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Developer eyes connecting parks in south Dickinson

Tanya Kadrmas, left, and Ryan Duvall of Dickinson walk along the Heart River in Jaycees Park at noon on Thursday after enjoying the sunny day and eating their lunch. Developers of The Highlands community in south Dickinson want a park across the Heart River from Jaycee Park and connect the two with a bridge.

Along with several other city and county councils, the Dickinson Park Board of Commissioners is busier than ever with developments.

The board echoed last week's message to developers from the Dickinson Planning and Zoning Commission -- to consult them before final platting -- during a meeting Thursday morning at the West River Community Center

"I also think that Planning and Zoning -- with what they did at the last meeting and the direction that the city is going -- is being very firm that these developers are not allowed their final plat until they have taken care of their business with the Park Board (and that) will help us," Parks and Recreation Director James Kramer said.

A Dickinson city ordinance requires developers to either donate no less than 7 percent or the cash value of the land, or a combination of both, to Dickinson Parks and Recreation for the creation of new parks.

The developers of The Highlands community in south Dickinson are taking a proactive approach in line with that ordinance.

Mitch Rubin, development manager for The Highlands, said the Illinois company wants to create a park not only for those living in the 200-plus houses they are building, but for the rest of the community on Dickinson's south side.

"We want to move forward with the park as soon as we could," Rubin said.

The proposed park would be on the opposite side of the Heart River as Jaycees Park.

The Highlands has proposed a public-private partnership with the Park Board, the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce and itself to fundraise $200,000 to build a walking bridge over the river that would connect the parks.

"I think it could be a great addition to the community," said Park Board President Mike Lefor. "I think the bridge is crucial to making that happen."

While the plan is in early stages, Kramer envisions the new park to consist of trails and natural habitat, with the possible addition of nine more disc golf holes, with Jaycees Park across the river serving as the recreational center.

"We realize money's tight for the parks department. You have 100 other jobs going on, so our thought was, 'How do we help generate money?'" Rubin asked. "We would be willing to market this, throw a huge event and really go out and try to bring the money in."

The Park Board evaluated how it has handled the myriad of developments coming into the city and began considering options for future developers as the city grows.

"We're really getting a better handle on it, which I think will make it easier for everybody," Kramer said.

The Park Board makes the final decision as to whether they want land or cash from the developer.

Not every donation will be used for parks. Part of the city's comprehensive plan, "Dickinson 2035: Roadmap to the Future," is to create an extensive trail system that will be maintained by the parks department.

The Prairie Creek development in west Dickinson will donate acreage to be used for a trail between 15th Street West and 21st Street West.

"This is, I believe, the second developer that we're working with that has been told to put a trail in," Kramer said. "I think we need to revisit the whole concept of if there's going to be a trail and part cash, do we deduct that from the cash in lieu?"

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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