To cross or not?

Water crossing issue at Snell-Crawford Park considered by FD council

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
A proposed plan for Snell-Crawford Park along Williams Drive in Fort Dodge makes recommendations for various things, including more parking. However, the City Council will have to make a decision about allowing vehicles to go through Soldier Creek.

For decades, visitors to Snell-Crawford Park in Fort Dodge used to be able to drive through Soldier Creek at two places to reach the far end of the site, but that hasn’t been possible for three years.

A proposed new master plan for the park on Williams Drive offers options for reopening the water crossings or permanently closing them. The City Council will ultimately have to pick one of the options.

The proposed plans for Snell-Crawford and Exposition parks were introduced to the council Monday evening during a workshop session. The council made no decisions. It plans to discuss the proposals again on Sept. 28.

Nathan Gruber, a landscape architect for ISG, the Des Moines firm that developed the plans, said steps can be taken to make the water crossings safer.

“People like to hit the gas, splash the kids,” he told the council. “We don’t want them to do that. We want to bring them to a darn near stop.”

- Messenger photo by Bil Shea
The word Lionel was painted on the bridge that carries the Fort Dodge Nature Trail over Soldier Creek in Snell-Crawford Park as a prank decades ago. The letters, which have been repainted over the years, pay tribute to Lionel model railroads. The train maker produced a bridge that looks much like the one in the park.

He said that can be done by building features that will force vehicles to slow down, and separate pedestrians from the vehicles.

The Fort Dodge Noon Rotary Club adopted the park in the 1980s and has spent thousands of dollars and countless hours working to improve it. Its members want to keep the water crossings, according to club member Kraig Barber.

“The water crossing is something the Rotary Club has really stood behind,” Barber told the council.

Another club member, Dr. Matt Maggio, said there has never been an accident at the water crossings. He added that it’s “baffling” that anyone would think the crossings are a safety hazard.

Councilman Jeff Halter said it seems like people want the crossings simply because they have always been there. He said if the crossings are closed, there will be no need for pavement and parking spots deep inside the park, leaving it a more natural area.

- Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Vehicles used to be able to drive through Soldier Creek in Snell-Crawford Park at this low water crossing. The City Council will have to decide if that will be allowed again.

The debate over the water crossings is not exactly new. The discussion has cropped up off and on over some 20 years. Advocates for the crossings say their presence allows the disabled to reach the inner portions of the park by vehicle. The crossings also enable police cars to get deep into the park to patrol, they say. Those who don’t like the crossings argue that they bring vehicles too close to children playing in the water.

The plan from ISG addresses more than the water crossings.

It calls for creating some parking spaces close to a shelter on the Williams Drive side of the park to accommodate the elderly and disabled. It also calls for creating a patio area at the shelter that Gruber called an “outdoor living room.”

Exposition Park on North Seventh Street was once the site of Expo Pool. That pool was removed after the Rosedale Rapids Aquatics Center was built at 10th Avenue North and 32nd Street. The park is now just an open area.

The plan for the site calls for sidewalks looping through the park, connecting to places where artwork would be placed.

- Messenger photo by Bill Shea
The Granger Cabin at Snell-Crawford Park along Williams Drive is seen from one end of a bridge in the park.

“I think it’s a really neat idea,” Gruber said. “It’s something you don’t already have.”

He said there would also be stations with information on the various trees and plants in the park.

Late last year, the council received a petition signed by about 1,500 people asking that the park be renamed in honor of the Rev. Al Henderson. Henderson was the senior pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church and the chaplain to local law enforcement agencies and fire departments. He was killed Oct. 2, 2019, outside his church. His accused killer, Joshua Pendleton, awaits trial on charges of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery.

The park master plan presented Monday did not address the renaming request.

- Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Exposition Park along North Seventh Street in Fort Dodge was once the site of Expo Pool. It is now a wide open space. A new plan calls for sidewalks, art and a shelter there.


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