As the plan for the Ojibway Park redevelopment nears its final design phase, some neighbors voiced concern that the project could disrupt the balance between the park's natural and developed spaces.

The current plan, which offers a conceptual, but not definite outline for the project, aims to create a more cohesive system of walking paths and signage.

Lydia Major, the project's landscape architect, said the updated park could also include more "comfort elements," like nature-based play areas and more seating around athletic fields.

"It's all about experience and what we want people to come to understand about this park as a whole," Major said at recent City Council workshop. "That's what these broader ideas are all about."

But to Carol Hering, a Woodbury resident who's lived along the park for seven years, the additions signal potential encroachment on the park's more wooded areas.

"Don't overdo it," she said, "because that's a very fragile ecosystem and it cannot take the kind of development you're possibly talking about."

Major said she shared Hering's value of the wilder areas and that any changes would be "subtle."

Some of the most significant changes, Major said, will take place in the park's "core" area near the playground and bandshell stage.

The new main building tentatively accounts for about one-third of the project's $2.5 million budget while cost estimates for bandshell upgrades sit at about $100,000.

Proposed parking lot upgrades could cost about $130,000.

A recent traffic study for the project found that the upgrades won't require major changes to roads around the area, but improved signage would help direct visitors to parking.

Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Mike Adams said that the main parking lot fills up quickly on the weekends, so people often park in the surrounding streets rather than the lot on courtly road.

"When the main lot is full, folks have no idea that there's other lots that are available," Adams said.

Upgrades to the parking lot would also include re-striping the Woodbury High School bus parking lot, which could add up to 24 additional parking stalls for use when school is out.

Another more expensive feature of the project, however, ultimately failed to gain council and staff support.

Omitted from plans was a refrigerated outdoor hockey rink with a canopy covering that would have driven total project cost up to $4.3 million.

In an Oct. 18 memo, city staff said the project was neither cost effective nor time efficient for upcoming construction on the park, pointing to a study comparing options to replace a rink at either Ojibway Park or HealthEast Sports Center.

The study concluded the HealthEast rink is the cheaper option at $1.7 million.

Revenues the city generates through the HealthEast naming contract for the arena could offer a funding source for the new rink, but council members called for a public input process to first determine how to spend those funds.

Although the city opted against the new hockey rink, another recreational feature will likely see an expansion.

Council member Julie Ohs recommended funding the full $50,000 expansion rather than the $25,000 recommended by staff.

Her fellow council member Christopher Burns echoed her support for the skate park, who said it could prevent skateboarders from taking up their hobby in a more dangerous or inconvenient location.

"I'm not saying those people are rule-breakers ... " Burns said. "But if we don't have something there as an attractive place for them to use, it might cause undesirable uses elsewhere."

The project's final development and design phase is expected to start by the end of the month.

City staff plan to gather more feedback from residents at neighborhood meeting in November, with construction documents expected in December.