APPLE VALLEY, MINNESOTA - Beginning Fall of 2021, the Apple Valley, Minnesota City Council and the Parks & Recreation team began looking into the local community's interest in a Parks Referendum to reinvest in the City's parks and recreational facilities. As the Apple Valley community continues to grow and following an increase in use during the pandemic, the City would like to invest back into the local resources to continue to attract new residents and visitors to this great city, but also to continue to provide value for its current residents and the local economy. The latest proposed referendum has nine proposed projects with a combined investment of $66.75 million and a monthly tax impact of $18.80. According to the City, the estimated tax impact is based on the 2023 median-valued home of $352,800.
The last Parks and Rec referendum passed by the residents of Apple Valley was back in 2007, creating a bond worth $14.4 million. This bond facilitated the building of the Apple Valley Senior Center, the Apple Valley Family Aquatic Center Lazy River, Quarry Point Athletic Complex, and several other projects within the park system.
Redwood Park Pool
One of the proposed projects in the master plan includes Redwood Park and the 58-year-old Redwood Park Pool. Redwood Park is a 12-acre park separated by County Road 42 on the south end. In the proposed master plan, the City would like to remove the existing pool and building and replace them with a new inclusive playground, interactive splash pad, and a new shelter building with restrooms. New tennis/pickleball courts, a hammock area, and on-site parking would also be constructed. A Dakota County improvement project funded by the County will create a pedestrian tunnel under County Road 42 to the southern part of the park was factored into the master plan but is not part of the referendum. This project is a $9.6 million investment with a tax impact of $2.81.
While residents agree improvements can be made at the park, several disapprove of removing the pool and instead would like to see a new proposed plan that would keep the pool. Many see the community pool as a "hidden gem" and a "staple of the local community" that we can't afford to lose. The pool also offers the most affordable outdoor aquatic option in the city, with an entrance fee of only $5 a person, free for anyone under 12 months. The Family Aquatic Center, entrance fee starts at $13 a person, free for anyone under 12 months. According to the business description for the pool in the 2023 operating budget, it is also the primary teaching location for the City's American Red Cross "Learn to Swim" program, which had over 580 participants last year alone and averaged over 260 participants between 2018-2019, and 2021 (the pool was not open in 2020 due to COVID).
The City states the pool has outlived its life expectancy, and any additional investments into parts for this pool are not cost-effective. Instead, the City recommends that the pool be removed and rebuilt, which they estimate would cost $6.5 million with an operational subsidy of $13.44 per visitor. In a flier created by the Apple Valley Parks and Rec they state the pool has unfortunately lost an average of $69,000 annually over the last four years in daily costs, which is again equivalent to the $13.44 subsidy per open swim visitor.
When speaking to the Community members who want to save the pool, they argue increasing the hours of operation, which are currently 12:30 PM to 4 PM for open swimming, to 10 AM to 6 PM would greatly increase the daily attendance of the pool. Increasing the hours into the evening could also bring in community members looking to swim with their families after getting off work and wanting to relax. For comparison's sake, the Family Aquatic Center's hours are 11 AM to 6 PM. Adding hours before the noon timeframe could also increase concession sales factoring in the lunch crowd as another avenue for additional profits. Community members also agree increasing admission costs could be another option, still keeping it reasonably affordable for all to use.
If you would like to help save the pool, a Facebook group to discuss alternative improvement ideas for the Park that would save the pool, along with discussing additional ways to make the pool more profitable has been created. They have a brainstorming session for more ideas that will be open to the public on Tuesday, June 6th at the Redwood Park Pavilion. You can find that event link here. They have also made a petition you can sign to save the pool, which you can find here.