Our View: Fire station effort could inspire others

Rochester Park Board attendees gather Tuesday outside Fire Department Station No. 2 near Silver Lake as the 2016 Leadership Greater Rochester class prepares to present a plan for the building.

The goal was to put what could have become a glorified storage shed on the path to a better future.

With its presentation to the Rochester Park Board, the 2016 Leadership Greater Rochester class will hopefully be able report the mission was accomplished. The group of 38 professionals, many of whom were likely strangers a year ago, came together in recent months to pitch a three-phase project aimed at finding a new use for the former Fire Station No. 2 on the western edge of Silver Lake Park.

The group started in December by gathering community input and starting a plan around a new name: Silver Lake Station . Efforts continued with interior and exterior cleanup, as well as additional planning. The LGR group estimates the work done saved the city $75,000.

The second phase is underway as the group and Rochester Park and Recreation Department prepare to use the building for programs that require minimal redesign. The first such program was given the nod Tuesday as the park board approved use by the Nice Ride Minnesota bike-share program.

The final phase, which calls for creating a flexible space appropriate for public use, will likely take more commitment from the city, but the effort has shown how a group of dedicated individuals can help spur action in the community.


With the hope of starting a Friends of Silver Lake Station, it's likely group members will continue to spur change and be joined by others if the park board decides to consider future uses for the building. So far, 50 groups have shown interest in using space in the former fire station.

Again, it shows how coordinated effort can spur change in the community.

As the discussion of options continued, new park board member Angela Gupta pointed out the city's park and rec department already has a diverse number of friends programs made up of community members working with specific locations or programs. However, she noted there doesn't appear to be a defined structure, with some being more formalized than others.

That's the beauty of such programs. They are designed to fit the needs of the people and programs they serve. While more structure may be needed for large sports leagues, a group seeking to keep a small park tidy can be less formalized.

Either way, they have the potential to change the city for the better, as was seen Tuesday in the LGR presentation.

We hope to see the group's work gain speed with eventual park board approval of the new Silver Creek Station name and the goals set forth in the proposal. They are flexible enough to meet a variety of community needs, but they are also focus on a positive course.

Beyond the effort at the corner of West Silver Lake Drive and Seventh Street Northeast, we hope the group will inspire others to step forward and consider the changes they want to see and how they can be accomplished.

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