Hansen Park set to reopen in October after long reconstruction


Richard Pisa and Perry Martin, along with other Hansen Park neighbors, feel the the city has ignored their concerns during the years-long construction at Hansen Park. Along with their law signs, Pisa and Martin and other neighbors started a petition and say it has hundreds of signatures. photo Solomon Gustavo

Martin and Pisa stood in the long grass and weeds in Hansen Park in mid-August while the park was still a construction zone. Both say the city ignored their concerns about the state of the park. photo Solomon Gustavo

In the first week of September, a month before the project is set to be complete in October, Hansen Park had been cleared of much of the grass, weeds and dirt that bothered park neighbors. New Brighton City Manager Dean Lotter said the Hansen Park work, a project aimed at creating more water storage in the park’s pond in response to city flooding caused by major rain storms in 2011, would look bad during construction and now looks better because the project is nearing its completion.

Years of construction work at Hansen Park are set to finish up in October, said New Brighton City Manager Dean Lotter, and the conclusion can’t come soon enough for some park neighbors.

He said he doesn’t know the exact date the entire park will be clear of construction, just that the Rice Creek Watershed District, which is in charge of the $4 million project, said work would be done that month.

The park underwent reconstruction in order to make way for extra water storage in the park’s pond in response to city flooding caused by major rain storms in 2011. The project involved dredging the pond to create that space.

The watershed district received a $3 million Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources grant in 2014, half of which is funding the work in Hansen Pond. The rest of the work will be covered by smaller grants and the watershed district’s tax base, which covers four counties and 186 square miles.

The project began with a petition in 2013 and, after experiencing delays due to bad-working conditions during some abnormally warm winter months, couldn’t finish up until this fall. 

 

Saving Hansen Park, and making sausage

“Really, the project should have been done,” said Lotter. He said the work has taken a year longer than it should have, which has been frustrating for the city, the watershed district, New Brighton residents and Hansen Park neighbors. 

Lotter said he and Mayor Val Johnson visited the park at the end of August and felt it looked pretty good. 

“People can start to see it taking shape,” he said, adding soil was moved, graded out and reseeded. 

In the midst of construction, Hansen Park was a messy work zone with piles of dirt, unkempt grasses and weeds. The water storage project also resulted in two baseball fields “of the lowest quality,” according to Director of Community Assets and Development Craig Schlichting, being either moved to another park or removed.

City staffers maintain they clearly informed New Brighton residents and Hansen Park neighbors in 2015 of a construction plan that could stretch out if there were delays, and of construction plans like removing the ballfields.

Some New Brighton residents living along Hansen Park said they feel the city was not clear about the construction plan — which included letting dirt piles sit around — and that the city has dismissed their concerns. 

“We feel ignored,” said Perry Martin, who lives next to Hansen Park. In his front yard, and all the front yards on his side of his block, are lawn signs that read “Save Hansen Park.”

Martin, alongside Richard Pisa and a cohort of Hansen Park neighbors and concerned New Brighton residents, have also started a petition on Change.org. Pisa, in an interview in mid-August, said the petition had more than 400 signatures. 

Hansen Park is no different than other construction projects, said Lotter, such as road work. He said that right up until the concrete is laid down, a gravel road in mid-construction looks really bad. Then, near the end of the construction schedule, “it suddenly comes together.”

Lotter said he thinks those who live around the park feel the water storage project is a localized issue. 

“It’s a bigger picture thing,” he said.

 

– Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815

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