Community input sought on proposed TRF splash park

by April Scheinoha

    The Thief River Falls City Council is seeking community input on a location for a proposed splash park. At its meeting Tuesday, Nov. 15, the council heard a presentation on the proposal.
    A splash park is a water play area that has little or no standing water. Construction estimates range from $285,200 to $451,900 depending upon the city park selected for the proposed splash park. City staff have estimated water usage at $5,000 annually.
    A committee has completed preliminary work for a splash park. The council has yet to vote on whether to move forward with construction. If approved, it is expected that the city would facilitate a fundraising campaign and seek grant funds for the project.
    The city has $240,103 in its Swimming Pool Fund, according to the 2015 city audit. No mention was made of using the Swimming Pool Fund at the council meeting or in material provided to the council.
    “At this point, we’re not recommending any specific property,” said City Administrator Rod Otterness. He expected that the city would gather community input about a possible location and then complete a deeper analysis that was site-specific.
    “This is an immediate and positive addition to the city,” said Council Member Josh Hagen. He noted that a splash park could be constructed as soon as next summer. Hagen added that a splash park would draw more people, including those in their 20s and 30s, to the city.
    For the past three months, Otterness, Hagen and a committee of four community members met and studied all 18 city parks as potential locations. The parks were evaluated based on nine criteria:
    • Storm water
    • Bathrooms
    • Playground equipment
    • Parking
    • Visibility/signage
    • Sufficient size
    • Safety
    • Accessibility to biking/walking
    • Accessibility to amenities like restaurants and other activities
    With assistance from city staff, they narrowed the list down to Hartz Park, Bill LaFave Park, Northrop Park and Floyd B. Olson Park.
Hartz Park
    With regard to Hartz Park, several options were presented. One option would be to build the splash park across from the pedestrian bridge at a cost of $285,200.
    Bathrooms are available at the park; however, some committee members were concerned about the distance from the bathrooms to the splash park. If a bathroom facility were constructed closer to that proposed site, costs would increase. That option is estimated to cost $357,200.
    Another option would be to build a splash park north of the bathroom facility. However, a retaining wall would need to be constructed. That option is estimated to cost $451,900.
Bill LaFave Park
    Bill LaFave Park has also been proposed as a site for a splash park. Otterness noted that no fencing would be needed at that location, which features the beach. Its playground equipment, however, doesn’t rank as high as playground equipment at Hartz, Lions and Northrop parks. If that option were chosen, Otterness noted that the bathrooms would be remodeled. That option is estimated to cost $287,100.
Northrop Park
    Another option was Northrop Park with a cost estimate of $298,900. However, Otterness noted that visibility may be an issue with regard to that location.
Floyd B. Olson Park
    Visibility wouldn’t be an issue at Floyd B. Olson Park, another option presented. However, Otterness noted there are no bathrooms at the park. He said that the city could make an argument, given the number of events currently held there, that bathrooms are needed. That option is estimated to cost $356,500.
Eliminated parks
    Lions Park and Annie Street Park were among the parks eliminated from contention. Otterness said the Lions Park frisbee golf course would have to be redesigned or relocated if a splash park were added at that location. He indicated that parking was also an issue there.
    Annie Street Park was eliminated since there are no bathrooms, parking or playground equipment there.
    The committee presentation will be available on the city website ( A community survey about potential locations is also expected to be on the website.