Gimme Shelter: Glen Park gets tornado-proof pavilion, more parking

Posted October 2, 2017

River Falls park goers are certainly in for a treat after several years of planning. The Plan Commission, along with the Park and Recreation Advisory board, joined together with other staff members and residents to develop a master plan for Glen and Hoffman parks back in 2015. Earlier this year, the City Council decided to move forward with plans to renovate Glen Park only as part of the Capital Improve Plan.

Plans have moved steadily so far this year with open houses, presentations and input sessions, with the final building concept presented to the City Council in mid September.

City Engineer Reid Wronski, “provides civil engineering guidance to the mayor, other city departments, boards and commissions and the general public concerning the planning, design, and construction of private and public works projects.” Wronski is also the project manager of the Glen Park Renovation Project. That role entails “being responsible for taking a Glen Park Master Plan and technically implementing the master plan’s vision within the projects budget constraints.”

Currently, the project is over budget, but ideas are circulating on how to handle that. First, staff will search for available grant opportunities as well as identify components of the new park that could be conducive to naming rights. They will also spend time prioritizing the components of the project to find which are most needed.

Luckily for the budget, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has kicked in over $840,000 to help build the new Glen Park pavilion that will double as an emergency shelter. Wronski is confident the new pavilion will be able to handle even the worst weather. “It is designed to FEMA standards to withstand winds and wind-borne debris impacts up to 250 mph. In simple terms, it can withstand the most powerful F5 tornado. An ordinary park pavilion structure would not be designed to such standards and would likely be destroyed by such a tornado.”

Chad Hughes, a resident of River Falls, lives close to Glen Park and finds time to visit often. He and his wife visit mostly on the weekends with their dog and usually enjoy packing a lunch for a picnic. Hughes has taken advantage of all the park has to offer. “We use the trails often and really appreciate the beauty of it,” he said. “My favorite part is the bridge, and we love to walk down by the water.”

Much of those activities and amenities that Hughes and his family enjoy are on the list of things to keep, according to the original master plan. The biggest issue the community had with Glen Park revolved around parking. Hughes can walk to Glen Park, but those having to park their cars have found it challenging at times. “It does seem to get a little packed, parking wise,” he said.  “I am sure people wouldn’t complain if there was more availability or space to deal with that, especially on the weekends,” Hughes mentioned. Parking is one of the things addressed in the new renovations, hopefully with more structure and painted lines that will no longer be an issue.

Hughes feels lucky to live so close to Glen Park and will witness these changes first hand. “I think we take parks for granted because we kind of just assume they’re a thing that should be there but I don’t think we realize how much we would miss the availability of having parks if they didn’t exist. I think having a park is really great for cities to have as an open area for recreation and activities and relaxation amidst a city life.”

Come springtime 2018, final decisions will be made regarding renovations, with construction beginning that summer. If everything goes according to plan, by winter 2019 construction should be completed and Glen Park will have a new look.