If it seems like Rochester has been talking about a major overhaul of Silver Lake Park forever, well, that’s a bit of a stretch. Officially, it’s only been seven years. For those who frequent the park, however, those seven years might have seemed like an eternity.

But the end of discussions and planning is now in sight. On Monday, Rochester Parks and Recreation presented its latest Silver Lake Park Master Plan to City Council. While the plan is still subject to change, council is expected to act on it in October, which should set the wheels in motion for actual construction to begin.

The objectives of the plan are rightly ambitious and complex. Silver Lake Park’s central location, access to water, diverse ecosystem, and rich history should make it a destination of choice, one of the crown jewels of the city’s park system.

Currently the park is not a gem.

The Silver Lake Pool, built in the 1950s, is hopelessly outdated and increasingly expensive to maintain. Public access to launch boats, canoes and kayaks in Zumbro Lake/River is woefully inadequate and the fishing pier is regularly underwater. The ubiquitous geese litter both the lake and surrounding green spaces, trails and playgrounds.

Public surveys have revealed that most park users live nearby and visit the park with their children. These polls also found that while people want the revamped park to include a “destination feature,” it’s the geese and the park’s perceived poor cleanliness that keep them from visiting it more often, if at all.

The park council and board are now faced with the challenge of achieving a wide range of goals for the park. Public inquiries found support for the wetlands, restored grassland and a ‘natural’ way to experience the lake, but these inquiries also found support for a watersports play area and a ‘performance’ area of amphitheater type by the lake. Some want a food truck spot, while others want a more permanent cafe — or both.

And of course, some want the park to have a new, modern aqua center, while others want a cheaper kiddy pool — and the pool to close.

Add a dog park, a new fishing pier, a sledding area and maybe pickleball courts for participants in the nation’s fastest growing sport, and Rochester could have something very, very special that will attract locals and visitors all year round.

A mallard duck walks through the mud at Silver Lake Friday, April 23, 2021 in Rochester. The City of Rochester has lowered water levels in Silver Lake through Monday, April 26 to allow for utility work on the North Broadway Avenue reconstruction project. (Joe Ahlquist / [email protected])

In total, the price for the current plan would be between $14 million and $17.5 million, but that price would not include a new pool.

For now, that’s fine with us. Rochester’s public pool issues won’t be resolved any time soon, and we see no reason why building a free public wading pool in Silver Lake Park would eliminate the possibility of a new Silver Lake pool somewhere down the road. . Big changes are likely in the construction of Soldiers Field Park, and it would be unwise to invest tens of millions of dollars in a new swimming pool in Silver Lake before knowing what will happen in the other large park downtown. from the city.

So putting the pool issue aside, we applaud the efforts of the park board in creating this plan, and we thank those who, when asked, took the time to share their visions of what Silver Lake Park could and will become. It’s now possible to imagine going to the park for a nice meal, strolling on a boardwalk through restored wetlands, and then catching a play or musical performance in a lakeside amphitheater.

And, if anyone can figure out how to keep the geese away – well, Rochester would really be something special.