quality safety with the natural filtration system and commented that a traditional pool provides a better experience for children, including the accommodation of swimming lessons. Eight people spoke in favor of the plan. Mary Martinson expressed appreciation to the planners for the process. She said, the process “gave voice to people who feel left out by government” and “is happy to see positive changes in the park.” Bill Moore, of the Camden Lions, commended the planning department. He remarked that his family has been season pass holders to the old pool and said “hats off to you guys” for listening to the community and including desired features into the plan. James Cain, also a Camden Lion, said that he has been in every pool the park has had and that “this is going to put us on the map.” He mentioned that the natural filtration system has been used in Europe for 20-25 years without problems.
On February 2, I was walking in Webber Park and spoke with a civil engineer who was working in the park. He was staking out the perimeter of the new aquatic building and the new parking lot. With the approval of the full Board, this plan is moving forward. The grand opening is expected to be in the summer of 2013.