Bolstered by a recent $250,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, construction of Waconia’s Inclusive Playground could begin next year targeting completion by June 30, 2023.
The city recently learned of the award through the DNR’s outdoor recreation grant program, which assists local governments in acquiring parkland and developing outdoor recreation facilities.
The playground for children of all abilities and developmental stages was initiated in 2017. It’s in the city’s capital improvement plan for 2022 and has been the subject of a large fundraising campaign and special events. The city also has applied for a grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, established in memory of the late actor, paralyzed in an accident, which awards funding on a national and local level to support individuals with disabilities.
Total cost for playground equipment and accessible surfacing is projected at around $600,000. The goal is to fundraise approximately $400,000 for the project, not including grants. Just over $2460,000 has been raised to date, according to the city’s August newsletter.
“It’s exciting that we are reaching the point where playground equipment will finally be put in place,” said council member Pete Leo, who has been active in support of the playground as a member of the park board and now on the city council.
The playground is proposed for Waterford Park, which has become an active park with use expected to grow with recent housing developments to the south. In addition to the playground, plans are being laid for an additional park building with restrooms and possibly a pavilion or community center.
The playground and park will be the subject of park board meetings and city council budget discussion coming up this fall, according to Leo.
In other city news, two infrastructure projects are expected to begin soon. One is a project on Waconia Parkway South, a package of corridor improvements, including a roundabout at Pond Lane and future Wildflower Way of The Fields development. Also, a traffic signal at Oak Avenue and the closure of Oak Avenue to Kinder Drive, plus the addition of turn lanes and pedestrian enhancements along the parkway.
The project will be spread over the fall and the spring of 2022, according to the city’s August newsletter. Additional work includes storm sewer improvements between Farmline Road and Strong Drive.
The second project slated to start soon is linking Eight Street and East Frontage Road just south Highway 5. A first step in that project is construction of a municipal parking lot for locaI businesses in the corridor.
A portion of the former UFC parcel has been acquired for that purpose, with parking lot construction expected to begin this month in advance of the road improvement project.
The city also has been mulling plans for replacement of its 40-year-old fire station. Among the issues with existing building are: health and safety concerns related to vehicle exhaust and ventilation; limited space for training, storage and firefighter accommodations; also, growth of the city and emergency response concerns. With the city expanding to the south and west, the Maple Street location is no longer the center of the community.
So, as part of a needs, space and location analysis study authorized this spring, the city is considering two possible parcels for a new fire station south of Highway 5.
The study also involves an evaluation of renovating the existing fire station. A full report and council decision on the fire station is expected in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, with over 50 percent of the state experiencing severe drought, the DNR is evaluating if cities need to take more extreme water restrictions.
The city of Waconia already has watering restrictions, with residents and businesses with addresses ending in an odd number able to water on odd numbered calendar days and even numbered addresses on even calendar days. Also, watering is not permitted between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.
The help to limit water usage during peak periods and assist the city to ensure there is enough water for basic needs and fire protection, according to city officials.
If additional restrictions are required, the city will publish those on its website waconia.org and the city Facebook page.