I have occasion periodically to drive past the newest park in Little Falls.  Have you been there yet, or have you blown right past it without even knowing it was there?  If you’ve done the latter, don’t feel bad.  The park is barely visible from Lindbergh Drive South.   It is hidden by a berm upon which railroad tracks run.

Mill Park, as it is known, was fashioned out of the former Hennepin Paper Mill site.  Several artifacts of mill operations have been purposely left on the site, including a portion of the smokestack, brick arches, a metal spiral staircase, and a massive wall that was part of the canal’s raceway through the mill.  The City of Little Falls has made several improvements to the site, paving a long ramped sidewalk, adding railings, and laying down sod.  I can’t do justice to the site by merely describing it, so you’ll have to go see it when the weather cooperates.

For as wonderful as Mill Park is, I am concerned about its lack of visibility.  It’s been hard enough to control vandalism in more visible city parks, but Mill Park’s hidden nature is an open invitation for this sort of thing.  While I’m sure the city police patrol the area, we can’t expect them to have an officer permanently assigned to the site.  Instead, I’d like to suggest that the city create an informal Park Watch, which would be useful for not only Mill Park, but for the other city parks, as well.

Park Watch doesn’t have to be a complicated program with loads of bureaucracy.  It would be a program of encouragement.  Those of us who enjoy the city’s parks tend to have favorite ones in which we like to hang out.  As long as we’re there anyway, why not pick up any trash we see and report signs of vandalism to the police?  Once or twice a year, spring and fall, perhaps, the city could have clean-up days in the parks.  I wouldn’t make Park Watch any more complicated than this, unless maybe to provide simple badges to those who want to participate.

While I am sure there are already people who do this sort of thing, the point of Park Watch, other than keeping our parks clean and safe, would be to build community through a shared connection and pride in our surroundings.  That’s what city parks are supposed to do for us.  Park Watch would enhance the effect.

Willing to do shore duty,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

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