Residents spell out wants in new Island Park survey

The most desirable traits in the park are its natural features and swimming pool, according to the survey's results.

Pedestrians take a stroll through Island Park in downtown Fargo on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

FARGO — It's still pretty much a tossup on where to put the new Island Park pool slated to be reconstructed next year after a Fargo Park District survey on the park's master plan ended this past week.

There were plenty of comments about keeping the pool where it currently sits on the northwest corner of the historic park, but when asked which of two design concepts the 1,508 respondents liked best, they favored by a few percentage points the option of moving the pool farther south along Seventh Street.

The location of the pool is the most urgent question as the plan is to tear it down this fall and reconstruct it with dedicated funding.

The survey results were certainly close enough to leave it as an open-ended question. It's one that a team of architects, planners and park district staff will be examining before presenting the survey and other public input findings to a Park Board committee later this month. At their regular June meeting, one of the plans is expected to be selected.

While park district officials and park board commissioners wanted to make it clear this plan will be a gradual improvement plan over five to 20 years, and that some of the ideas suggested may not ever happen, it is still a guiding document to any possible park changes.


Project manager Brett Gurhult, a landscape architect with the AGL firm, has praised the park district and board for their extensive outreach to residents to see what they favor in one of the city's most popular and only downtown park — something not often done in other park systems.

A few things that were made clear by the survey is what people like most about the park: swimming (35% of respondents) and connecting with nature (28%). Walking or jogging came in at 17% and socializing in groups got 11.5%.

Another telling part of the survey, conducted over 16 days, are the amenities favored by respondents: 47% said the trees, open space and trails, followed by the pool and its four-season restroom at 33%. None of the other amenities broke into double digits.

Also in the comments, it was made clear that people didn't want to lose some 50 to 70 trees out of the 1,100 that grace the city's oldest park due to any proposed changes. It was the most common comment by respondents.

Only a few larger trees, however, would be lost in any proposed plans. The tree reduction was pointed out at a public input session last month, although it was clear survey respondents treasured each of the massive and decades- or century-old trees that tower over the park.

A majority of any proposed trees to be removed would be those planted in the past 10 years or so, along with some mature evergreens, Gurhult said at the input meeting.

Other comments offered more insight into residents' hope for the park, something Park District Enterprise Director Carolyn Boutain told the Park Board this past week they should delve into.

The other most commonly found comment was support of a new "natural playground" for children in the park near the same location of the current playground. A natural playground features elements from the earth such as tree logs and stumps, boulders and other natural items instead of plastic or steel equipment.


While there were conflicting responses about specific features from each design option, about 52% to 56% of respondents loved, really liked or liked the design concepts. Another 25% to 30% said "it's ok," making the favorability ratings in the 80% to 83% range.

Those who didn't like either plan were 17% to 19%.

The Design Concept One, which would move the pool farther south, had the most favorability ratings by only a few percentage points. That option also included adding an amphitheater and gathering space near where the pool currently sits and moving and adding tennis and pickleball courts to the far south end of the park, where a ball field is now found in what is called Dill Hill.

Another design option gaining some support is a sculpture garden, where some of those scattered throughout the park would be moved into a garden setting where the Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre building currently sits. The theater will be torn down because of failing infrastructure and an expensive requirement by the city fire department that a road be built around to the back of the structure for safety reasons.

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