What do you think of Alexandria's 22 city parks?

The city is working on putting together a Parks Master Plan that will serve the city for up to 20 years.

Walking in park
Vanessa Holland walks on a trail along Lake Agnes in Big Ole Central Park in Alexandria on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022.
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA — The response to a survey about the 22 parks in Alexandria was phenomenal, according to Bill Thoennes, director of parks and facilities for the city of Alexandria .

“We were thoroughly impressed,” said Thoennes of the 825 responses. “We had a great response from the community.”

Parks-Trails Master Plan Survey Results by Celeste Edenloff on Scribd

The anticipated response was closer to between 300 and 350, so the fact that the city received 825, was just outstanding, he said.

He added that the city has partnered with Hoisington Koegler Group Inc. out of Minneapolis to do the planning process for the Parks Master Plan, which is currently being worked on.

The city, said Thoennes, has never done a full-blown Parks Master Plan for the parks and trails within the city limits of Alexandria.


“We have some fantastic parks and amenities in our parks,” he said. “And we are looking for ways to improve them.”

Another reason for the master plan, he said, is so when the city gets a request from the public to add something new to the parks, it can make sure it is a good fit for the city and community, and to make sure whatever might be added is placed in the correct park and location within the park.

The end result of all the planning, surveying and getting public input is that it will give the Public Works Parks and Facilities Division, the Park Board and the City Council a "road map" for the parks and trails for the next five, 10, 15, 20 years down the road, said Thoennes.

Bill Thoennes

The city is still looking for more detailed information that will help with creating the Parks Master Plan. There is an interactive program online where community members can pick a specific park and add comments on what they would like to see in that park.

Thoennes said, for example, if someone picks Fillmore Park, they could comment that they wanted to see more walking trails around the park. The comment would be added and then available for anyone to see. All comments added through the interactive program will be visible for anyone to see.

The link, , will be available until at least Thanksgiving, but possibly longer, he said.

Once the program has ended, HKGI will take the information and populate it into concept drawings, said Thoennes, noting that those will then be available for public open houses. He expects to host another public open house sometime in January or February.

“One thing about this type of parks and trails master plan is that the results are geared for input from the public, so public feedback is very valuable,” said Thoennes.


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Noonan Park, 905 Lake Street, is one of more than 22 parks within the city limits of Alexandira.
Lowell Anderson | Alexandria Echo Press

With the public survey that was already completed, he said the city has gained some valuable information.

One of the most eye-opening, said Thoennes, is that there is a great need for more accessible parks for those with special needs, as well as items within parks for those who have sensory needs. He had been in contact with a representative from Northway Academy, who not only filled out the survey, but shared valuable input with him about accessible needs within the park system. Northway Academy provides programs for children with autism spectrum disorder or other related conditions.

Other items that were not new topics, said Thoennes, was the need/want for a splash pad, as well as tennis courts and baseball facilities.

Here’s a look at some other information from the survey, which can be found on the city of Alexandria’s website.

Of the 825 people who responded, 615 – 74.55% – are full-time Alexandria residents, while 140 (16.97%) said they live nearby, but outside Alexandria city limits. Others responded they are part-time residents, own property that is not a main residence or were a visitor.

As for why people visit Alexandria parks in the summer, the highest responses (300 or more out of the 765 responses) included walking/hiking/running (490), access to nature (402), playing on the playground (400), swimming (366), and picnics (314). When asked why people visit the parks and trails in Alexandria in the winter, the top three answers out of 740, were walking/hiking/running/snowshoeing (312), access to nature (304) and informal ice skating/pick-up hockey (278).

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Big Ole Central Park, 200 Broadway, is north of downtown Alexandria. It sits on the shores of Lake Agnes and is home to Big Ole, a 28-foot tall fiberglass Viking statue.
Echo Press file photo

What do people wish was available in Alexandria parks? The top answer, out of the 756 responses, was a splash pad with 400 (52.91%) replies. Other top answers included more trails (266), more restrooms (243), more swimming beach options (223) and natural resources enhancements like rain gardens, native plantings, etc. (207)

In general, how do the parks in Alexandria meet people's needs? Of the 748 responses, 358 said they “agreed” with the statement that parks meet their needs, while 203 were neutral on the question. There were 50 people who said they strongly disagreed.


There were 312 (42.11%) who agreed that Alexandria parks offer something for everybody, while 113 (15.25%) said they strongly disagreed that the parks offer something for everyone.

Out of 742 people who answered the question on Alexandria parks being well maintained, only 47 (6.33%) strongly disagreed, while 351 (47.3%) agreed.

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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