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Memorial Park to add new amenities to Jackson

Jackson City Administrator Matt Skaret stands Friday on the south side of Ashley Street at the city's Memorial Park property. (Ryan McGaughey / The Globe)

JACKSON — Plans for a park that would be home to a splash pad, veterans memorial and more are continuing to evolve, and it’s hoped that work on an initial phase of the project begins this summer.

Memorial Park sits at a location just off the Des Moines River, across the street from City Hall. There’s plenty of opportunity for new amenities on the site, Jackson City Administrator Matt Skaret said Friday.

“We’ve got two ballfields, but otherwise there’s not much there,” Sakret explained. “It’s kind of rough, undeveloped land. In the wintertime, the south part of the park is used for storing snow, and right now we do have a trail segment that goes though the north half … and then curves around Highway 71 to the west. But that’s really it.”

The city-owned land, about 17.5 acres in size, has been a target for development for some time, as Skaret said plans for a veterans memorial in the community first came to light in 2012. Currently, the property is not suited for such a memorial, he added, but part of the plans for the park include making it suitable for people to visit and be “a place to showcase Jackson.”

The city did an RFP (request for proposal) for engineers to come up with concepts for the site in 2012, Skaret explained. Short Elliott Hendrickson was awarded a contract and delivered a plan for not just the veterans memorial component of the park, but the entire property.

At this time, Skaret said the city is working on putting together construction documents and preparing to seek bids on phase one of the project.

“Phase one includes a lot of grading, site preparation and turf restoration,” Skaret said. “It also includes adding a trail on the west side of Memorial Park connecting up with the existing trail that goes westward toward Highway 71. Also included would be planting trees (nearly 50), and we are also preparing for the splash pad.”

The Splash’n Jackson Steering Committee has a fundraising goal of $300,000 for the splash pad, with its construction included in phase one and utilizing no city of Jackson money. Phase one also includes the potential addition of a canoe launch at the far south end of the park as well as canopy shelters. Total cost of the phase — not including the splash pad, canoe launch and canopies — is about $445,000, Skaret said.

Bids will likely be advertised in February and opened in March, with construction anticipated to begin this summer.

“I should also add that part of phase 1 is moving the skating rink and warming house off the bayou and over to Memorial Park,” Skaret noted. “Right now, the bayou — the lagoon — is not a very good site for the skating rink because of the fluctuating water levels, which leads to varying ice conditions and a shortened skating season.”

Another outside group is working toward raising funding for the veterans memorial that would be part of Memorial Park. Once phase one is complete, the site would be ready for construction of that component — if the needed money is there. A phase three of the Memorial Park project would next be possible, but Skaret said just what that entails won’t be determined until a later date.

Skaret said he believes there’s plenty of enthusiasm for Memorial Park and its planned amenities.

“I think there’s a lot of community support for a splash pad,” he said. “We have a wonderful indoor pool (at Jackson County Central High School) that can be used year-round, but we don’t have outdoor water recreation for children and families.

“We have eight miles of trail in Jackson right now, and this would add a little more,” Skaret continued. “It would come off Ashley Street, and go down the west side of the park and hook up with the existing trail heading west.”

Plans for the exact location of the splash pad and veterans memorial inside Memorial Park have fluctuated slightly, but Skaret said the project is continuing to progress well. He indicated that half of the total costs for phase one —  about $290,000 — are being funded through bonding money approved during the 2018 session of the Minnesota Legislature.

“Other groups are having some ideas for Memorial Park,” added Skaret, who became Jackson’s city administrator eight months ago after previously serving as city manager in Springfield. “They include additional playground equipment, additional picnic and shelter areas and a possible bike share program … and perhaps doing some beautification along the trail, like having an archway.”

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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