Hansen Park reconstruction should be ‘largely done’ this fall


courtesy of City of New Brighton • Grandview Apartments residents watched helplessly as their parking lot and cars flooded following a superstorm in 2011 in New Brighton. In an effort to prevent future flooding, the Rice Creek Watershed District and New Brighton have undertaken a $4.8 million water storage reconstruction project at Hansen Park, which should be mostly complete this year.

Long project aims to decrease chances of flooding

 

A pair of 100-year rain events — or superstorms with a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year — battered New Brighton in 2011, causing flooding. 

City pipes and stormwater storage systems were overwhelmed, said New Brighton City Manager Dean Lotter. He and Director of Community Assets and Development Craig Schlichting have videos and pictures of residents in various parts of the city dealing with the immediate aftermath. 

There’s a video of a resident walking out of her home, fording her now shallow pond of a yard towards her street, which is completely submerged in flowing water, bypassing the vexxed drains. There’s a picture of cars in the Grandview Apartments parking lot almost entirely underwater and residents helplessly standing around. One photo catches a resident venturing to help unclog a drain himself outside a mobile home park, bent over, his hands plunged in knee-high, murky-brown water. 

In an effort to better prevent such sights in the future, explain the city officials, the Rice Creek Watershed District and New Brighton undertook a $4.8 million dollar reconstruction of the ponding basin and dam at Hansen Park, in order to increase the amount of water that Hansen Pond and the stormwater system at the park, a low point in the city, can handle.

The climate, said Schlichting, is trending toward an uptick in superstorms.

Beyond project aims of increasing water storage by dredging the pond at the park, which was originally constructed in 1969, the work also includes increasing the size of underground pipes for greater water flow, and the project should improve the overall quality of water that passes through the New Brighton stormwater system, said Schlichting. 

The watershed district received a $3 million Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources grant in 2014, half of which will go towards the work on Hansen Pond. The rest of the funding will be raised through smaller grants and the watershed district’s tax base, which covers four counties and 186 square miles.

The project began with a petition in 2013 and, after experiencing delays due to bad-working conditions during some abnormally warm winter months, is set to be “largely done” this fall, said Schlichting. 

The remaining pond dredging should finish this year, according to Schlichting, and trail work, grading and revegetation will be done in the summer. Also scheduled this summer is the paving of the trail on the westside of the park, and the water level in Hansen Pond returning to normal. 

 

Project impact 

on park neighbors

According to Schlichting, there were multiple open houses and neighborhood meetings explaining the stakes of the water management project and to explain what will happen to the park

The stakes of the project are particularly high for those who, in the words of Lotter, have the “least amount of bandwidth” to deal with the disruption and damage of flooding — renters whose cars were flooded in 2011 and people living in mobile home parks.

The city began making residents and Hansen Park neighbors aware of plans to use the ballfield areas for permanent soil storage, according to Schlichting, during New Brighton Parks, Recreation and Environmental Commission meetings multiple times in both the months of March and November 2015. 

Still, some residents neighboring Hansen Park have voiced concern via social media or directly to the city about what the stormwater storage reconstruction would do to the utility and aesthetic of the park. 

Two of the “lowest quality fields,” according to Schlichting, were lost to the project, both being used to store dredged materials from the pond. Lotter said moving such material, dirt, essentially, is very expensive. 

The watershed district and city struck a money-saving deal to let any non-hazardous materials sit at the park. The city agreed to remove the fields in exchange for $200,000 up front and a possible additional $100,000 after the project is done, according to Schlichting. 

For now, said Schlichting, the dirt-dump site will be mowed turf grass. The first $200,000 lump from the deal went towards the newly constructed lighted ballfield at New Brighton Lions Park that should be ready in about a year, and the rest of the money will be used to improve and convert the adult fields at Hansen Park for youth use. 

Though some residents have groused over the work and its piles of dirt, a recent survey of Hansen Park neighbors found other residents who appreciate the work, even if they’d like to see it finished.

This year marks the 50th that Joe Nesser has lived right next to Hansen Park. He said the city began construction on Hansen shortly after he built his home, and he had “no qualms” with the construction then, or the water management reconstruction now. 

“We love the park,” said Nesser, speaking on behalf of his wife, children and grandchildren, who he says enjoy walking the trail. Nesser said his wife has to take a “detour” on her typical routine, but doesn’t mind, because, overall, they are “happy with what [the city is] doing there.”

Bill Zilka, standing in his driveway facing the park and coiling a long green hose around his right shoulder, said he’s had no problem with water management reconstruction — noise or dirt or anything else. He would, however, like to see it completely finished. Said Zilka, “It’s taking a long time.”

 

– Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815

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