Margaret Park advocates looking forward to improvements


Margaret Park is slotted for some renovations in coming years - thanks to a group of park advocates, $500,000 should be coming to the park to add a bathroom facility and make other improvements. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

When Jennifer Herman and her husband Tim moved to the area by Margaret Park with young kids, the park’s play area for young kids, known as the “tot lot,” was rated lowest in the city, she said.

The couple would drive their young kids to other more distant parks rather than go to the park mere blocks from their house.

They didn’t go to Margaret Park located at Maragaret and Earl streets, because “it wasn’t a safe place for (the kids) to go,” Jennifer Herman said.

Now her kids are teenagers who are too old to want much to do with the park. But nonetheless, she’d like to see it improve for her neighbors’ kids.

“Our neighbors’ kids should still have a tot lot,” she said.

So, Herman and a group have neighbors have formed the Stewards of Margaret Park group, or STOMP for short, to push for improvements.

The park is slotted for $500,000 in community improvement bonds funding -- $47,000 of that is expected to come this year, while the remainder would likely be available to spend in 2015.

In advance of that funding, STOMP members have begun meeting to hash out their dreams for the park -- everything from adding walking paths, improving the tot lot, adding lighting, and improving the park’s athletic fields. A preliminary meeting of the group took place Thursday, March 27 -- the group of neighbors talked about their ideas for the park, and met with a St. Paul Parks and Recreation representative to know how to keep in communication with the city.

Herman said they’ll be looking to transform the area and “give it more of a park-like feel,” since the space has traditionally been oriented around having a rec center.

Real toilets

While a lot of ideas are being thrown around, one priority will be to get a bathroom facility installed. Last summer the park only had portable toilets, “and nobody’s happy about that,” Herman said.

The park building was demolished in the winter of 2012 at the request of neighbors -- the dilapidated vacant building “was not doing anybody any favors,” Herman said. The building had been on a downward slope as the park’s budget dwindled away. In 2009, the city brought in a private partner, which fizzled out, leading to the building’s vacancy and subsequent demolition.

“The failed partnership and subsequent removal of the Rec Center building is a deep loss for our community,” the STOMP group wrote when requesting funds back in February 2013. “Though the funding requested in this proposal would only allow for minimal improvements, we believe that careful planning and a collaborative effort between the city and our community can maximize the positive impact of these funds. With a few improvements and additional amenities the Margaret site will be transformed into an attractive park which is safe and offers recreational opportunities for everyone.”

Kid-friendliness

Jacob Lambert lives three blocks from the park, and has two little girls, ages 2 and 5.

In its current state, he said the park is sparse and takes some planning to use.

With older kids hanging out in the tot lot area, “it can be quite intimidating for the (younger) kids as well as the parents,” he said. The older kids are often unsupervised, and use harsh language, sometimes throwing trash, breaking glass near the play areas.

But with funding in the pipeline, he can see the park’s potential. “There’s way more possibilities,” he said.

For one thing, with the rec center gone, the hill that cuts through the park can actually be used as a hill -- the STOMP group for the first time held a sledding event at the park over the winter.

“Reclaiming the park... year-round, I think is a big thing,” he said.

And while he’d like for the park to be more accessible to his girls, he doesn’t just want to get rid of the older kids -- rather he sees the park’s improvements as giving them space of their own.

The bottom line -- if more people of more age groups use the park, it will become “a bad place to do bad things,” he hopes.

“I want to see kids there playing; I want to see the older kids playing basketball. ... I want to see the older folks walking around the park.”

While a lot is still to be determined, “we’re incredibly optimistic,” he said, “and we have every reason to be.”

With the advocating for funds part mostly over with, now the fun part lies ahead, he said.

“Now we get to play around with the architect ... and have him put some of our dreams in more concrete form.”

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

Activities at Margaret Park, Summer 2014

While renovations at Margaret Park won’t likely begin until 2015, park advocates are hoping the neighborhood spot will get some use this summer.

St. Paul Parks and Recreation will have a mobile recreation team out at the park three times a week from June 9 to August 7. Park workers will be there Wednesday afternoons from 1 to 4 p.m. and Monday and Thursday evenings from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

 

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