Community Club to take over downtown park art

Photo by Robert Williams
Frazee Community Club President Tom Watson won approval from the Parks & Recreation Committee, along with the City Council later in the day, for the Community Club to take over fundraising and planning efforts for art at the downtown park, including a map of the area and a future mural.

By Robert Williams


Some long awaited good news about Town Lake Beach and some clarification of what is happening at the downtown park were part of a lengthy, monthly meeting of the Frazee Parks and Recreation Committee (PRC) on Wednesday, May 22, at the Event Center.

Frazee City Administrator Stephanie Poegel announced she received the official building plans and renderings of the new community building and bathrooms to be built at Town Lake Beach.

“Big news!,” Poegel said.

The PRC recommended to the city council for the ordering of bids on the project. Construction is scheduled to begin later this summer.

Photo by Robert Williams
One of the renderings of the new community building project at Town Lake Beach was passed around the Parks & Recreation meeting Wednesday, May 22. The project has been on hold for nearly two years, but was finally approved to proceed with construction this summer.

The city has multiple revenue streams that can be used to pay for the project, including the sale of Eagle Lake Park, which equates to $190,000, along with a $250,000 grant the city received by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources back in June 2021.

Plans for the remainder of the project would be via municipal bonding.

“If it’s a $550-600,000 project, what we’re going to be bonding for would be significantly less, so that opens up a different avenue of bonding,” said Poegel.

Initial plans by Widseth Engineering were for a public space to be created with demolition work to begin the spring of 2022 with the new facility planned to be completed by September of that year.

However, during early construction an artifact found was a Knife River Flint flake (chip of stone from making a stone tool). An archeological study was completed and State Archaeologist Amanda Gronhovd confirmed the find.

In an email she stated, “Knife River Flint is an exotic material which does not naturally occur in central Minnesota. Knife River Flint comes from western North Dakota, indicating that the people who left the flake behind had traveled to western North Dakota to gather the material or traded for it. The flake also shows evidence that it was used as a small tool on its own.”

A Phase II archaeology study was approved by the city council in May of 2022.

The scope of the study was narrowed by Abraham Ledezma of In Situ Archaeological Consulting, LLC, after conferring with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and Gronhovd.

Testing of the area was required to determine if the flake was off-chance or if there were potentially more finds. The scope of that area was reduced to a smaller search area and no further evidence was found.

Last week, the city received approvals to proceed from the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the Office of the State Archeologist and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council (MIAC).

The MIAC has mandated that an archaeologist be on site during any digging to monitor and examine any potential finds of historic significance during construction.

Downtown Park

Creating Community Consulting conducted a survey on what community thoughts were on what to do with the downtown park where the former Seip Drug and Sanders Oil buildings stood on the corner of Lake and Main.

“I was happy to see the response level and the time people took to comment; I think the comments are huge,” said PRC member Eric Anderson. “It shows that people care about what’s going to go there. We need to respect that.”

The survey was conducted over five days and returned around 190 total responses, along with included discussions that were had primarily on Facebook.

Multiple grants have been applied to the Blandin Foundation to assist paying for improvements at the park.

PRC member and Community Club President Tom Watson proposed that the Frazee Community Club take over management of an artistic mural and an area map be created at the park.

“We have the wherewithal to do the fundraising and grant writing,” he said.

Watson conferred with the community club board last week to get the go-ahead and bring the idea to both PRC, along with the city council for approval.

“It’s going to take time to do it,” Watson said. “It’s a very important part of town; it’s the first thing people are going to see when people come to Frazee.”

Watson wants more than just the community club to have an input on what happens at the park. Watson echoed the results of the survey in that a map that showcases all the things to do in and around town is an important part of the park.

Other plans include park benches as a fundraiser and a gazebo.

Some concerns about a mural are where it should be placed. The existing wall is contingent on the future of the post office and a mural that is not a part of the building is also on the table.

Mayor Mark Flemmer had previously proposed an old-time bicycle theme, matching mural and a name of Pedal Pusher Park for the space.

His idea was based on having a theme, affordability and the timing to get it done quickly. Flemmer claimed there was a consensus on that idea, but did not name any other people in agreement with him, other than Utilities Superintendent Larry Stephenson. 

“We did look at a town mural and that was kind of rejected based on the fact that we just didn’t have the money to do it,” said Flemmer. “We did look at a veterans park.”

Flemmer stated the VFW and AMVETS have all their money tied up in the expanding Vergas Veterans Memorial.

“To be flat honest, we were looking for something that was going to draw people here,” said Flemmer. “With the Heartland Trail being done and with our trail now with the bicycle trails that was kind of the intent on doing the bicycle trail at that time and doing the old time bicycle to draw people to town with that. We had already talked about these great ideas and there are great ideas out there, but again, we’ve already looked at those and kind of went based on either cost or theme it just wasn’t fitting right.”

The old time bicycle idea for the park was included in the community survey and reportedly received very little support from the public.

Poegel stated that in January the PRC met and it consisted of Andrea Froeber, Poegel and Flemmer. From that meeting, they were going to discuss the possible ideas for a name, theme and what type of park it was going to be at the February meeting.

“By the time the next meeting came it had already been decided that it was an old time theme and there was already a name that had been talked about by the community,” Poegel said. “I have a hard time when the committee talks and there is thought and discussion, but then discussion happens everywhere else in town and it comes back and there are decisions made by the next month. That is very difficult as staff.”

PRC member Andrea Froeber backed up the survey results where Flemmer’s plan for the park only had 25 votes out of 162 responses, while a map of the area received 137 votes.

Froeber stated the three-person committee was in the beginning stages of rolling around ideas and she was in favor of receiving more input.

“We never gave a larger group an opportunity to weigh in on that and I really have a problem with two to three people making a decision in a committee,” she said. “I’m happy and I think the public is happier if we make the effort to involve the community and get a larger pool of people weighing in on it. I don’t think we can ignore what people have said.”

Flemmer agreed, but again tried to use affordability as a reason to proceed with his plan.

Froeber stood her ground on the survey results and the community club being a better entity to manage the park space.

“It would be nice to give this to the community to go forward and take this on,” she said. “We’ve got bigger things to do. I just feel we should support this survey and I can see a definite advantage to giving this over to a group that can get more input from the community.”

Flemmer again reiterated theme affordability before being interrupted.

“We don’t have to worry about the affordability if we’re not the one taking on the project,” Froeber said.

Froeber made the motion to move the mural planning and park project to the community club with all plans to be brought to the city council for final approval. The motion was passed unanimously.