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Savage improves parks throughout city with eye toward accessibility, connection

The city parks system underwent many improvements during the summer months, and several more projects are planned for the fall. 

New trails and future plans should make parks more accessible to residents with disabilities, among other goals, city officials have said. Parks are also part of an ongoing conversation about adding art, history and other beautifying elements around the city. 

Public Works Director Greg Boatman recently spoke more with the Savage Pacer about this year's park improvements and what's in store for next year. 

Projects completed

  • A complete trail connection runs between Providence, the housing development north of Community Park, and the Savage Sports Dome.
  • At McCann Park, the player benches and bleachers were cemented into concrete to improve the park's accessibility and safety. The project and also fixed drainage issues.
  • The Schroeder's Acres Park picnic shelter was torn down this month to make way for a new shelter, which will offer electricity the water. The new shelter is expected to be completed by the end of the month.
  • New trails have been added at O'Connell Park and the park restoration will continue in the spring.
  • The Warren Butler Park parking lot is being rebuilt.
  • Savage and Burnsville are now connected along County Road 16 thanks to a new sidewalk connection.
  • The tennis courts at O'Connell Park and Warren Butler Park were crack-sealed earlier this month; the city might soon fix or redo the tennis courts at Canterbury Park, too.

Projects underway

  • Loftus Park improvements have begun. The trail is being redone to prevent water from entering the playground and washing away the wood chips. The sidewalk is also being redone to improve accessibility to the ball field. The sidewalk is open to users right now, but more restoration is expected to continue in the spring. 
  • City staff are looking into the possibility of bringing a permanent water supply to the Savage Dog Park. 
  • The city plans to replace the north bridge at Hidden Valley Park. A request for bids on the project could go out around the end of the month with hopes of completing the project over the winter.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community donated money for trails at the Savage Fen Scientific and Natural Area behind the Savage Library but authorized the money for Hidden Valley Park when city staff found fen trails weren't viable. 

  • New bike racks could go up around Savage this fall, possibly with artful elements.
  • Most warming houses and picnic shelters in Savage received new roofs over the past two years with a donation from the Burnsville Lions Club. The project will come to a close this fall when the O'Connell Park warming house receives a new roof.

What's expected in 2020? 

This winter, the city will begin planning for next year's projects, which could include replacing the turf at the Savage Sports Center and testing out pickle ball courts in Community Park and elsewhere.

"There's a big interest in the city of Savage," Boatman said, adding that "snowbirds" who travel south for the winter increased the sport's popularity in Minnesota. 

He said the color-coded pickle-ball surface is challenging to maintain against Minnesota winters, but many surrounding communities have added dedicated courts in recent years. The tennis courts at Canterbury Park and the hockey rink at Woodhill Park are striped for pickle ball. 

“It’s hard in Minnesota to maintain that type of surface, but it’s not insurmountable so we’re going to give it a good try and see if it’s a good fit,” Boatman told parks commissioners last month. 

Boatman said the Savage Sports Center turf most likely won't be replaced in 2020, but dollars have been set aside in the Community Investment Fund for the project. The turf turns 8 years old this year, and city staff expected a replacement of the turf in 8-10 years. 

Whether the city will acquire land for a park in south Savage will remain up in the air into next year. 

Since 2013, PulteGroup Inc. has developed 148 lots on 73 acres of land in south Savage at two different developments, Creek Hill Estates and Creek Hill South. The developer paid $564,774 to the city in fees in lieu of setting aside park land.

Boatman said city employees are working with potential developers to find areas within those developments for parks. 

Improving park accessibility 

Creating parks with greater accessibility to residents with disabilities "is a core value to what we provide in our park systems," Boatman said. 

Boatman is working on an Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan that will be the city's first plan related to accessibility in city parks.

He said the department is making a concerted effort to improve accessibility with all park improvements. The plan will help guide the change from old playground equipment to newer, accessible equipment, among other accessibility improvements. 

A goal in the next three to five years is to pick a playground for that kind of replacement.

"Inclusive play brings about tremendous benefits to all users," Boatman said.