Site decision tabled so a discussion on locating it on pool property can take place

    When the Crookston Park Board last met a month ago and discussed the latest goings-on involving the Crookston Splash Park, they zeroed in on Castle Park and Highland Park as the two most-preferred locations for the new community amenity.        

    At the end of that discussion, Shirley Iverson, splash park fundraising co-coordinator with Ann Longtin, told board members to be prepared to hear from Crookston residents who'd rather see the splash park on Crookston Community Swimming Pool property.   

    While that groundswell of support for a pool location didn't exactly transpire, when the Park Board on Monday again discussed potential locations and appeared poised to select Highland Park as the splash park location, they switched gears when a last-minute request to make one final attempt to research a possible splash park on swimming pool property spurred them to table a decision on a splash park site.   

    The request came from At Large Crookston City Council Member Wayne Melbye. He said he was speaking on behalf of new Pool Manager Marley Melbye, also the Pirate girls' swimming coach, who was unable to attend the meeting because she was conducting swimming practice at the pool in Ada due to the major renovations and repairs currently being done at the Crookston pool. (Marley Melbye is Wayne Melbye's daughter-in-law.)   

    Although some type of splash park has been on the swimming pool's long-term wish list for as long as just about anyone can remember, Melbye said it's worth checking with the school district administration to see if a splash park – now that one is going to be a reality in Crookston – could somehow be located on the pool property. 

    Although Iverson and Longtin have said previously their hope is to potentially start construction on the splash park this year in preparation for an opening once the weather warms up next spring, Park Board members agreed that it's worth it to table a site selection for 30 to 45 days to see if some type of agreement between the City of Crookston and school district could be hammered out that would allow a splash park on the pool property that would be run by the city.    

    Park Board Chair Larry Brekken said he'd prefer some type of resolution on the matter by the time the board meets next in September.   

    "Many folks feel that (the pool property) is the clear site to have this splash park," Melbye said. "It would give us a chance to gain some community interest in the pool that really isn't there now, especially for families with kids of different ages. The littlest kids could play in the splash park and maybe their older siblings could go swimming."   

    The school district owns the pool. Putting a zero-depth splash park on the property would also make available locker rooms and bathroom facilities in the pool building itself, Melbye said, adding that pool staff could potentially give the splash park a quick once-through each day to make sure there are no leaves clogging drains or other pressing maintenance issues. That would free up city staff from having to do that every day, he said, unless there was something that needed to be repaired or cleaned up at the splash park.   

    "The idea would be to talk to the school board and Bates (Superintendent Chris Bates), and maybe we could buy or lease some property," Melbye said. A member of the Swimming Pool Advisory Committee, he said he'd be willing to take the lead on those talks. "With the new management at the pool, I think there is a willingness to look in some different, new directions," he added.   

    Ken Stromberg, longtime pool manager, retired earlier this year.

    "If we sit down and it's a big nay, then we move on and don't waste any more time talking about it," Melbye said. "But we've addressed this before, I think, in the wrong fashion. I'd like to try to do it right this time. Anything we can do to boost that pool, I think, is worth looking into."   

    Melbye added that he spoke to Iverson and Longtin last Friday about his thoughts on putting the splash park on pool property. “They just want it, period, and I understand that,” Melbye said. “They’ve been working real hard on this.”

Scaled back plans, concerns   

    Iverson and Longtin have been leading fundraising efforts for the splash park since day one. Their original plan was for a larger park with above-ground water toys, but with around $50,000 raised, they said earlier this summer that the people who have contributed would like to see something happen with their money sooner rather than later.   

    So a scaled-back splash park featuring a bunch of fountains but no above-ground water toys is the vision now. It's around 500 square feet in size, and the initial bids are slightly below $50,000. If it ends up being located at Highland Park, it would be put between the playground and Highland Complex building. (There was still support among Park Board members on Monday for putting it in Castle Park, too, and a Schuster Park location also garnered a mention.)   

    Park Board members and some council members still have reservations about the costs of the splash park that extend beyond its construction. A while back, Iverson and Longtin were asked to, as part of their fund-raising, to secure three years worth of  operations/maintenance costs as well, but City Administrator Shannon Stassen on Monday said that money has not yet been raised.   

    It's estimated that the city's operations/maintenance costs would be around $7,500 a year, Parks & Recreation Director Scott Riopelle said. He said it would also be wise to try to reuse the "gray water" from the splash park instead of simply letting 1 to 3 million gallons of splash park water per year go down the drain. Some type of "rain garden" could be a possible way to reuse the water, he added.   

    Council Member Dale Stainbrook said he thinks that if the community is going to be home to a splash park, then "it needs to be done right." A splash park only 500 square feet in size isn't his idea of doing it right, Stainbrook said. "That's around a 25 foot by 25 foot slab, most garages are bigger than that," he said. "There are no longer any above-ground toys, either. I understand they are concerned because people want to see something done with the money, but I think we need to be smart about this."   

    Melbye said allowing for more time to discuss a site might help in that area. "We have some time now to talk to the school and pick a site, and that might help those who have contributed, to know that a site has actually been picked," he said. "Then they can raise some more money over the winter and break ground as soon as possible in the spring."   

    Whatever site is chosen by the Park Board or anyone else, Stassen reminded everyone that the city council will have the final say.