Reaching park’s potential

The Minot Park Board commissioners gathered Tuesday at the Roosevelt Park Zoo visitor center for a re-evaluation of Centennial Park plans.

The 88-acre park had been planned to mark the board’s 100th anniversary in 2011, which in addition to the Jack Hoeven Park baseball fields and the Minot Bark Park already there had conceptualized a number of different trails and recreational facilities set against a backdrop of open greenspace.

The project was delayed extensively by the onset of Minot’s 2011 flood. In the nearly two years since, additional projects have been proposed, most notably three fastpitch softball fields that would help meet the rapidly growing needs of the community’s local programs. Now that their necessity has been established and the funding hammered out, the next challenge is where exactly to site them.

“We have a couple of suggestions for how to configure them,” said parks director Ron Merritt.

The leading idea is having them on the north side of the gravel road that bisects Centennial, connecting the Highway 83 bypass with 7th Avenue Southwest. While on the one hand this would mean the dog park would have to stay where it is, having the softball fields next to the baseball complex would have its benefits.

“There would be some efficiencies having those next to each other,” Merritt explained, listing shared use of maintenance equipment and facilities. Parking could be an issue when both complexes host simultaneous events and additional seasonal positions would be needed, but the general consensus was that it would be a better use of space to keep everything north of the road.

“I think I would prefer, if possible, to keep the softball facilities on the north side of that road,” said commissioner Connie Feist. “There’s so much nice space (to the south) I think it would be a shame to just have diamonds there.” In part because of its proximity to the river and location in the flood plain, under present conditions the south side of the road would probably be unsuitable for more established amenities.

“To have an expensive location in the flood plain, I don’t think that’s a wise thing to do,” said board commissioner Cliff Hovda.

Instead, simpler facilities and amenities would be preferred, focused more on greenspace, tree cover, and possibly even the amphitheatre or band shell being considered at Oak Park. The lack of parking there caused concerns that the park would not be up to hosting major events.

“We’re going to run out of space for some of the other ideas we had before,” admitted Merritt.

One of the ideas most likely scrapped from the Centennial plan will be the proposed skating pond, due to plans for one to be created nearby elsewhere. A pedestrian bridge linking the two sides of the Souris River is also being questioned, in terms of cost and effort needed to acquire the necessary permits for the structure. Under the current plans drawn up by engineering firm Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson two years ago, there were also concerns raised that a proposed frisbee golf course and fishing access would be too far from road or parking access to get much use.

No binding decisions were made at the meeting, which was more of a preliminary discussion to see how the commissioners felt about the Centennial Park project. Over the coming weeks and months the pieces to that plan should fall into place.

“If we’re going to do it, it should be done right. It shouldn’t be squeezed in,” said commissioner Robert Petry.

Even the gravel road can be diverted and rearranged, if need be; at the present nothing is set in stone, much less asphalt.