Friends rally to fund New Richmond parks
Two new "friends" organizations have organized in support of two New Richmond parks.
According to Joe Kerlin, director of parks and recreation, a "Friends of Freedom Park" and "Friends of the Dog Park" have begun meeting and planning for the future.
The "Friends of Freedom Park" group is made up of local residents, young people, American Legion members and VFW members. Their first order of business is raising money to install an irrigation system in the soccer fields at Freedom Park (the former Hatfield Lake Regional Park).
"If we don't water those fields on a regular basis, they won't be beneficial fields," Kerlin said, noting that the unwatered ground is too hard for players to safely compete on.
According to Kerlin, cost estimates to install a well and irrigate four soccer fields is about $100,000.
Kerlin said the "Friends of Freedom Park" is seeking out donors for the project. Youth sports organizations are being asked to budget funds over the next five years to complete the effort.
The group is also planning fundraisers to benefit the park, including "Freedom Fest" later in the year.
If all goes according to plan, Kerlin said Freedom Park backers hope to start the first phase of the irrigation process in 2013.
"We're hoping to get something done this year," he said, "even if it's just putting the well in."
A "Friends of the Dog Park" group has also formed to begin raising money for a proposed facility on the city's old landfill property, in the northwest corner of the community.
Kerlin said the "Friends of the Dog Park" needs to raise half of the $5,750 needed to develop and open the new park. The city's park dedication fund will pick up the other half of the cost.
To raise the necessary funds, Kerlin said the volunteer organization hopes to start selling "memberships" to people wanting to use such a dog park.
The goal is to have the park open and available to dogs and their owners sometime in 2013, Kerlin said.
The "Friends" group is also writing and adopting rules related to the proper use of the dog park once it is open to the public.
In other park news, work continues on a possible new skate park in New Richmond. Backers of a skate park have been debating the idea for many years, but nothing has ever worked out.
Now, several members of the recent New Richmond Leadership Trust Initiative class have resurrected the idea and are pushing ahead with its possible development.
Recently a survey of local students was conducted and strong interest in a skate park was identified.
Of the 1,090 elementary, middle and high school students who completed the survey, 18 percent (about 200 kids) said they would likely use a skate park on a daily or weekly basis. Some 12 percent (135 students) said they would use it monthly, if available.
According to Kerlin, one idea is to possibly install the skate park on two tennis courts near the New Richmond Middle School.
Before that idea goes much further, Kerlin said the group has to meet further with school district officials and with neighbors to gain their input.
"There's a lot of work to do yet," he said.
For members of the public who want to be a part of future park development, Kerlin said opportunities are approaching.
According to Kerlin, the Park Board and department will be holding two community meetings, March 27 and April 24, during the regular scheduled Park Board meetings. Input from the community will be added to the city's five-year Outdoor Recreation Plan. This plan is used as a work guide and needs to be part of the County's plan to have the ability to apply for state and federal grants.