The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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January 25, 2014

Mankato's park plan is both ambitious and expensive

Mankato's park plan is both ambitious and expensive

An ambitious and costly plan to improve and expand the Mankato park system is nearing completion, including changes great and small at virtually every park in town and the addition of new parks for the fast-growing eastern and southern sides of the city.

The plan would take years, even decades, to implement but is aimed at setting priorities and reserving land for recreation and relaxation as the city develops farther into the countryside. It also details additions at existing parks, ranging from the lofty to the mundane. There’s everything from a $2.5 million pedestrian bridge across the Blue Earth River to connect Sibley and Land of Memories parks to $5,000 for benches at Washington Park.

“Some of these things will come and go,” said City Manager Pat Hentges of the items that he characterizes as “the wish list.”

The plan is an update of the original master plan for city parks completed in 2002.

“It should be revised every 10 years,” said Parks Supt. Mark McQuillan. “You go back and look at what you’ve accomplished and then set some new goals.”

Estimated costs of maintenance, improvements and some expansion of existing parks totals $13 million. Add in a regional sports complex, a large new water park, and additional parks and trails in growing parts of the city, and the price tag quickly triples.

Much of the cost, though, represents necessary maintenance and upgrades. And even the “wish list” includes items that community members have been requesting for Hentges’ entire 18-year tenure in Mankato, such as a water park or at least some water-park features added to the existing Tourtellotte Park pool.

The bottom line: The list of wants and needs, even if only partially completed, will probably require a new source of funding.

“I don’t think this is going to go away for the council,” Hentges said. “Can they create priorities? Yes. But it’s not going away.”

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