At first, city council members thought the idea sounded fishy. Now most think it’s a good catch. That’s why they approved a project to transform the pond in front of the Brooklyn Park Community Activity Center into a fishing pond.
City street crews began work Oct. 4. Volunteers from the police department and other city departments joined the crews to help haul away brush as it was cleared. Street crews did the bulk of the construction last week. Steve Nauer, the city’s street maintenance superintendent, expected to finish by the middle of this week.
Workers drained the water, cleared away the muck at the bottom and deepened parts of the pond. They also lined it with clay to seal in water.
The city plans a fishing pond geared at children and seniors.
The city doesn’t expect to spend much money on the project, because the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and community partners will provide most of the funding and equipment.
The DNR agreed to stock the pond with fish (likely bluegills) annually as necessary and provide aeration equipment if needed. Titan Machinery donated use of equipment for excavation, and the city of Plymouth donated the clay and even hauled it to the site. Home Depot has volunteered to donate the materials and labor to construct a fishing pier or dock in honor of veterans, and Cabela’s will donate fishing equipment for children to use.
The city is seeking a grant from the Hennepin County Youth Sports Program that it would use to pave a handicap-accessible path from the community center parking lot to the fishing pier.
Several years ago, Inspector Mark Bruley of the Brooklyn Park Police helped start the annual Cops ‘n’ Kids fishing program, in which officers go fishing with local children who likely wouldn’t have the chance to fish otherwise. It’s part of the city’s broader Youth Violence Prevention Initiative and is a way police engage youth in positive activities to keep them out of trouble.
“You truly get to touch kids’ lives and see how it affects them,” Bruley said.
Each year the event happens at the Champlin Mill Pond. But when it’s over, Bruley said, the children ask where there’s a pond within biking distance to practice their new skills. For most, the river is too far away and is a more dangerous option, he said.
“We’re teaching them how to fish, but there’s nowhere to put the line in the water,” he said. “These kids need activities to do. We see that first hand.”
For more than a year, city staff have sought a place for a fishing pond within the city. Within the past few months, the details began coming together.
First cast misses mark
When staff first presented the project to the city council Sept. 24, the council had considerable doubts and seemed ready to dismiss the idea.
Councilmember Rich Gates had the harshest criticism, calling it “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of.”
He and other council members were concerned about logistics, potential problems, whether children would use it, the cost of staff time for construction, the cost of ongoing maintenance and more. Council members who expressed concern included Peter Crema, Dean Heng and Bob Mata. Mike Trepanier and Elizabeth Knight were absent at that meeting.
Mayor Jeffrey Lunde suggested the council table the issue and reconsider it when staff could answer some of the questions posed by the council. With the exception of Gates, the other council members agreed.
Reeling in the prize
Staff brought the issue back to council only a week after the initial presentation.
Bruley shared the history of the project and his own passion for it.
“This thing, in my mind, reeks of opportunity,” he said, adding that schools have already been asking about the possibility of using the pond.
He said he couldn’t think of a better place for such an amenity than on the city campus, next door to the police station. He saw it as a safe, accessible location.
As one of the key forces behind the project, Bruley also addressed some of the concerns council members had, such as how the streets department would have time to excavate the pond without incurring extra costs or falling behind on other projects.
In part, he said, it was because the early spring and lack of rain had helped the crews get ahead.
“The other part is that employees from the streets department … are passionate about getting their work done to work on this project,” he said. “So they’ve worked harder and stepped forward in saying, ‘For no additional pay, I’m willing to do more work, because this means something special to us.’”
Bruley said other employees had voluntarily invested energy in the project, as well. Nauer contacted the city of Plymouth, which resulted in the clay donation. He also found the donor for the excavating equipment.
Amy Hanson, of the Brooklyn Park Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Network, helped secured Home Depot’s donation of the veterans’ memorial fishing pier. Hanson told the council a fishing pond would provide an opportunity for veterans, as well as children.
“It could be a really great partnership for veterans and kids to work together, mentoring each other,” she said. “Our veterans need opportunities too.”
According to Hanson, fishing can be therapeutic for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Leah Weyandt, a representative from the DNR Fishing in the Neighborhood program, also addressed the council. Weyandt would be responsible for monitoring and stocking the pond. She answered logistics questions about how the DNR FiN program works and why she expected Brooklyn Park’s pond to be successful.
She said she was passionate about this pond and what it could mean to the community.
The council responded positively to the project the second time.
Crema was the first to speak in favor of it. He said one of his biggest concerns had been whether the pond would get used. After learning more about the FiN program and its success, he felt more comfortable proceeding. He also appreciated the further details staff provided.
“Now that I’ve gotten the additional information I was missing … it’s a great idea,” he said.
Gates admitted his initial opposition had been “a little over-passionate.” But he didn’t change his mind.
“I’m still opposed to this entire project, only because the Parks and Recreation Department has way too much going on as it is now,” he said. “And I don’t see us maintaining it properly.”
Gates was also still concerned about potential future maintenance costs.
But the rest of the council members sided with Crema.
Mata applauded the enthusiasm staff had for the project, as well as the project’s potential to help reduce crime.
Trepanier said it seemed like a good opportunity. Nothing is free, he said, but this project seemed to have low start-up and maintenance costs, and he considered it worth the investment. He said he agreed with Gates that the council does need to carefully consider maintenance costs before tackling new projects.
Knight was also excited about the possibilities.
“It’s amazing the impact that an adult, particularly an adult in a uniform, can have on kids,” she said. “And not just to reduce crime, but also a potential career in law enforcement.”
The council approved the project 5-1, with Gates dissenting.