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What to do with BE tennis courts?

City Council considers creating eight courts at BEA High School

By Fiona Edberg - Register Staff Writer | Jun 13, 2021

The cracks in the tennis court surface are clearly visible in this photo. The council is working on a plan to replace them.

The Blue Earth City Council’s regularly scheduled meeting had an unusually large audience on Monday, June 7. Several community members attended to voice concerns about recreational opportunities in the city.

The community members were primarily concerned about plans to remove the tennis courts in Putnam Park. The council clarified that they hope to improve the city’s tennis facilities by constructing new courts on school property.

Blue Earth resident and youth tennis coach Allan Hansen opened discussion by drawing attention to the success of Blue Earth Area School’s tennis program. Hansen explained that “girls’ tennis has good players, but they need tennis courts to keep the program alive.”

Tina Prescher, another Blue Earth resident, added that the tennis courts are valuable to the rest of the community, as well.

“Kids go to the tennis courts to play and stay out of trouble,” she explained. She added that the tennis courts provide healthy entertainment and “losing them would be devastating to families.”

Mayor Rick Scholtes responded to the community members’ concerns, clarifying that he does not intend to eliminate the tennis courts altogether. They plan to construct an improved tennis facility at Blue Earth Area High School.

Council member Dan Warner lent his support, agreeing with the community members that “to not have the [tennis] program would be extremely detrimental to our community.”

The council hopes to build a facility with eight courts which would allow the district to host tennis sections.

The council currently has a subcommittee in charge of determining a proposed budget for the new tennis courts.

Council member Glenn Gaylord expressed concerns about having sufficient funds for the project, particularly if the city is partnering with the school districts to build the tennis courts, but Warner assured the council that he feels “financially, we’ll be able to make it work.”

While it could cost as much as $346,000 to refurbish the current tennis courts, it may cost an estimated $800,000 or more to construct new courts.

Community members seemed somewhat appeased by the council’s clarifications, but they asked that the council keep them informed of updates. They also discussed organizing a fundraiser for the new courts.

Discussion then shifted from tennis to biking. David Kittleson presented the results from a local biking and walking survey. In general, results indicated that Blue Earth residents enjoy biking and walking, but are looking for improvements to existing trails.

The purpose of the survey, Kittleson explained, was to determine when and where residents enjoy biking and walking, what concerns they have about biking and walking opportunities in Blue Earth, and what improvements they would like to see to local trails.

According to Kittleson, residents expressed concerns about the ease of getting to Steinberg Nature Park. Residents typically visit the park to use the trails, and they would prefer to walk or bike to the park rather than driving. However, current road conditions make it difficult to do so.

Residents have also expressed concerns about the condition of the roadway to Steinberg Park. Parts of the shoulder are dangerous and road traffic makes bikers and pedestrians feel unsafe.

Finally, Kittleson wondered if separate trails could be connected more seamlessly to enable easier travel between different areas of the city.

The council made no decisions regarding the results of the survey, but was interested in hearing updates from Kittleson in the future.

Discussion about biking in Blue Earth continued when construction of a new biking trail was brought to the council’s attention.

The trail will run along the Blue Earth River, on the north side of Leland Parkway, and will be approximately 1.8 miles long. It will be a single track bike course including “features,” or obstacles, which will appeal to more adventurous bikers in the area.

As the trail is being partially constructed on city-owned property, the council asked that the organizing committee submit a drawn map of the trail. Additionally, they expressed concerns about insurance liability if obstacles on the trail are too dangerous.

No decisions were made to address the potential liability issues on Monday night, but the city staff agreed to research the matter further in the future.

Other business discussed at the council meeting is summarized below.

• During a work session that took place prior to the meeting, Carlson SV shared the 2020 audit presentation regarding the city’s funds. Overall, the city’s financial situation is stable. The city has a good amount of cash, a healthy unrestricted funds balance, and an excess of revenue over expenditures. Liquor sales, in particular, were a large source of revenue over the past year.

• The city engineer, Wes Brown of Bolton and Menk, shared the progress of various construction projects in the city. He reported a few hiccups, including a change order needed for work on the 2020 Sailor Street project wrap up. He notified the council that the Safe Routes to Schools project will start once the team receives concurrence from the state. Additionally, he reported that grant applications for possible street work on Grant Drive and Rice Street were not approved for funding by the state at this time.

• The council discussed the purchase of the Greenfield Environmental Multistate Trust Property, where they hope a memorial for veterans can be built. The property’s ownership by a multi-state trust creates complications when requesting an estimate. The council will continue discussion of the issue at their next meeting.

• The council revisited their discussion about the city’s dog ordinance. They voted to raise the number of dogs households are allowed to register from two to three to further encourage citizens to register their pets. They also discussed imposing a fine of $50 a day upon residents who house unregistered dogs.