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7 things to know about proposed Silver Lake Park master plan

Proposed revisions to Silver Lake Park calls to replace pool with splash pad, but includes option to change direction.

Silver Lake master plan pic.jpg
A map shows the proposed master plan items for Silver Lake Park.
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ROCHESTER — A proposed multi-phased update to Silver Lake Park would cost an estimated $14 million to $17.6 million.

The Rochester City Council reviewed a draft of the Silver Lake master plan Monday as the final Rochester Park Board consideration of the plan nears.

Here are a few takeaways from the proposal:

1. Replacement of the pool remains an option.

Early discussions of a Silver Lake Park renovation suggested it would replace the existing pool with a different type of aquatics feature.

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The proposal discussed Monday does that, creating a splash pad area divided for ages younger than 5 and those who are older.

However, a planned shallow pool area could give way to a full-size swimming pool, if the park is deemed the best location for a second city pool and funding is available.

Several council members said they would oppose removing a pool from Silver Lake Park without an adequate replacement, but others questioned whether it would be worth the cost.

Kari Spiegelhalter, a senior urban ecological designer for Asaukura Robinson, which was contracted to help create the master plan, said a pool would add approximately $3.5 million to park renovations.

2. The site of the former snow dump would be removed. 

A space where the city once collected snow after clearing streets has been fenced off and would be eliminated under the proposal.

A berm that currently encloses the area would be removed, allowing water to flood the area, and dredging would deepen the area for recreational use, which would include Rochester Rowing Club activities.

Mike Nigbur, Rochester Parks and Forestry Division Head, said the change is expected to add approximately 2 acres to the lake area.

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3. The plan proposes boosting activity on the west side of the park. 

The proposed master plan touts the section of the park north east of the intersection of West Silver Lake Drive and Seventh Street as one of the most activated spaces in the park due to its visibility.

The plan calls for adding amenities that include a picnic plaza adjacent to the existing updated playgrounds, a new pocket dog park and design interventions to help manage nuisance geese populations.

It would also include an area for food trucks and hillside seating with a view of the lake.

4. A section of land would be dedicated to the Dakota people.

The southernmost section of the park, where the Zumbro River and Silver Creek meet, is proposed to be set aside to be designed with Dakota community members, with the intended use as a ceremony and gathering space.

The proposal for the space south of the creek is intended to recognize the Native American ties to the parkland.

“We want to respect and reflect their desires as part of this plan,” said Spiegelhalter.

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The park area west of West Silver Lake Drive would also include a landscaped area with native Minnesota plants labeled with their Dakota names.

5. Portions of the proposal hinge on changes to the Silver Lake Dam, but not entirely.

“This anticipates the dam removal project going forward,” Nigbur told the council of a proposed modification to control water flow without the current structure.

The project makes way for a proposed new trail and pedestrian bridge on the northwest side of the park, as well as new recreational activities.

Nigbur said some of the work could be done in the future, but would likely come with added cost if the current dam remains in place.

6. Bridge access to an existing island would be added. 

A proposed pedestrian bridge near the existing firefighter memorial on the northside of the park would provide new access to an island in the lake.

The island would be the site of a new fishing pier, while the area closest to the existing trail would be used to create wooden or stone steps to guide park users through restored wetlands to the lake’s edge.

The section of park would also maintain existing historic walls and steps.

7. A final plan could be approved next month. 

The proposed master plan will be presented to the Rochester Park Board during its 4:30 p.m. meeting on Oct. 4.

Nigbur said the goal is to have the plan approved at that time, if possible, which would make way for some projects in the $5 million to $6 million first phase to move forward in 2023.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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