Director and Chair chronicle Parks’ accomplishments and aspirations

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At the Jan. 30 meeting, Director Justin Huss gave a brief review of Parks’ accomplishments in 2017 and a look at his goals for this year, starting with the Harmon Park clean up where more lighting and security measures were installed. He said he hopes to have artists create a mural on the bathroom façade as well as an art walk through the spring garden trail.

The basin in Basin Park got a major cleaning, including the bottom of the cistern. The statue in the park was refurbished thanks to the Preservation Society, and city council passed a No Smoking ordinance in parks so constables can issue citations for violations.

Parks again put up the Christmas displays downtown. Huss intends to use lumber they remove at LLCP to mill steps to replace ones in Basin Park that have deteriorated, and he wants to spiffy up the band shell.

There is a new bluff trail alongside Black Bass Lake, and thanks to gardener Tom Beckindorff, there are improvements in the pocket parks. Parks helped to put on a fireworks display for the Fourth of July last summer, and Huss hopes to continue the tradition this summer.

He said the most significant accomplishment of 2017 was passage of the 1/8-cent tax to support projects at Lake Leatherwood, providing steady revenue that will finance big projects such as needed improvements to the septic system, dredging the lake, and repairs to the dam.

Cabins were refurbished and some were open all winter. The park now has expanded Wi-Fi capability, new pedal boats, and a new roof on the dock.

Huss also pointed out that, contrary to recent comments, it is part of the mission of Parks to contribute to the local tourism economy. He said that creating a stable financial base for the future is ever more important as the political mood in the country is making it harder for parks to get support. He contended that decisions regarding improvements at LLCP the past year, including reaching out to new partners, has enhanced the move toward being self-sustaining.

It’s all Downhill from here

Chair Bill Featherstone said an ad hoc advisory committee of 13 individuals comprising a cross-section of the community, are creating recommendations for Parks as the downhill trails plan proceeds. Featherstone read an article from Outside magazine about the economic impact of mountain biking for small towns, focusing on Crosby, Minn., 125 miles north of Minneapolis. An iron mining company abandoned Crosby in the mid-20th century leaving the town with an unsightly mess.

The state reclaimed the area somewhat in the early 1990s, but not much happened until off-road cyclists from Minneapolis discovered it. The International Mountain Biking Association invested in building trails, and by 2011 it had become a bronze-level IMBA ride center. Cyclists of all levels rode the trails, more tourists found out about it and businesses started by those who rode the trails began to spring up in Crosby.

A recent local survey claimed 25,000 cyclists ride those trails every year adding $2 million to the local economy, and those numbers are expected to increase. The article also mentioned similar experiences in small towns in Oregon and Michigan.

Other business

  • Commissioners approved the year-end financial report, the 2018 proposed budget, and destruction of 2012 archived documents.
  • Huss produced a 2009 document showing the water in Black Bass Lake contained higher than acceptable amounts of E. coli and coliform. These dated numbers provide a baseline for future testing. Regardless, eating fish caught in the lake or swimming in the lake is not recommended.

Next meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 6 p.m.