Peter Bodley

Contributing Writer

Wargo will get updated displays

Three projects proposed in Anoka County regional parks will receive funding totaling nearly $1.7 million from the metro parks and trails legacy grant program.

The Anoka County Board July 9 approved agreements with the Metropolitan Council for the 2019 grant allocation, which comes from the 3/8 of 1% sales tax increase approved by Minnesota voters in 2008.

The bulk of the funding, $1 million, is for the reconstruction of the Bunker Beach Wave Pool in Bunker Hills Regional Park, while $350,000 is earmarked for upgrading the interpretive displays at Wargo Nature Center in Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve, and $315,000 will purchase a parcel adjacent to Rum River Central Regional Park.

The county is planning to replace the wave pool on the existing footprint, plus add a children’s area and a new restroom at a cost of $6.5 million. Of that amount, $2.5 million will be paid for through legacy grants, and the county will pay the balance of $4 million.

The county chose this option after a study of the long-term structural and mechanical needs of the water park and the wave pool by Counsilman-Hunsacker & Associates, a St. Louis-based consultant. According to the study, the project is estimated to increase attendance by 15,725 each year and boost annual revenues by $322,000.

The proposed new restroom is needed to handle the increased capacity, said Jeff Perry, county parks director.

The wave pool, which was built in 1988, has reached the end of its useful life, with the concrete structure degrading. Short-term repairs completed before the 2018 season will only keep the wave pool operating through 2020, but not beyond, Perry said.

The county will get another $1.5 million in legacy dollars as part of its annual allocation in 2020.

The county’s share of the cost is currently under consideration in the capital improvement budgeting process, which culminates in County Board approval of the 2020 capital improvements program budget at the end of the year, according to Perry.

Construction is expected to run September 2020 to May 2021, according to Cory Hinz, county recreation services manager.

The state legacy money also includes improvements to other water park features, such as the lazy river and slide towers, Perry said.

As for the Wargo Nature Center project, the $350,000 plan will update and add new interpretive displays at the center with work expected to take place in early 2020. The existing interpretive displays have been at Wargo Nature Center since it opened in 1994 and are outdated, according to Perry.

For the addition to Rum River Central Regional Park, the County Board July 9 approved a contract to complete the purchase of 5 acres of property on the 18000 block of Roanoke Street Northwest, Ramsey, for $300,000, plus closing costs and fees, which is the market value set by the county’s appraisal.

“We have a willing seller,” Perry said.

The 5-acre parcel, which is surrounded by the park, includes oak forest and two buildings, a vacant house and garage, which are in good condition and will be repurposed for storage and programming, according to Perry.

“This will be a great addition to the park,” said Commissioner Mike Gamache, who chairs the board’s Parks Committee.

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