Although it’s a river city, Stillwater doesn’t have a place for the public to access the St. Croix.
That’s all about to change.
A master plan for the Aiple Park property, 15 acres of land on nearly three-quarters of a mile of shoreline, shows multiple river access points. There’s an accessible kayak/canoe launch, a fishing pier and multiple trails that connect to the Brown’s Creek State Trail.
“This is really the only place in Stillwater that people will be able to touch the river itself,” said City Planner Abbi Wittman. “It will allow pedestrian access to the river in a way no other public lands do.”
Plans call for picnic areas, benches and overlooks for river viewing and fishing; an accessible trail around a pond on the property; expanded parking at the southern end of the site and trails and a major makeover of the 4,000-square-foot house on the property. The split-level house, which belonged to the late Elayne Aiple, would be remodeled to include public restrooms, a boat storage area, canoe/kayak rental vendor space and a picnic patio/pavilion.
A conservation easement on the property limits the city’s ability to develop the land, Wittman said, so plans call for passive recreation and non-motorized boats. Much of the wooded property will be returned to natural conditions, and there is to be no development that increases the amount of impervious surface on site.
“This area is intended to provide pedestrians with a quiet connection to the river,” she said. “We wanted to ensure pedestrians of all abilities would be able to access the variety of natural resources and passive recreation options the park will have to offer.”
Aiple, who lived on the land for decades, sold the property in 2014 to the city and county for $4.3 million; she died in 2015. Plans call for $2.5 million to be spent on the development of the new park over the next 20 years.
The city is working on finding different funding partners for the park, which is located just north of downtown, said Stillwater City Council member Mike Polehna.
“I think this is a project that the community will support,” Polehna said. “When you think about it, there is really no good access to the river. I think this will provide the access that people want. It’s just a fantastic opportunity for everybody to enjoy the river.”
The house would be converted into an indoor community gathering space and would include a storage area for sculls and a vendor space for canoe and kayak rental. The indoor pool will be filled in.
“People could park here, take a shuttle up to Marine on St. Croix and then canoe or kayak down and take out here,” Polehna said. “You could make a weekend of it — one day you canoe down the St. Croix and then the next you go on bike rides on our beautiful trails. Wouldn’t that be cool?”
HOW TO WEIGH IN
Stillwater residents have until Nov. 13 to weigh in on the park’s master plan, which still must be approved by the Stillwater City Council with recommendations from the parks commission. Copies of the plan can be found at https://www.ci.stillwater.mn.us/city-government/departments/planning-development/community-development/north-aiple-park. Anyone wanting to weigh in should email email@example.com.
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