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Xcel Energy isn't peddling river frontage

A discussion last week by the city's Park Board about acquiring a couple acres of property north of St. Croix Street in order to extend a riverfront pathway appears to have been premature.

Tuesday morning, an Xcel Energy spokeswoman called the Star-Observer to say that the power company isn't pursuing a sale of the property.

Chris Ouellette said a number of parties have expressed interest in the parcel, but the company isn't negotiating a sale of the land to any of them.

In a meeting of the Park Board a week earlier, chairman Donald Gilbert indicated that Xcel Energy was willing to part with the property. He said the company had told the Hudson Area Joint Library that it didn't want the property used for a new library because it didn't want the ground disturbed, but that it might transfer ownership for a passive use such as a pedestrian pathway and picnicking.

Gilbert said the property was being appraised.

The Park Board was interested in using the parcel to lengthen the riverfront pathway that runs north from Lakefront Park and ends at St. Croix Street.

Park Board member Patrick Casanova cautioned that the city should learn more about the Xcel property and whether it contains pollutants before acquiring it. He was worried that contaminants used in electrical transformers in the 1950s and '60s might be in the soil, and that the city would be taking on a liability by acquiring the property.

When told about the comments, Ouellette characterized the discussion at the Park Board meeting as "one-sided."

Park Board members in attendance at the meeting, besides Gilbert, were Randy Morrissette II, Jan Buege, Pat Casanova, Randy Lau, Tom Smith and District 3 Alderman Paul Radermacher. Mayor Jack Breault also was present.

Hockey donation

The board debated whether to use all or some of the hockey rink boards recently donated by the Hudson Hockey Association in setting up a rink at Grandview Park.

Gilbert asked whether a full-size hockey rink is really needed at the park when it was suggested that there might not be room for both a hockey rink and figure skating.

The Parks Department is planning to create an ice rink this winter on top of a new section of parking lot scheduled for construction this summer. The lot expansion will provide parking for 60 more vehicles.

Eulberg said workers would cover the blacktop with white plastic before flooding the rink in order to deter the sun from thawing the ice.

Mayor Jack Breault recommended that someone contact the hockey association to find out if it has a need for a full-size outdoor rink at Grandview.

The association recently began construction of a second indoor ice arena. It reportedly has donated two sets of rink boards to the Parks Department, including the boards for the outdoor rink that stood where the new arena is going up.

The other set of boards will be used at Burton Park at the corner of Ninth and St. Croix streets.

Other business

In other business at its Aug. 2 meeting, the Park Board:

  • Listened to an offer from the Hudson Moms Group to install playground equipment in Lakefront Park. Board members suggested that the club replace existing equipment south of Buckeye Street that is dated.

  • Discussed revising a policy that allows the same people to rent sailboat moorings in the St. Croix River year after year. City resident Dennis Kroll told the board he has been unable to rent a mooring even though 17 of the moorings appeared to be unused when he did a survey of available spaces on Aug. 1.

    City employee Liz Moline said demand for Hudson's 49 moorings increased after White Bear Lake and another area marina stopped providing them. She said Hudson residents receive preference when openings occur, but people who already have a mooring are able to keep it indefinitely as long as they re-apply each winter. The fee is $375 a season, which runs from April 15 to Nov. 15.

    "That doesn't seem right," Radermacher said of the indefinite use of moorings by those who already have them. He suggested that the board at its next meeting consider limiting the number of years a boat owner can rent a mooring.

    Breault recommended increasing the rental fee.

    Park Board chairman Gilbert said he didn't necessarily agree with setting a time limit on mooring rentals. "I have a problem with micro-managing because someone comes in with a complaint," he added.

  • Approved the running of the annual Gopher to Badger half-marathon footrace next Saturday and St. Croix Valley Triathlon events on Sept. 3-4. The 13.1-mile Gopher to Badger race starts in Stillwater and ends in Lakefront Park. The sprint- and international-course triathlons also will be run out of Lakefront Park. Final Stretch Inc., a Minnesota group, organizes the races.

  • Listened to Hudson resident Dag Selander tell of his plans for a Cyclocross race along the St. Croix River, beginning at Lakefront Park, on Nov. 26. Cyclocross is an off-road bicycling competition that combines elements of road and mountain biking, and requires racers to dismount and carry their bicycles over obstacles. It was started in Europe to give road racers something to do in the off-season. Selander's son Bjorn is the 2004 Junior U.S. Champion in Cyclocross.

  • Scheduled a special meeting for Aug. 23 to review what money is available for park improvements and prioritize the work to be done. City Finance Officer Betty Caruso presented figures showing $140,275 available for improvements north of I-94 and $165,034 for improvements south of the freeway. Most of the revenue for park improvement has come from impact fees charged to property developers. The development of Weitkamp Park at the corner of Hanley and O'Neil roads has cost $783,638 so far, according to Caruso.
  • Randy Hanson

    Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

    (715) 426-1066