Do you want water at Keene Creek Park? Do you want toilets at Keene Creek Park? Do you want all the 6 foot weeds, cockle burrs and thistles removed? Do you want the rubble pile above the dog park cleaned up? Do you want that weird stagnant water area near the lower parking lot draining again? Do you want the path repaired so it isn't cracked, heaved and holding mud and water?
We have a HUGE opportunity right now. Right now, as the deadline for comment is October 16. If you want Keene to have improvements take time to email email@example.com. Put "NRDC Application" in the subject line of the email.
Duluth/the state of MN is applying for a massive grant through the federal Natural Disaster Competition. It is a very long and very complex process. Full details can be found at www.bigwatermn.com. It is based on flood occurrences in MN from 2011 through 2013 including Duluth's flood in 2012. The application addresses three areas to make Duluth more resilient: neighborhood needs, connecting communities and infrastructure investments from Fond du Lac to 26th Ave east.
Connecting communities focuses on parks and trails. More details can be found at http://www.bigwatermn.com/phase-ii-application/phase-ii-application/#1443715227884-5eb7e010-c0ee. Keene Creek Park was not initially included. I made my case for Keene Creek Park to the grant writer and she said Keene was not "previously indicated as a high or medium level priority" by the city. I thought on it for a day and decided to not let it go so easily and sent the following email to the Mayor Ness and his top administration.
Good evening. I am writing to request that you consider including Keene Creek Park in the Resiliency grant.
Keene Creek Park had huge amounts of water flowing through it during the flood. There were weeds deposited at the top of some of the chain link fencing in the dog park and it is 5 foot high fencing. There continues to be flood related damage that was not taken care of. The flood left many areas really uneven and holding water and weeds took hold and the city has not been able to take care of them so there are 5-6 foot tall thistles,cockle burrs and other huge weeds. The maintenance staff says they can't just clear it because of ruts and rocks that were left after the flood making the ground too uneven. There is a big rock debris pile, silt, and uneven areas that don't grow grass. Before the flood Keene was a tidy park, now it has very large areas of massive ugly weeds.
Keene creek may not need some restoration but the side creek more likely does, I think it's flow was changed. There is also a side area of the park that now gets and holds water. It doesn't drain properly and holds stagnant water and has big weeds that can't be mowed because of the standing water. There is probably need for some restoration to make it flow properly and drain properly and prevent future damage from high water.
The blacktop path is also in very poor condition. We think some of it was due to the flood, leaving silt deposits which raised the dirt/grass level so the blacktop is 3-5 inches below the soil, so the path holds water and mud. I think there was also some settling and additional cracking from the flood, several areas where the water and drainage flows over the low blacktop when the side area holds water.
Keene was damaged from the flood, which was the reason for MN being able to apply for the Resiliency grant. It still has not been repaired nor is there any other plan to repair the flood damage. Due to the flood damage, the park will be more likely to have further damage with the next flood or high water, making it far less resilient than what it was pre flood. It also contains the same stream, Keene Creek, which caused damage to Irving Park, which I believe is being included in the Resiliency Grant process.
I believe Keene Creek Park in the near future will be a key location for a trail head for the trail that is being built over the next three summers from 63rd Ave W and Greene street to the zoo. The eastern end plan at 63rd only allows for parking for 5 cars. I don't think this will be adequate when it is opened. A mere one block away is Keene Creek Park with an underutilized parking lot, just sitting there ready for trail users. A slight detour with the trail could run it down the west side of the freeway and it ends right at the park. Or people could park at Keene and take the brand new paved 63rd Ave one block to the start of the trail. A simple addition of a water supply and porta potties and you have a fantastic trail head with very little else needed. Once they are at this parking lot, a better trail than the current heaved and cracked blacktop path could get hikers and bikers from the the new trail to Grand Ave, the business district, Munger and Western Waterfront Trails, Grassy Point and other key connections.
The 2011 Bike and Trail report, approved by the parks commission and city council shows a trail going from Irving to the upper area of Keene Park. http://www.duluthmn.gov/media/116291/Duluth_Bike_Report_Edited_October_2011.pdf See page 46. This connection through Keene Creek Park has also been discussed at the RCC trails committee, Judy Gibbs has mentioned it, plus others. Keene Creek Park is a key connection, or it certainly is ideally located to be a key connection. Including it as part of the Resiliency grant could get this happening sooner, rather than later.
I know you need shovel ready projects and some of this would just be heavy landscaping, weed removal, filling in low areas and reseeding so it can be properly mowed. The rubble area just needs some heavy equipment to do something with it. The drainage could be re mediated with a new small culvert. A new path/trail would make for better and ADA accessible access.
I would be happy to meet with anyone to walk through the park and point out the problems and what a gem it could be again with some attention through this grant. Please consider including Keene Creek Park in the resiliency grant.
I was happy to receive a reply back from Mayor Ness that he thought it could be a good fit and support it's inclusion.
So now Keene is in the application. But we are not home free. If the city only receives partial funding, decisions will need to be made on where to spend the money. Their decision will be influenced by public comment to the disaster application. Clearly Keene Creek Park was not the city's top priority but we have an open comment period to let the city know how and why Keene Creek Park is important. I included my email to show why I think it is important and should receive help in hopes that it will give you some ideas regarding how the unrepaired flood damage has lessened the park and how the park is important as a trail connection. I chose not to mention the dog park to target a wider audience, but you certainly can.
Please, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with "NRDC Application" in the subject line. You can tell them why you value Keene Creek Park, how often you visit it, why you go there, how the flood affected it, why improvements would add value, tell them anything you feel like. Even just a simple statement of support for flood damage to be repaired at this park. We need to let them know Keene Creek Park is important enough. Do it soon, deadline is 5 pm October 16. Take time and send an email now. Let's use this public comment period to get the city to raise the priority of Keene Creek Park.