A handful of residents joined New Richmond's Planning Director Noah Wiedenfeld, Public Works Director Jeremiah Wendt and MSA Project Engineer Lucas Jones for an open house Jan. 23 at the Civic Center to discuss future plans for Mary Park. The evening's primary focus was on the reconstruction of the boat ramp and plans to replace the existing playground with Will's Park, a universal playground. Weidenfeld said the park was founded in 1930 and currently includes a playground, picnic shelters, walking trail, fishing pier, boat launch and band shell. Nestled alongside the Willow River, the park is home to the annual Willow River Blues & Brews Fest, Park Art Fair and numerous other community events. "Last year the city received a grant from the DNR ($37,602) to put toward the construction costs of the boat ramp facility. We also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Will's Playground Committee which is looking to replace the existing playground at Mary Park with a universal playground. Last fall we chose MSA Professional Services, Inc. to do both the engineering and design for the boat ramp as well as develop a master plan for the whole park," said Wiedenfeld. Weidenfeld noted the current boat ramp has been in existence since the 1970s. A gradual decline in the ramp's condition was responsible for several incidents including a near drowning leading to safety concerns andremoval of the concrete in 2014. Wendt presented two design options for the new ramp, one constructed to enter perpendicular to the river and the other constructed to enter at an angle. Both would be just a single ramp. Advantages of the angle approach include more gradual entry slope into the water, less intrusion into the channel and more space to maneuver trailers in the parking lot. The perpendicular ramp option mirrors the existing more traditional ramp solution. Advantages include a more intuitive feel and a little less expense in terms of length. Wendt also presented two different options for the dock to accompany the ramp, a roll-in option and a floating option similar to what exists currently. The perpendicular ramp/dock option was estimated to cost $100,000 and the angle ramp/dock a bit more at $110,000. Provided consensus can be reached on a design, the ramp would be bid in February, awarded in March and constructed between June and September. The evening's presentation included mechanical drawings for the ramp options, photos for the dock options, and several overhead long-range master plan renderings of the park illustrating lighting, loop walking trail (Mary Park Mile), pedestrian bridge crossing the Willow River linking the park to the proposed river walk and John Doar History Trail, redesign of the playground and restrooms, sledding hill, four fishing piers and a potential splash pad/water feature. "The playground I think would have the potential to be a destination playground. It's been quite some time since we've really had a new playground here in New Richmond. I know there's been a lot of support for that committee. The playground in River Falls cost a little over a half million dollars so that's a big item. We've also estimated the cost for a splash pad at about $225,000," said Wiedenfeld. Total cost for the park improvements as proposed is between $3-3.5 million. The pedestrian bridge accounts for one third of the total cost. Equipment costs for Will's Park are being raised by the committee. Following the presentation, audience members were asked to indicate their preferences by attaching colored stickers to the appropriate photo or rendering and prioritizing the proposed improvements on a printed list provided. Presenters remained available to answer questions and discuss alternative ideas.