By Jack Lavold, Washington County Commissioner, District 4
I love parks, and I have just fallen in love all over again. Anyone who was able to make it to the reopened Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park — or, as I say, my park — over the weekend of June 22-24 knows what I am talking about.
The park was closed for a bit more than a year because, like so many of us, it was showing its age. Anyone who has skied or walked it for the past decades could see that it needed a facelift. The parking lots were beat up, and the roadways were getting potholed. More than that, the roadway into the park would flood when the lake got too high.
And that's what you could see from the road! Those of you who joined us over the reopening weekend saw the new parking lots, the paved trail and the new ADA-accessible playground. I love the new squishy padding on the playground — I have great-grandchildren now, and I want their little knees and elbows to be well padded when they take a tumble.
The new entrance off of Keats Avenue makes the park more visible to drivers, and eliminates any chance of the roadway into the park flooding.
The newly-paved trail through the ravine is a delight. While I know that many residents spend time skiing the trails through the pine stands in the back of the park, and some hikers are happy to go along some of the grassy trails, my preference these days is to use the paved trail that takes walkers and bikers through the ravine.
That's where you will find out why the park was closed for as long as it was. All along the ravine are new culverts and rock beds and retaining walls, as well as new swales through the pine trees. Everyone in the neighborhood can see that more homes are being built in both Cottage Grove and Woodbury, and when those new roofs and driveways and sidewalks get built, the rainwater and snowmelt running off them has to go somewhere. That's why the ravine was refitted with the rocks and culverts, to guide all that water into the Mississippi River without tearing out the bottom of the ravine along the way.
At the same time, views should be a little clearer, especially along the unpaved trails. Like so much of our parkland, the woods were overrun with buckthorn. A lot of that was tore out, allowing the little oaks and other native trees a chance to survive.
Long-time community members will be amazed at the improvements to the park that they have known and loved for so long, and I hope they will come by soon to see it. For those of you who have never seen our crown jewel of a park, I hope you come on down soon to see the best park in the metro area.