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Town, Village talk trails, parks

Ten people braved missing the Packer-Viking game on Monday to attend the joint committee meeting between the Town and Village Parks and Recreation.

Members of Vision 64 were also in attendance as Ryan Sicard, Parks and Rec Chair for the Village of Somerset, presented copies of the Village's Outdoor Recreation Plan for 2007-2012.

"The real meat of it is pages 14-23," Sicard said, referring to maps of the 11 parks/natural areas within the Village of Somerset. Each location has a "Specific Action Recommendations" list.

Larry Forrest Memorial Park, for example, has recommendations for baseball field lighting, Little League field lighting, blacktopping and striping the parking lot, identifying areas for additional parking, adding fence and batting cages, adding bleachers and a sign.

"These are real simple maps of the parks and what kind of park we want to make it," Sicard explained.

The Outdoor Recreation Plan was designed with both short and long-term plans in mind.

"We applied for the Safe Routes to School grant to connect Somerset Meadows to the schools, but our project didn't score high enough to be funded," Sicard said. "We are looking at other options."

Sicard told the group that the Village committee completed the plan but he wanted to connect with other communities to see what they need.

Denise Gunderson, Town supervisor, said that organizing all the community groups would help secure funding for ball fields, for instance.

"There is a whole lot of preparation in setting up fields, if you are going to do it the right way," Gunderson said. "It will cost a lot more."

"The days of just going out and making a field - those days are gone," Sicard said, citing grading that must be done, stormwater drainage that had to be addressed, etc.

Gunderson introduced a recent news story about the Forest Lake Athletic Association building a new facility strictly using donations and volunteer labor. She suggested that before Somerset is able to undertake such a task, the sports groups need to be organized under one umbrella.

"That's why we need an athletic association," Gunderson said. "We (the Town and Village) are entities that can work with a tax base, but we need to know what they need."

"Having an association tell us what their needs are, then they will have part ownership in getting things done," Sicard added. He also said that with the current tax base, the Village has no plans to independently build any more fields.

Gunderson said the Town of Somerset received a 60/40 grant from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to put in more parking stalls and a new fishing pier at Pine Lake. She also suggested the Parks and Recreation committees visit Afton, Wis. to look at their ballfields. They are not on a flat field but at different elevations.

"That would save on field cost and stormwater issues," Sicard commented.

Doug Hoskin, co-owner of the St. Croix National Golf Course, was on hand to offer the use of his facility for the community. Among his suggestions were opening the grounds during the winter for cross-country skiing, snowboarding or tubing. He also suggested using the 300-person banquet building as a community center.

"We've had a good year, golf-wise," Hoskin said. "But we have an events center that is only used 10 percent of the time. We're not looking for handouts, but just a collaboration with the Village and Town as to what the community needs."

Gunderson said when the Town had considered purchasing the property back in January, one of the things she thought of was using the pond behind the clubhouse as an old-fashioned, outdoor skating rink.

"I could just see people skating outside, sitting on hay bales, and having the facility open for hot chocolate," Gunderson commented.

Jenny Gaden, Town resident, said that all the ideas were good, but useless without getting people to know about them.

"One of the challenges is making people aware of all the possibilities," Gaden said.

"We need some organization, we need to pull the sporting organizations together too because those parents are active," Peggy Grubbs, of Vision 64, added. "They have to see the benefit of working as a community."

The Town of Somerset's Parks and Recreation committee had just completed its Parks and Recreation plan last Wednesday. Gunderson said collaborating with the Village should be a given.

"I want it not to be a 'you' and 'us,'" Gunderson said to the group. "We have to work together."

"We've come a long way," Sicard said. "Ten years ago it was a 'them' and 'us' situation but the culture is changing."