BAXTER -- Residents will get their say on the proposed Whipple Lake Beach improvement project.
At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday during the regular Baxter City Council meeting, there will be a special informational hearing to discuss the project. The purpose of the hearing, as promised during the April 15 Baxter town hall meeting, is for residents to learn more about the project and give them an opportunity to ask questions. The city council will take no action on the project Tuesday.
"We wanted to ensure them that they would have input and we would keep them apprised what's going on with Whipple Beach," said Baxter Mayor Gary Muehlhausen.
The existing Whipple Beach features older outhouses, unimproved parking areas, no handicapped parking, no storm water plan, no bicycling area, no connection to city trails and limited landscaping.
Under the proposed improvements, water and sewer will be installed; a five-sided restroom pavilion would be constructed with a storage area, changing areas and a concession stand and possibly outdoor showers; buildings and trails will be lighted; a 118-stall, paved parking lot will be built but located 200 feet farther from the shoreline; a large sheltered pavilion for picnics, several areas with picnic tables for smaller private gatherings will be built; lighting will be installed throughout the beach area; and a walking trail system would be created that would be connected to the existing Baxter trail system. A boardwalk also is planned.
"'Get rid of that outhouse,' that's been the battle cry," from residents and users of the beach, said Baxter City Planner Todd Holman. The architecture of the buildings proposed in the Whipple Beach plan is what city officials would like to use at all city parks.
Another major change will be the realignment of Clearwater Road and Oakwood Drive. Currently, parking is on the other side of the road and pedestrians have to cross Clearwater Drive to get to the beach. With the realignment, Clearwater Road and Oakwood Drive would go around the beach area.
Several residents on Whipple Lake have expressed concerns about the size of the project.
"It's such a big plan for such a small, little lake," said Kay Greenwaldt. "To make it such a big beach attraction isn't the right idea."
There are parts of the proposed plan that Greenwaldt does agree with, such as installing sewer and water and a new storm sewer system at Whipple Beach. She also likes the idea of improved restrooms and the realignment of the roadway.
"As far as residents are concerned, the big thing we're striving to see happen is having the environmental concerns taken care," Greenwaldt said.
While most of those questioning the Whipple Lake Beach improvement project are residents along the lake, Holman noted it was one of the areas all Baxter residents who've attended the annual town hall meetings wanted to see improved and it also was noted for improvement in the city's 1996 comprehensive plan.
Holman said the city has tried to accommodate those who have concerns by shielding the lights at the beach and eliminating a second 120-stall parking lot from the city's preliminary plans.
Roy Rauen, Baxter parks and maintenance director, and Holman note that the plans don't call for an expanded beach or an expanded parking lot from what's already there. It's an improvement project only, they said.
Rauen said he hopes to have preliminary cost figures for the project by Tuesday's meeting. Holman said the project could be done in phases or all at once, whatever is the council's discretion. The roadway realignment is already under way and other landscaping changes, such as removing fencing and boulders at the beach, have been made.
Greenwaldt said she and other residents will be at Tuesday's meeting, ready to hear the new plans and ask their questions.
"Our hope is this (meeting) is the place to come and ask questions, even if you're supportive of the plan," Holman said.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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