Robbins Island gets regional designation, receives major grant
WILLMAR -- Robbins Island has officially been named a regional park by the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission. With this new designation also came a significant grant from the commission for future projects at the park.
WILLMAR - Robbins Island has officially been named a regional park by the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission. With this new designation also came a significant grant from the commission for future projects at the park.
"We feel very fortunate. It is a great opportunity for Robbins Island," said Steve Brisendine, director of Willmar Community Education and Recreation.
The commission this fall named Robbins Island a regional park, after the city applied in April. In the designation application, the city says Robbins Island has premier natural beauty and offers park visitors the opportunity to enjoy four seasons of outdoor activities including picnicking, fishing, swimming and bird watching.
"It is a very good natural resource that sits in the middle of town," Brisendine said.
The city applied for a $750,000 Legacy grant from the commission, when it became clear the park would receive its designation, to be used for projects at the park. The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission announced Dec. 20 that Robbins Island Regional Park had been chosen for a $606,347 grant for fiscal year 2018. The state Legislature will now have to approve the commission's recommendation before Willmar receives the money.
The city will have to come up with a local match of $250,000.
"The council will be tasked to find that $250,000," Mayor Marv Calvin said Wednesday during an appearance at the Willmar Rotary Club.
The projects to be partially funded by the grant include a four-season, multi-use building located on the swimming beach. The structure, as written in the grant application, will serve as the park headquarters and will include concession and meeting space and will house program staff and park equipment. Summer and winter sports equipment could also be rented out from this building, including kayaks, paddleboards, skates, skis and snowshoes. In the winter the building will be used as a warming house for an outdoor skating rink and for those cross country skiing in the park. A boat house will be built to store the rental equipment.
Also in the application was an interpretive boardwalk on the eastern portion of the lake. The boardwalk would go over rehabilitated wetlands and connect to the existing trail system in the park, along with connecting to new trails included in the plan.
"We feel it is time to utilize that natural resource out there. Enjoy it more," Brisendine said, which is why the city wants to bring more amenities to the island.
The projects chosen to be represented in the grant application come from the 2015 Master Park Plan which includes $7.9 million in Robbins Island improvements. Other potential projects in the park plan are an outdoor amphitheatre and additional infrastructure improvements, including updates to the roads, which Brisendine said are essential to the park's future. A major playground is already in the works, headed by the Willmar Destination Playground Steering Committee.
"We are the regional center of west central Minnesota. You don't see parks like this," Brisendine said.
The city estimates the new four-season shelter will cost around $365,000, which includes tearing down the old bathhouse. The estimated cost of the boathouse is $219,000 and the interpretive boardwalk and trail could cost approximately $416,000.
"Robbins Island is a gem in our community," Calvin said.
The grant funds come from the state's voter approved Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment. Established in 2008, the amendment increased the sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent. The tax, which goes through 2034, is collected for projects protecting, preserving and promoting Minnesota's water, land, arts and cultural heritage.
The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission recommended approval of eight project grants worth $8,298,180 for 2018. Twenty-five applications were submitted, totaling $23,582,369.
The projects awarded legacy funding met the 25-Year Legacy Plan Strategic Directions of connecting people to the outdoors, acquire land and creating opportunities, taking care of what we have and coordinating among partners.
"It is a pretty good deal, considering the competition," Brisendine said.