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Robbins Island closed for construction

Robbins Island Regional Park in Willmar is temporarily closed as work begins on the project there funded by the local option sales tax. The closure includes the Destination Playground as work continues on installing shade structures at the popular facility.

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Vehicles move tree branches Friday morning at Robbins Island Park in Willmar. The park is officially closed while construction is underway. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — After nearly three years of wishing, voting and planning, construction has begun on the Robbins Island Regional Park project funded by the local option sales tax.

Due to construction, the city of Willmar has temporarily closed the park to visitors as heavy equipment and tree removal could pose a danger the public. The closure includes the boat ramps and the Destination Playground.

Traffic barriers are up at the Business Highway 71 entrance to the park, and Rob Baumgarn, city Parks and Recreation director, urges the public to abide by them.

"They shouldn't be coming in," Baumgarn said.

Homeowners around the lakes were notified that the boat ramps would be closing and boats needed to be taken off the lakes.

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The project, one of six to be funded by the voter-approved 0.5 percent increase in the city's sales tax, is currently focusing on the hard infrastructure of the park. Duininck Inc. was awarded the project after putting in the low bid of $1,179,553 for the construction of a new road, parking lots and water main at the park. The engineer's estimate for the project was $1.9 million.

The new road will be two-way and travel along the Foot Lake side of the park. The current road, a one-way loop around the park, will be closed to vehicle traffic for most of the year and used as a walking and biking path. It will be open to cars during the Celebrate the Light of the World holiday light display between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

All of the parking lots at the island will be replaced; new lots will provide for a total of 230 spots. There will also be paved lots at both boat ramps with parking spaces for vehicles and boat trailers. The ramps are being updated as well.

"All of those accesses will be paved," Baumgarn said.

Because the low bid for the project came in more than $700,000 under budget, Baumgarn said the Robbins Island Local Option Sales Tax Committee is also working on plans to build a few new shelters at the park. Those potential plans will need to be approved by the Willmar City Council before being implemented.

The Destination Playground is also closed as work continues on installing the new shade structures. Baumgarn said the installation process was more involved than originally thought, so the project is taking longer.

The shade structures are part of a playground improvement project funded by remaining dollars from the community build of the playground. The project also includes new trash cans, additional signage, a water softening system for the water misters at the playground and repainting of the artwork. The estimated cost of the project is $90,000.

Baumgarn said the park, along with the playground, could reopen partly to visitors once it is safe to do so. Most of the work being done at the park is away from highly visited areas, such as the playground or up in the wooded area. However, when the park is partially reopened, visitors will have to park in Hedin Park and walk into Robbins Island, as the main Highway 71 entrance will remain closed until the project is complete.

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The goal is to have the total project at Robbins Island done by Thanksgiving, just as visitors begin arriving to take part in the holiday light display.

Until the park reopens, the public will have to observe the changes at the island from a safe distance.

"You can tell something is happening," Baumgarn said.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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