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By Melinda Coleman, City Manager
We cut a lot of ribbons, shook many hands, helped hundreds clean out their garages, improved parks and trails, and completely refurbished several miles of Maplewood streets in 2018. It was a busy and productive year. This is one of many year-in-review pieces you’ll be reading, so I’ll keep it brief and relevant to our community members and business owners.
While police community relations are under scrutiny across the nation, Maplewood’s Public Safety Department, which includes law enforcement, fire and EMS, remains highly respected by our citizens and business community for its responsiveness and professionalism.
The Public Safety Department hosted dozens of joint community gatherings where people could meet our police officers and fire/EMS staff in a relaxed setting. These opportunities were in a range of neighborhoods and setting,s including at the Assalama Mosque, in the Karen Community, with our business council, and at senior events.
In 2019, the police department will add two new officer positions to help with outreach and its new proactive, problem-solving units. Our fire/EMS is now an all full-time department, which will help us stay ahead of growing emergency medical response needs and save money on training and equipment.
The City now has about three miles of new street and underground utility infrastructure in the Londin-Highpoint and the Farrell- Ferndale neighborhoods. This is in addition to all the great work done by crews who maintain Maplewood’s streets, parks and sewer facilities.
In 2019, pending council approval, we’re planning to reconstruct more than four miles of road and utilities, including the final leg of Frost Avenue in the Gladstone corridor. It will include more green space and be more bike and pedestrian friendly. Improvements will also help Wakefield Lake water quality.
The new Gladstone streetscape will enhance other improvements along the corridor, including new signage at the Savanna about the land’s rich history and environmental features. A new market-rate, 55+ apartment complex opened this summer. And properties continue to be re-purposed to meet new retail and housing needs.
On the north end of town around the Maplewood Mall, changes in shopping trends give us a chance to reinvent the area. Working with business leaders, planners, residents and the growing health care community, the City is exploring what the right mix of retail, entertainment, housing and health care space will be.
Parks and Recreation
This spring families from across the City will have a chance to enjoy the improvements at Wakefield Park, including the new community building and upgrades to the athletic fields. In 2018, the Parks and Recreation Department hosted several community events, including the first annual Bruentrup Farm Boo Bash, which drew huge crowds.
There’s a new playground at Maplecrest Park. Thanks to all the neighbors who provided valuable input on the project.
Nature Center naturalists conducted a BioBlitz at Fish Creek with staff and volunteers documenting dozens of birds, plants, and insect species.
2019 projects include the installation of a universally designed (ADA-accessible) play environment at Wakefield Park and completing the Nature Center Master Plan.
The view from City Hall only gives me one perspective. I try to get out to as many community gatherings as possible, to hear what you have to say, and see how our plans impact your lives. It’s reassuring to hear we’re doing well. But I also appreciate the constructive criticism on things we can do better. Your feedback on social media and in our recent community survey have been helpful. For example, 75 percent of those surveyed say Maplewood’s overall quality of life is good or excellent. On the other hand, more than 50 percent indicate the city needs to improve our cultural, arts and entertainment offerings.
On behalf of the entire City staff, we look forward to serving you in the year ahead.