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Funding shortage could stall some park upgrades in Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park

Plans for new roadways and parking lots at Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park are funded for construction next year, but 2020 improvements are at risk unless new funding methods are found. (Submitted photo)

Plans are being finalized for improvements in and around Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park, but some work is in jeopardy as funding slips away.

Funding for phased park projects was sought in a state bonding bill earlier this year, but the Minnesota Legislature did not pass the bill. Some funding would come from Metropolitan Council bonding as well, but County Engineer Wayne Sandberg said the Met Council generally “only bonds if the state does.”

Funding is secured for the first phase of improvements to Ravine Regional Park. That includes a new access road and parking lots, as well as about a four-mile stretch of multi-modal trail connection from a new park entrance on Keats Avenue (CSAH 19) to Bailey Road (CSAH 18) in Woodbury. Construction is planned for April to October 2017.

Phase two construction was planned for 2020, but could be stalled because of a funding shortage. This phase would include play structures, a fishing pier, picnic areas, improved trails and restrooms. The estimated cost for these amenities is $1.25 million. State sales tax funds account for $250,000 of the cost, leaving $1 million unaccounted for that was expected to come from state bonding.

“For the first time since the park system was developed, there is no money because there was no bonding bill, so there is no money for metro parks,” Washington County Commissioner Karla Bigham said at a Cottage Grove workshop Nov. 16. “Not only is that second phase in jeopardy, it’s also Lake Elmo (Park Reserve) and all the other county parks that we have second phases going into.”

Sandberg said if there is a continued lack of state-bonded park funding, some phased park projects “could die or be put on hold indefinitely.”

“This trend concerns us, because any future phase will need bonding,” he said. “If this happens again, we won’t have the funding…We don’t know what the future holds.”

Grants or other funding options could be pursued, but the parks couldn’t be fully funded without state bonding.

“There are other types, but this is such an important piece,” Sandberg said.

The Point Douglas Trail running from Highway 61 in Hastings to Prescott may be at risk as well, as the next phase of the project also depended on bonding.

“Not passing [the bonding bill] puts a lot of infrastructure at risk,” Sandberg said.

During the first phase of park construction, the entrance to the park will also change from East Point Douglas Road to Keats Avenue, across from a future development site.

“The new access point will offer increased visibility, we believe it will also give us an increased number of visitors to the park,” Grant Wyffels said. “It’s a gem of the park that we feel is underutilized, and this new road will provide access and exposure to the park.”

All parts of the Ravine Regional Park project are expected to cost about $3 million.

MnDOT bridge repair to match construction schedule

Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park improvements will coincide with the construction of a six-legged roundabout connecting East Point Douglas Road, Highway 61 and Keats Avenue/CSAH 19.

Washington County Parks Director John Elholm said Minnesota Department of Transportation planned to complete rehab work on the CSAH 19 bridge above Highway 61 in 2018, but they may have talked them into moving up the project to decrease closure time.

“MnDOT has agreed to try and accelerate to try and get them done at the same time,” he said. “I think we’re in pretty good shape with the commitment we’ve got there. We’re going to save them traffic control, we’re going to save them costs.”

When the Highway 61 ramps and southbound CSAH 19 are closed, MnDOT will most likely be doing maintenance and repair work on the bridge. The detour route is expected to be Jamaica Avenue to 80th Street.

“We’d like to see that done; we don’t want to disrupt our residents multiple times, and our businesses too,” Bigham said.