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Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program

Cook County Community Center Stormwater Plan / Rain Garden Demonstration Site

Diane Booth Cook County Community Center/ Extension Director

July 31, 2007

Project No: 306-STAR01-07 Contract No: A97951
This project was funded in part under the Coastal Zone Management Act, by NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, in cooperation with Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program. It was also funded in part by Cook County and donations from Cook County recreation groups.

Introduction Recreation use of the land surrounding the Cook County Community Center (that also serves as the Cook County Fairgrounds) and the Cook County Schools has become a ‘hot issue’ over the past 13 years. There are many recreation users who wish to use this property for their sport and the Cook County Fair Board is interested in expanding their horse events – needing more space. Several user groups have been able to persuade county, city or school officials that their project is needed and tennis courts, playground, hockey rink have all been put in place without an overall master plan. The fact that much of this 50-acre area also consists of wetlands and sits on a slope makes careful development and use of this area extremely important. Private donations of nearly $150,000 for development of a skateboard park and upgrading the hockey rink to a new location within this acreage led the Cook County Commissioners to request the Community Center Director to work with the city of Grand Marais and Cook County Schools to finalize a comprehensive plan. Before construction can begin on this plan, we need to develop a stormwater plan for the area and determine where at least one rain garden can be developed. Barr Engineering has agreed to put a plan together at a cost of $13,500 and we requested $5,000 from the MN Coastal Grant program with the matching $8,500 from Cook County. Work Completed The last progress report indicated there was a new wrinkle in our comprehensive plan and hence our stormwater plan. On December 28, the pool committee requested we consider adding a space on-site for a pool. The Grand Marais pool is pretty old and they felt locating a new pool closer to the school and recreation area may be a better location. On April 20, Burbach Aquatics, Barr Enginnering and Center for Changing Landscapes met with the pool committee and members of the revitalization committee to discuss the feasibility of having the pool moved to the Community Center property. The results from that meeting was a request for the county to have a geotech survey and land survey completed before moving forward with any projects – stormwater plan included. Barr Engineering felt they could not in good conscience move forward with a stormwater plan with out the geotech study and land survey. The County Board of Commissioners refused to have the geotech study and land survey done unless they received a confirmation from the city of Grand Marais that they would definitely move the pool to the Community Center site if the county invested in the costs for both surveys. After several months of negotiations, the County Board agreed to have the surveys completed with a 3 to 2 vote by the City Council in favor of looking at the Community Center site for the pool. The geotech survey and land survey was completed in June and July. All results were given to Barr Engineering for the stormwater plan, C.J. Fernandez from Center for Changing Landscapes and LHB Corporation, and Dave Burbach from Burbach Aquatics. Mike Fisher, LHB Corp. Architect, will be met with all groups at the city, county, school board, and Grand Portage joint meeting on August 23 to discuss the results from these studies and how these entities could work better together to achieve common goals. He brought some excellent models of other joint recreation community projects between various governmental and private

agencies. Joint follow-up meetings about the pool issue will be scheduled in October, November and January to reach consensus. An outside moderator will be hired by Cook County Extension to move this process forward. Barr Engineering did some work in April and again in July for developing the stormwater plan and rain garden site based upon the final construction plan for the site – changed due to the possible pool addition and possibly parking changes. They will not finalize the plan, however, until probably the end of October due to additional ‘glitches’ with CAD software between our county highway department and their firm. Due to these unforeseen developments, Cook County prepaid Barr Engineering for their work that has yet to be completed because of the ‘political factors’. (Please see the attached invoice that has been paid.) Barr Engineering has been on hold since July and sent us a copy of their report that states they have only completed $3, 517 worth of the $13,500 proposed project that would include work completed through July 2007. While waiting for these decisions, a second decision was made by the County Board of Commissioners to move forward with developing the skateboard park on the site of the old basketball court at the Community Center. This would allow us to finish that project. A new basketball court will be built over at the Sawtooth Elementary school close by for both school and community use. This plan allows the community to slow down and rethink the placement of the pool without having a deadline of one or two months. The building of the hockey rink will not take place until next year due to the delay with the pool decision and stormwater plan. We do plan to move forward with the stormwater plan next spring if all our ‘ducks are in a row’. Cook County had legislation passed by both the Minnesota House and Senate for a 1% sales tax for recreation infrastructure projects like the pool, library, community center, etc. This was to provide an ongoing funding source for some of our larger infrastructure projects. It was included in the tax bill that Governor Pawlenty vetoed. Plans are to go back to the legislature in 2008 and if passed, we will then go to a local referendum in 2008. The new joint powers recreation board was elected by the city, county, school and Grand Portage. They started meeting December 2006 and my role as the ‘spearheader’ of county recreation projects has been transferred over to that group, retaining only the immediate recreation area projects I began.

Results The final stormwater plan and rain garden design will be finalized for next year placing contingencies on the plan to include a possible pool with an additional 15,000 sq. ft of impermeable surface.. C.J. Fernandez has been retained to change the overall plan to reflect the agreed upon changes based upon the joint consensus meetings.

Leveraged Dollars for Community Center Recreation Projects As Part of This Grant Funding Clearing the Area for Development: County funds Geotech Study County funds Land Survey / Topographic County funds Skateboard Park Project County funds Grand MaraisCity funds Private funds Stormwater Plan County funds CZM grant Total Funding $ $10,000 $ 5,750 $ 7,500 $25,000 $20,000 $92,742 $ 8,500 $ 5,000 174,492

Conclusions This was to be a short , cut and dried process to develop a stormwater plan for a design that had already been approved by all entities. Hence our application for a STAR grant. A positive outcome from this process forced the county to take a long-term look at the entire site with all professionals pointing out the need to have a geotech study and a land survey before they were willing to even discuss a water plan or finalize any details for buildings. This was an important step forward for the future of these recreational projects. The upset with the pool issue will be in the long run a good thing as this topic has been avoided by our political parties for quite a few years. This grant and stormwater plan process has pushed our elected officials to sit down and communicate with each other to make the best possible future plan for the pool – even though it was never intended to be a part of this project. This is another important step forward for our community.

Appendix A The following are news articles and photos of the progress made towards one phase of the overall development on the Community Center /School Recreation project. The skateboard park location was changed from the original plan and moved so it could be built while the ongoing debate about what gets developed where continues on the city and county level. The storm water plan partially funded by this grant is key to the redevelopment of the outdoor hockey rink and final pool decision. The complexity of the issues that have arisen since the writing of this grant are documented in the news articles attached.