, 2023-05-01 10:33:50,
Hillcrest Knoll Park, the seven-acre block in the middle of Saint Paul’s sprawling East Side, has a fascinating history, best told here at MinnPost in Andy Sturdevant’s 2016 Stroll column. After a flash flood inundated two dozen homes in 1997, it was clear that the land could never be habitable. Instead, it became a city park.
Sturdevant describes the end result:
The park is operated by St. Paul Public Works, and the green space acts as a holding pond during rainy seasons. The area was marked as a swamp on early maps of St. Paul, and development grew up slowly around it on commercial thoroughfares like Arlington and White Bear Avenues. During the postwar boom, the land finally became too valuable to ignore. The swamp was filled in and an assortment of Cape Cods and ramblers were built over it.
For the two decades after the demolition, not much happened at Hillcrest Knoll Park. People would walk their dogs, fly a kite, play a game of frisbee. Most of the time the land sat empty: an wide open, occasionally very soggy, green space.
That changed last year thanks to an idea from of local residents, Tony and Amanda Kutzke, who launched a grassroots effort to install a disc golf course at the site. The nine-hole result, which officially opened last August, is sure to make 2023 a banner year in Hillcrest Knoll Park history.
“It’s been a great collaborative project between the city and the community, coming together to help activate the park and create more use,” said Tony Kutzke, who lives two blocks away. “Once the baskets went in, it’s been lots of fun to see so many people using the park in a different way.”
The cabbage of park infrastructure
Disc golf is the cabbage of park infrastructure, in that compared to just about anything else you can buy in the city budget, it’s deeply affordable. (By the way, that analogy makes a do-it-yourself disc golf course the equivalent of homemade sauerkraut: cheap, healthy, and delicious.) The total cost of the brand new Hillcrest Knoll Disc Golf Course was $8,300, over half of which was donated by Kutzke and his family. That kind of sum would be a rounding error for any other parks project.
They also received donations from a few East Side businesses and a local construction company. As part of the park installation, collaborating with the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department, they hired a local disc golf designer named Cale Leiviska to lay out…
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