Crystal council approves motion to enter park planning contract

Major redevelopment of Becker Park included in $69,000 contract

The Crystal City Council approved, at the Nov. 15 meeting, a $69,097 contract with WSB and Associates, for a parks planning study in 2017.

All of Crystal’s 28 parks will be part of the planning project, including a master plan that specifically focuses on redeveloping Becker Park, the city’s largest and most centralized park. Another plan could include develop concepts for the next three largest parks, Bassett Creek, Welcome, and North Lions parks.

The city parks commission received proposals from two firms. WSB and Associates was chosen because the firm provided the lowest cost and highest quality, according to a presentation from the commission at the council meeting.

WSB has proposed work in addition to the initial Becker Park planning, including planning for the other 27 city parks, as well as the specific concept planning for the other three largest parks.

The commission made a recommended that the operating budget be amended for an additional $8,000 for the professional services by the end of this year. That portion is what will be required to begin the work next year.

A series of online surveys were conducted over the summer, asking residents for their opinions regarding the state of Crystal’s parks and improvements the residents would like to see made.

Councilmember Julie Deshler, who supports the planning, acknowledged she feels there was an inordinate amount of complaints from the survey about the lack of upkeep at the parks. She asked for clarification on whether money spent on the redevelopment and concepts project will address these issues.

“Part of me thinks we should spend $60,000 on mowing our parks, not doing a study on it,” she said.
Parks commission member John Elholm said the study will help make determinations regarding how to approach improvements.

“What the system plan will do is look at all 27 of the parks and do an inventory on what kind of facilities are out there, what’s their condition, and do a very thorough engagement process. Through the process we’ll learn where the community would like to be with their parks. The plan will identify ways to get there, ” he said.

Councilmember Elizabeth Dahl, who at one point described herself as “loathe to spend money,” is a strong proponent of the project.

“Speaking as someone who has been the liason for the commission the past two years, I’ve seen them put so much effort in to create something like this. We’ve had these conversations for so long, and we’ve just barely scratched the surface,” she said. “So speaking from that perspective of having been there two years, I can tell you it’s going to take another eight years for us to be able to get the kind of information that this will be able to give us. It really is an investment into the future.”

Councilmember Jeff Kolb said he agrees that the commission needs the assistance the WSB contract would provide.

“I did have a bit of shock at the cost of the agreement. However, I do see it as a long-term investment,” he said. Kolb hopes the agreement will improve the methods of managing park funding in the coming years.

“I have been advocating for a dedicated capital account for (the parks commission) since I joined the council to provide more transparency and context for our parks spending – right now, parks spending comes from the same account as trucks and computers and other general city needs,” he said. “I anticipate we will see a new parks improvement fund created in the next budget cycle. This isn’t necessarily a change in funding levels, but more a segregation of funds into a separate account so we can get better insight into our parks funding over time.”

Deshler said she would like to see the study focus in on determining which parks would benefit the most from redevelopment.

“I’m hoping that this study identifies which parks get the most use, what parks we should spend our time, money, and energy on so that when it comes time to remodel and redesign, we are putting our resources toward the parks our residents value most,” she said.

Deshler would also like an evaluation that compares current staffing levels to the number of parks in Crystal, considering the complaints from residents mostly relate to lack of park maintenance.

“Given the few dedicated park employees on staff, there just are not enough hours in the day to maintain them as well as residents would probably like. Maybe it’s time to take a hard look at how many parks we need, and how many parks we can reasonably afford,” she said.

Kolb believes the reorganization of parks funding will help bring clarity to the amount of parks spending that Crystal can handle based on its residents concerns.

“Once the plan is in place, we can have informed conversations with our residents about what the proper level of funding for parks should be,” he said.

Contact Laci Gagliano at [email protected]