Nancy Edmonds Hanson
Despite some neighbors’ objections, a bike trail along the northern edge of Southside Regional Park will proceed as planned.
Four residents whose yards back up to the park along 33rd Avenue South approached the Moorhead City Council in mid-August about several planned improvements at the park – a bike trail being extended along the north shore of the pond in the park’s corner and a proposed pedestrian crossing of 30th Avenue to which the trail connects. Their comments prompted the council to ask the city engineering department to explore the possibility of moving the path across the pond, further from their property. The council also asked city staff to meet to discuss their concerns – a session last week that failed to reach a consensus.
On Monday, city engineer Bob Zimmerman reported back to the council. He pegged the cost of the change at $36,000, with no source of funding identified. He and assistant engineer Tom Trowbridge laid out the reasoning for the original route, which connects the regional park to the rest of the citywide bikeway while leaving other areas open for future recreational facilities.
As for residents’ privacy concerns, Trowbridge pointed to similar bike and walking paths in other new Moorhead neighborhoods, many falling far closer to property lines than the 50-foot minimum for the bike being debated. A check with Moorhead Police showed only two calls over the past 18 months directly related to park usage.
Council member Chuck Hendrickson agreed with the residents’ central complaint that they should have been informed and consulted before construction began adjacent to their homes. “It’s been 12 years since the master plan was developed,” he pointed out. “They should have been informed and given a chance to comment before this work started. It’s a lesson learned, but it comes too late now to resolve all their concerns.”
Council member Steve Gehrtz moved to relocate the pathway to the south route, but his resolution failed. Several members objected to making an unfunded last-minute alteration to the existing construction contract. Council member Sara Watson Curry also questioned how the change would affect connectivity between the regional park and the rest of the bikeway system. “This is a public facility,” she said. “I stand by the Southside Regional Park master plan.”
The net result: Bike path construction will continue along the original route, and the mid-block pedestrian crossing on 30th Avenue will also be installed in coming days. Completion is scheduled for early this fall.
Moorhead Community Funds Established
Moorhead parks and arts supporters now have a new way to help underwrite improvements in Moorhead’s public areas – the Moorhead Community Fund and Community Endowed Fund. Council members voted unanimously to establish both funds to channel tax-deductible contributions to donors’ pet projects, ranging from the proposed inclusive playground for children with physical challenges to new ways to beautify and celebrate the city.
The charitable funds grew out of a suggestion by council member Brenda Elmer in 2017 to establish a foundation primarily to benefit parks and recreation initiatives. Her suggestion was inspired, she says, by the success of the five-year-old Legacy Foundation, which raises scholarship funds for Moorhead students.
Parks Director Holly Heitkamp and the Parks and Rec Advisory Committee investigated alternative structures, settling on an agreement with the F-M Area Foundation to manage the two dedicated funds.
Mayor Del Rae Williams announced what may become the first gift to the Moorhead Community Fund – a donation of $25,000 by an anonymous donor to the Arts Commission. It will be used for public art around the theme “Moorhead Proud.” The same donor, she said, is also interested in supporting the installation of bicycle racks
City Offers Pre-Election Overview
All candidates for the mayor and council seats have been invited to a session on Moorhead government basics. City manager Chris Volkers told council members that heads of city departments and the F-M Diversion will be on hand Wednesday, Sept. 5, to provide overviews on their operations and field questions about specific issues being raised during campaigns.