SARTELL -- The COVID-19 pandemic has created a high volume of residents getting out and enjoying many of our local parks and trails.

The increase in foot traffic has sparked city officials to look into making improvements to their park systems faster than anticipated.

Sartell Mayor Ryan Fitzthum says on Monday the council approved adding a new full court basketball court to Val Smith Park, similar to the ones at The Wilds and Watab Parks.

He adds the planned fat tire bike course at Sauk River Regional Park will be another attractive feature.

We are in the design phase of it now. I would anticipate that process will take us through 2020. Then in the spring I would anticipate construction happening of some of the new amenities, with hopes of opening by mid-summer of 2021.

Along with the bike trail, the city plans to add a patio area down by the river along with a few other trail improvements.

Fitzthum says they hope to partner with St. Cloud to extend the bike trail over the river to really capitalize on what the park has to offer.

As for Watab Park, that area has been under construction this summer as upgrades were planned prior to the pandemic.

Fitzthum says the new playground is nearly completed, and the new splash pad should be installed in the next few months.

There needs to be a curbing put in, some final grading and installing the wood chips and then it's ready to go. We know the splash pad and shelter has a way to go yet. That will be done by October but won't officially open until Spring.

He says they are also looking at adding a bike trail along Riverside Avenue, when the road is schedule for reconstruction, to connect Watab Park to the other trail systems within the community.

In total, Fitzthum says they've invested over $1-million the last two years into Watab Park with a new shelter, playground, courts and splash pad for people to enjoy.

Sauk Rapids is also in the middle of a major park renovation project.

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