FARGO - Island Park, established in 1910, is the city's oldest. Lindenwood Campground followed 11 years later, evolving in time to become Lindenwood Park. Now the two leafy parks, jewels in the crown, could be in store for a makeover.
Or at least they will be the subject of extensive planning and surveying of residents to determine what, if any, changes would help the parks better serve the growing city's recreational needs.
Starting with Lindenwood Park this fall, the Fargo Park Board will embark on the planning process, the first in-depth look at parks in years or possibly decades. Planning the future of Island Park follows next fall.
Park officials will survey community residents to gain public input about what people want from their parks as they develop a master plan for the park system.
"We go in with a blank slate," Rusty Papachek, president of the Fargo Park Board, said in a recent meeting with The Forum Editorial Board.
But will Fargo residents be comfortable with any revisions to the pair of the city's most venerable parks?
Recently, when residents near Lindenwood discovered that the Park District's slate of potential projects included expanded space for recreational vehicle campers, a controversy erupted. Park officials insist there is no plan to expand the campground, saying it was added to a list of possibilities years ago.
But it's an example of the kind of potential changes park board members will examine in putting together their master plan.
Ultimately, community opinion will shape that plan, said Joel Vettel, the Park District's executive director.
"It's a community park," he said, "not a neighborhood park."
Vettel took over as the park system's top executive two years ago, after a career as a Fargo police officer who also had served on the Park Board.
Although both Island Park and Lindenwood are mature and well-established, their perceived roles can change over time, Vettel said.
For example, Island Park has three swimming pools: an eight-lane lap pool, a wading pool and a diving pool. The pools will require upgrades, Vettel said, so park officials want to know how taxpayers want to spend that money.
"We're going invest heavily in that pool," he said. "So we have to ask the users what they want?"
The process is likely to make some waves, Vettel, a former college wrestler, acknowledged.
"Are we going to break some eggs along the way?" he asked. "Yeah."
In partnership with Audubon Dakota, the Park District is planning to develop trails in natural areas along the Red River just south of the city in what once were riverfront subdivisions.
Plans call for three loop trails, each about 1 mile around, made of crushed stone in the former Orchard Glen, Forest River and Heritage Hills areas, which the city acquired through flood protection buyouts.
The total project cost, $475,200, is supported by a grant from the North Dakota Park and Recreation Department and will include in-kind local match funds, including $147,500 in donated labor and equipment provided by the Park District and Audubon.
In another initiative that will involve partnerships, park officials still are in the early phases of discussions to develop a major sports complex that would include basketball courts and indoor turf. Sanford Health executives have expressed interest in the concept.
"The interest has grown and grown," Vettel said. "We have a vision. We don't have a project yet. We cannot do it alone."
But the vision is ambitious, he added, noting that many other communities in North Dakota have sports complexes that surpass anything Fargo currently offers.
"We can't just take a step," Vettel said. "We have to make a leap."
Parks and the amenities they provide contribute an integral part of the community's quality of life, Vettel said.
"I hear from the business community again and again" about how important parks are in recruiting, after salary and benefits, he said.