BAXTER - The growing popularity of pond hockey at Loren Thompson Park last winter also caused a safety concern for those who live around the park.
The parking lot was too small to accommodate the increased hockey traffic so 30 or more vehicles would be parked along Parkwood Drive, Bill Deblon, community development director, told Baxter City Council members Tuesday.
Residents complained to council members and city staff that it was causing a roadway hazard since it became difficult to back out of their driveways during game times at the park.
The Parks and Recreation Commission has proposed improvements to the park that would double the size of the parking lot and commission members want to get it done before winter, using park fees to fund the project. City council members Tuesday tabled the issue so an informational meeting could be held to inform residents of the proposed improvements.
Deblon said the proposed park improvements include relocating the free skate area south of the current location, or east of the pond hockey rink. The former free skate site would be leveled and graded to add about 30 more parking spaces, doubling the lot. He said this section would not be paved, at least not before winter. The proposed free skate area would need to be grubbed and trees removed, as well as leveled and graded.
The commission is also proposing the addition of a 15-foot-wide ice skating trail that would loop to the south through the woods, providing skaters with a scenic path to skate on. This trail is not proposed to be completed this year.
The commission requested that the relocation of the free skate area and parking lot addition be completed by city staff. Council member Jim Klein said the city should get it done as quickly as possible so it's completed by winter and not conduct an informational meeting. He said two parks commission members live nearby and they would have heard if neighbors were opposed to the concept.
"If we have a public meeting, two people will show up and they'll be the two people on our park board, and they're happy with it," said Klein. "You talk about kids not having anything to do. They want to play hockey. It's popular."
Council member Todd Holman said it was worth touching base with the neighbors first, but he said he liked the planned improvements.
The council directed the parks commission to conduct an informational meeting sometime within the next week or two and then the council will discuss the issue again at its Oct. 20 regular meeting. The council also directed city staff to get bids from companies to grub and level the ground for the proposed improvements, as well as find out if city staff members could work the project into their schedule for this fall.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at jodie.tweed@brainerd dispatch.com or 855-5858.
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