(Fergus Falls, MN) — August 17th, 2023 — The hot summer months have many people looking forward to summer 2024 when the splash pad downtown will be open! The splash pad is the key element of the “Downtown Riverfront Phase II” project, which is located on the block behind the Federal Courthouse. The project includes the splash pad, a waterfall feature, reflecting pools, seating areas, pergola, restrooms, and public art. This block of riverfront development is the extension of the Spies Riverfront Park and the Market Pavilion project. The City Council approved the Downtown & Riverfront Master Plan in December 2017 with a vision to improve the view of the river, provide a splash pad, redevelop downtown, and replace deteriorating infrastructure. The view is already improved as the overhead power lines were moved underground during the first months of construction.
The splash pad is a non-slip surface with various nozzles and spray features coming up from under the ground as well as standing play features that can splash water down on the users. Our system will recycle and treat the water (much like a pool) rather than using a steady stream of fresh water. This is much more environmentally friendly as it does not waste water. The reflecting pools will have just 3” of water and are not swimming pools, but good for wading and cooling off.
Two sculptures will be included as part of the project. Local artists Jeff Zachman and Carl Zachman were selected based on their submissions to the Public Arts Commission. Well-known for their kinetic work, Carl’s concept is a wind sculpture (video: https://youtu.be/eQToAEHAbDI) and Jeff’s is a bison. The budget for the art is exclusively paid for by outside sources, a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a $100,000 match from the Dell Trust.
Having celebrated the groundbreaking on May 4, 2023, this project is expected to take slightly more than one year to complete, with the tentative opening of Memorial Day Weekend in 2024. Brian Yavarow, P.E., city engineer, notes the project will be mostly completed late this fall. The 2024 punch list will include final operation of the water features (adding the water!) the final asphalt surfacing and striping the parking lot. The new parking configuration will be diagonal parking (like the Spies Riverfront Park lot). Prior to construction there were 100 parking spots behind the Federal Courthouse, and there will be 76 when the project is complete. Ten parking spots are privately rented.
The scope of the project was scaled back when the 2022 Legislature did not pass a bonding bill. Elements omitted were a pedestrian bridge, trail extension and amphitheater. The remaining project cost is $5.354M and the sources include: $713,000 ARPA Funds, $1.177M funds on hand, $1.464M general obligation bonds. The final $2M is being raised through private fundraising lead by community members.