Nancy Edmonds Hanson
The Parks and Recreation Department is inviting Moorhead residents — particular the neighbors — to tell them what they’d like to see in Romkey Park.
“We’re brainstorming ideas,” parks director Holly Heitkamp says. “The municipal pool has been tired for years and years. Instead of telling the community how the pool and the park should look in the future, we’re doing it right — asking first what the community, and especially the neighborhood, would like to see there.”
Dubbed “Reimagine Romkey Park,” the proposal stems from the possibility of qualifying for a $10 million federal grant. In preparation for applying for the grant from the Department of the Interior, due Dec. 20, the department is opening up the possibilities that lie in renewing the park and replacing the old pool.
The municipal pool — the only outdoor public all-ages facility in Moorhead — was built in 1958. Heitkamp notes that the typical life of an outdoor pool in this climate is 25 to 35 years: “At 64 years old, it’s no wonder it needs help.” Some repairs have been made over the years. The heater and pumps have been replaced in years gone by. A new liner was installed in the concrete to stem its leaks last summer.
New playground equipment was installed in the park last summer. Along with the pool and rec center building, it now offers a small food forest and basketball and bocce ball courts.
At an open house Monday in the Romkey Park Neighborhood Recreation Center, the parks department displayed graphics suggesting the kinds of amenities that “reimagining” could bring to the 7-acre Romkey parkland on 20th Street South. Among them: a skate park; a splash pad; a wading pool/zero entry pool; a diving board or slide; tennis, pickleball and sand volleyball courts; seating areas and passive spaces; a community room within the park building; a sledding hill; a skating rink; soccer field; an expansion of the food forest; public art; and an open-air shelter.
The grant for which the city is applying would come from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund’s Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership. To qualify, the project must “serve communities severely lacking in walkable, accessible outdoor recreation,” known as a “park desert.” According to the grant guidelines, it must also have a poverty rate of at least 20%, or at least 10% higher than that of the surrounding city, county and state.
Heitkamp notes that, coincidentally, Romkey Park sits amidst other neighborhood developments. To the west and north, Minnesota State University Moorhead is already planning upgrades to the playing fields adjacent to the park. The Cass Clay Land Trust, meanwhile, has purchased the empty lot directly south of the park on 20th Street, and is starting to formulate plans for a facility that would combine a child-care facility and other services on the ground floor with affordable condominium-style housing on upper floors.
The Parks Department handed out surveys at its open house Monday to gather ideas. The same survey is available online, along with more information on what can be reimagined. Public comments are being accepted through Friday, Nov. 18. The website URL is bit.ly/3sCvoIG.