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Athletic fields designed near Nokomis, urban ag proposed near Hiawatha

Posted on 27 June 2017 by calvin

Open house held as changes require modification of Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park by park board

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
With the focus of nearby Bossen Park on softball, some residents feel that leaves room for other sports such as Australian Football and soccer at Nokomis Park.

The current project at Bossen is placing four premier baseball/softball fields in a pinwheel formation looking out, with another two fields on the south side and two large open field areas on the north.

field Concept 2017 - Option A.aiPhoto left: Concept A is one of two concepts MPRB asked the public for input on. (Illustration provided)

When the Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park master plan was approved in March 2015, it didn’t include a specific layout for the athletic fields, in part because planners knew that the Bossen Field project was about to get underway, pointed out MPRB Director of Strategic Planning Adam Arvidson.

When the Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park master plan was approved in March 2015, it didn’t include a specific layout for the athletic fields, in part because planners knew that the Bossen Field project was about to get underway, pointed out MPRB Director of Strategic Planning Adam Arvidson.

However, the fields at Nokomis are currently in very poor condition, and MPRB held an open house on May 25 to ask for community input on the athletic fields as it prepares to fix them.
The two proposed plans for Nokomis aim to preserve large open spaces for a variety of sports, remarked Arvidson.

Concept A includes seven adult-size softball fields of which two are in the far south of the parcel, three high-school-sized soccer fields, and an Australian football field in the center.

Concept B configures the fields differently and has six softball fields, three soccer fields and an Australian football field in the center. Both include a 60-space parking area and trail cutting across the center of the area.

Citizens asked if there could be a storage shed for groups that play there, as well as a place for bathrooms and drinking fountains. Others asked for lighting on the fields. Additional input was taken through an online survey that was open through June 23.

Football players hope to use the fields more

No-Hi Master Plan 3Photo right: A group of Minnesota Freeze Australian Football, Gaelic football, and hurling players attended the open house on May 25 to learn about the two proposals. The men’s Minnesota Freeze teams currently hold its Wednesday night weekly practices and Saturday morning games at Lake Nokomis, and the women’s team would like to be there, as well. (Photo submitted by Minnesota Freeze)

“It would be great to have the men’s and women’s teams practice together,” noted Freeze Captain Andrew Werner, a Nokomis resident, but it is difficult to do now because of how the fields are arranged. “The sport is community-based,” he observed. “A lot of families come out and watch, too.” Plus, they’d like to see the club grow.

“It would be great to have the men’s and women’s teams practice together,” noted Freeze Captain Andrew Werner, a Nokomis resident, but it is difficult to do now because of how the fields are arranged. “The sport is community-based,” he observed. “A lot of families come out and watch, too.” Plus, they’d like to see the club grow.

The groups need fields that are larger than soccer fields, such as two soccer fields side-by-side, to play a game. The Gaelic team can’t use the fields as they are now due to the number of potholes, unlevel surfaces, and gopher holes.

Urban ag area at Hiawatha
Another change being considered to the master plan was driven by a community desire to be able to harvest fruit in the park, explained Arvidson.

The current plan calls for naturalizing the landscape along the east side of Lake Hiawatha and eliminating much of the grassy lawn. The proposed change would replace the naturalized landscape with an urban agriculture area that would include foraging in a woodland environment.

If this is approved, citizens would still be prohibited from harvesting at the site until the park board changes its anti-foraging ordinance, which was recommended in the Urban Agriculture Plan approved in 2014. The park board is currently working on modifying the Vegetation Molestation Ordinance to allow for harvesting within designated areas, according to Arvidson.

No-Hi Master Plan 2Photo right: Minnesota Freeze men’s team captain Andrew Werner discusses athletic field configurations with fellow football and hurling players during an open house on Thursday, May 25, 2017. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

In the future, the MPRB intends to include a list online with an interactive map showing people where they can harvest food.

Some residents are also pushing MPRB to create a food forest at the Hiawatha Golf Course site, which would not be mutually exclusive from an urban agricultural area on the east side of Lake Hiawatha, said Arvidson. The golf course property is not included within the Nokomis-Hiawatha Master Plan.

Funding tricky
The financing of the fields will be tricky, as regional park dollars can’t be spent on athletic fields, which are considered as neighborhood park amenities, explained Arvidson. Regional park systems tend to be nature-based recreational systems. Neighborhood parks, in contrast, can’t get state or regional funding or access Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment funds.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis seeks to avoid using neighborhood tax dollars for capital improvements in the 19 regional park facilities within the city.

No-Hi Master Plan 1Photo left: Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board employee Siciid Ali (left) discusses possible changes to the Nokomis-Hiawatha Master Plan with Nokomis resident Alan Schneider, who has helped with the Naturescape Gardens over the years. He is concerned that park staff is mowing too much of the natural gardens near the trails. He also hopes that planners continue to leave space for pick-up soccer games in the park. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Arvidson observed that 47 million people a year use the metro-area regional parks, while 10 million visit state parks. The second most popular regional park in Minnesota is the Chain of Lakes Park in Minneapolis with 5.5 million visitors each year.

“Four of the top five most visited parks in the regional park system are in Minneapolis,” said Arvidson. He’s frustrated that the state legislature has excluded these popular areas from bonding bills.

MPRB will likely consider the changes to the Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park plan and public comments at its July 19 meeting, which will begin at 5pm at 2117 W. River Rd. N.

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