Coming up this week: Ames Park and fiber optics

skate-plazaAmes Park and the skate plaza top Monday’s Council worksession agenda.    Back at the February 23 worksession, the Council reviewed several concept plans for Ames Park which I discussed here.   In February, the Council directed staff to review these concerns:

  • Access through Malt-O-Meal property: staff report says: M-O-M will work to prevent this by building a fence.  Fair enough, they’ve got liability issues and apparently they are also concerned with food contamination.
  • Pick-up/Drop Off Lanes: staff says another request to MNDot on this issues was “not met favorably.”
  • Parking: Water Street parking improvements mean more parking is available.
  • 5th Street Bridge Safety: Staff report indicates a 10′ wide sidewalk with a railing between the sidewalk and travel lane is possible – a big improvement.

Since I’m generally in favor of the skate plaza in this location, I keep trying to test my position by anticipating the unintended (bad) consequences of putting a skate plaza in Ames Park.  Check out the revised plans for Ames Park and a rendering of a skate plaza design

Safety: I’m not an uncaring person who throws children under the wheels of cars, but I do think safety is, if you will, a 2 way street.  We should make the facility as safe as possible and (especially) work to improve the pedestrian access in this area.   Providing safe (and obvious) ways for walkers, skateboarders and cyclists cross Highway 3 should be a priority for not just for a skate plaza but for linking the west side to downtown – the skate plaza and improved park could be a great catalyst for doing this.  However, skateboarders and others need to know how to cross streets and play as safely as possible under the circumstances and the city is not primarily responsible for teaching these skills.

Impact on local businesses: While campaigning, I talked to one downtown business person who was convinced Ames Park is a poor location for a skate plaza because kids would also just hang around downtown and cause problems for local businesses.   I’m still thinking about this one.    I can imagine problems with unsupervised kids (with or without skateboards), but would the skatepark in Ames Park make this worse?    And, what is the city  responsibility for teaching kids good behavior?  What is the proper law enforcement/public safety role here?

Long term success of Ames Park:  Ames Park has a central, but not particularly peaceful location in the center Northfield (Compare Central Park or Way Park and their surroundings).    I really like the idea of a dynamic, well-designed skate plaza in Ames Park – fun to watch from the new Water Street promenade and easy to walk to once improvements have been made to the 5th Street bridge.   I like the idea of providing places for kids downtown – a park, The Key, the library.     I’m imagining Ames Park as a kind of crossroads linking the east and west sides of downtown and the city (I am looking ahead to that improved Highway 3 crossing in this dream).    There are still questions: what about the site of the current Safety Center?   How can Ames Park serve to guide people to the Mill Towns bike trail?  Should skateboarding lose its appeal, how can this part of the park be redeveloped?

My bottom line: how can we make this work?

Beyond the work session

Fiber Optics: the fiber optic working group meets for the first time on Tuesday.  I’m still reading the complete report from CCG and supporting materials.  Stay tuned…

Council roles and responsibilities session 6:30 to 8:30 at City Hall: This is a chance to discuss the best way to perform our policy-making functions in relation to the staff responsibility to carry out our recommendations.  More after the session.