The St. Paul Parks Conservancy, the group founded to help raise private money for St. Paul’s parks in this time of budget crunches, has broken ground on its first project.
A ceremony Friday in Lilydale Regional Park marked the spot of a new Gateway entry into the undeveloped parkland along the Mississippi River, across from downtown St. Paul.
The stone-and-brick structure, with a sign, will let people know that they’re in a park; it’s a little hard to tell, otherwise. It will be about 22 feet high, located just west of where the High Bridge passes overhead. It’s scheduled to be completed by next summer.
“A lot of people find it hard to get to Lilydale Park, especially from the Wabasha Bridge side,” said Leslie Cook, executive director of the Conservancy. “And you never really know when you have officially entered the park. This will make it feel more like a destination.”
The park, with a boat launch and walking and biking paths, was chosen as the Conservancy’s first project because it’s considered a hidden gem and is a good showcase for the group’s efforts.
The gateway structure, which will cost $214,000, is the first part of the group’s efforts in the park. Also coming is a stone-lined creek along Water Street, to help funnel run-off from the nearby bluffs. Water now accumulates in the area, creating muddy or icy conditions. The Conservancy has raised all but $47,000 of the $561,000 needed for the Lilydale improvements.
The group will also pay for three resting spots in the park and removal of invasive plants in the area.
While work begins on the gateway, the Conservancy’s first project, fundraising is already under way on the group’s next parks improvement project: fixing up the playing fields at Oxford Park, near Lexington Parkway, in the Midway area.
About $45,000 is already pledged for that project; the goal is to get $360,000 to pay for new field lighting, multi-sport synthetic turf markings, goal posts, backstops and drinking fountains, Cook said.