Concerns for parking problems with the planned Miracle Field at Bane Park were raised before the Brainerd City Council Monday.
“I do feel awkward having to bring this up,” said Mark Ostgarden, city planner.
Ostgarden said the city had a wonderful opportunity for the Miracle Field, a ball field for physically and mentally challenged children. The Park Board recommended the Bane Park location in south Brainerd and the council previously welcomed and approved it.
But Ostgarden brought forward a concern he voiced internally months ago, about a month or two after the project was put forth. Ostgarden said he didn’t think Bane Park was a good site for the Miracle Field because it was introducing another facility into a park that already has a parking problem for events and activities.
In a memo to the council, Ostgarden said he didn’t think the park’s use could be looked at as temporary in order to disregard off-street parking requirements. And disregarding off-street parking for public facilities creates credibility issues for private sector enforcement, Ostgarden saod.
Ostgarden suggested other parks, such as vacant school property north of the Buffalo Hills Park and the undeveloped Trailside Park off Beaver Dam Road.
Interim Park Director Tony Sailer said from the parks and recreation point of view the ball has been rolling on the Miracle Field facility for almost four months. Sailer said he’s never heard a complaint from the neighborhood and people park on the street and in the grassy area.
The Miracle Field addition would involve perhaps 20 more children, Sailer said.
“It’s going to be to me almost a drop in the bucket,” Sailer said, noting the Miracle Field representatives want the people using the new field to feel part of the regular atmosphere of a baseball park, which is why Bane Park fit. Sailer said Buffalo Hills has softball but the land suggested isn’t owned by the city and Trailside Park, now trees by a parking lot, would require tree clearing and more money to establish besides being away from all other ballparks.
Sailer said when he mentioned the other parks, the Miracle Field representative said the idea was to include children with disabilities not exclude them in another area and there wouldn’t be a Miracle Field without that aspect.
“To me it’s a great learning tool for the able-bodied kids,” Sailer said, adding he was firm in his support to keep the field at Bane Park.
Council member Bonnie Cumberland said Ostgarden raised important issues but she believed Bane Park was the best choice, noting people who come for activities there also want to be close to other spots like restaurants in Brainerd and that is an economic bonus. Ostgarden said Bane Park was a neighborhood park and this may be putting the neighborhood at a disadvantage to using it.
Ostgarden said he hasn’t heard complaints from neighbors but that wasn’t his issue in bringing his recommendation forward. Sailer said there are many hours when the park is simply open without scheduled activities and adding the Miracle Field opened up other activities and improvements to the park.
Council member Kelly Bevans said he thought there were options within the park to accommodate the parking, perhaps by adjusting the location of the hockey rink.
“I just think this could be worked out,” Bevans said.
Council member Lucy Nesheim said she lives a block from the park and parking is not an issue with the neighbors, who are excited to have park improvements.
Council President Mary Koep said the lesson here may be to have all the perspectives together sooner in the process to address such issues but it seemed late in the game at this point. Koep and other council members thanked Ostgarden for bringing it forward as being part of his job.
“I think at this point we need to proceed as we planned to do,” Koep said, adding Ostgarden made valid points, but to put a damper on a project this far along would not be appropriate and it was best to proceed.
Council member Bob Olson said he wanted to see children play on Miracle Field as everyone did but he had to support Ostgarden’s decision and be conscious of the issues he raised.
Council member Dale Parks thanked Ostgarden for bringing it forward and noted it was a tough decision to bring those concerns forward.
Koep said there was no action that needed to be taken since the council already approved its support for the Miracle Field.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.