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Silver Lake Park concepts point to possibilities for master plan

Rochester Park Board is expected to consider final master plan in October, following months of community discussion.

Silver Lake Park
People use the skate park on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, at Silver Lake Park in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — A melding of two concepts is likely to produce a proposed master plan for Silver Lake Park .

“Think about these as higher-level concept boards,” Rochester Parks and Forestry Division Head Mike Nigbur said Tuesday while presenting the concepts to the city’s Park Board.

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The concepts – one to develop the park into an activity hub and the other aimed at creating a nature experience – are potential scenarios for future park development, but it wasn't the first time they were on display.

Parks staff, along with consultants from the design firm Asakura Robinson, have been using the potential visions for the 130-acre park to solicit a variety of community input during community events and targeted discussions with area residents.

The concepts emerged following a communitywide online survey yielded 1,400 responses and an additional online effort saw 500 comments regarding potential changes to the park. A separate skate-park-user survey also provided 234 responses.

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Activity hub design.jpg
The "activity hub" concept is one of two proposals for Silver Lake Park that were used to generate community input regarding the future of the Rochester park.
City of Rochester

The “activity hub” concept would create a park with a variety of activities, including a sledding hill and dog park. Community comments on the proposals revealed the top five concept amenities were a parkside café, a splash pad, wetland steps leading to the water, a nature play area, and a potential lakeside performance area.

The “nature experience” concept envisioned the park with a more serene setting, including restored wetlands and wooded areas. Community input highlighted a splash pad, expanded rowing area, food truck plaza, wetland boardwalk and fishing pier, and arboretum space as the top five proposed amenities.

Nature experience design.jpg
The "nature experience" concept is one of two proposals for Silver Lake Park that were used to generate community input regarding the future of the Rochester park.
City of Rochester

When the two designs were compared, Nigbur said residents saw preferred options in each plan.

The wetland boardwalk and pier were favored over wetland steps, while a food truck plaza was preferred to a parkside café.

Likewise, potential park users preferred a proposed prairie art walk over multi-use sports courts and a lakeside performance space over naturalized waterfront.

With the added community input, Nigbur said the design consultants will take the coming weeks to create a plan that merges the best of both concepts.

“The consultant has a job to do to refine the information down,” he said of creating a proposed master plan.

Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman said the master plan might not be the last word on all park development, since much of the discussion has centered around the future of the aging Silver Lake Park pool.

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Current plans call for replacing the pool with a different type of water feature, but Widman said the pool conversation is larger than one park plan. He said other locations for a future pool and related amenities should also be discussed.

He said it’s all part of the department's expanded effort to gauge community preferences and needs.

“We’ve really reached out to the community and gotten excellent feedback,” he said.

Jenna Bowman, the city’s strategic communications and engagement director, said the effort has included seeking input from groups that traditionally miss out on community engagement efforts, as well as those with specific ties to the park, such as a specific Dakota focus group, which would like to see a place to gather and connection to their history in the park.

Walking the Dog
Oscar Quinones walks his dog, Blanco, through Silver Lake Park on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in Rochester. Quinones said he walks Blanco through the park daily.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Another focus group of residents with East African roots led to the suggestion of adding facilities for hand and feet washing before prayers, which Nigbur said has been requested in other city parks.

Bowman said all the information gathered is intended to create a plan that works for all residents.

Once a proposed master plan is developed, community engagement will continue, with the merged proposal presented to focus groups, park users and others before being presented to the Rochester City Council in September.

Final Park Board approval is expected to be sought in October.

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What happened: The Rochester Park Board received an update on master planning efforts for Silver Lake Park.

Why does this matter: The planning efforts aim to seek priorities for future park development and upgrades

What's next: The city's consultant will develop a master plan proposal for Rochester City Council and Park Board review in September and October.


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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