Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

What makes a great park, in my opinion June 23, 2015

IN THE PAST FEW DAYS, after visiting Bridge Square in Northfield and Morehouse Park in Owatonna, I’ve thought about what makes a great community gathering place. When considering a spot for a picnic or simply a place to relax, what do I seek?

A view of the Straight River from the pedestrian bridge in Morehouse Park.

A view of the Straight River from the pedestrian bridge in Morehouse Park.

Water. Whether a river or a fountain or a lake, water tops my list. There’s something about water that soothes, that eases life’s worries. I’m not a water sports person. But I love the sound of rushing water like that of the Straight River roaring over the dam in Morehouse Park or the fountain spraying in Bridge Square, just across the street from the Cannon River.

Water roars over rocks in the Straight River at Moreshouse Park.

Water roars over rocks in the Straight River at Morehouse Park.

A trail of geese in the tranquil part of the Straight River.

A trail of geese in the tranquil part of the Straight River.

On a beautiful summer afternoon, a woman fishes the Straight River.

On a beautiful summer afternoon, a woman fishes the Straight River.

Water offers a place to wish, to think or not, to fish, to canoe, to observe nature. Still as geese gliding. Hopeful as pennies tossed into a fountain. Turbulent water tumbling over rocks as calming as white noise.

A recreational trail slices through Morehouse Park, bridging the Straight River.

A recreational trail slices through Morehouse Park, bridging the Straight River.

I also want a park that’s aesthetically pleasing, clean, green, obviously cared for and appreciated.

Gorgeous flower baskets hang along the recreational bridge.

Gorgeous flower baskets hang along the recreational bridge.

In Morehouse Park, generous baskets of petunias suspended from a pedestrian bridge make a statement that says this community cares. The park is a busy place with a trail winding through that draws bikers, skaters, walkers and photographers like me.

At Bridge Square, the fountain entices all ages to perch beside the water, to rest on benches, to purchase popcorn from the popcorn wagon.

Morehouse Park includes a playground, tennis court and horseshoe pits along with other amenities.

Morehouse Park includes a playground, tennis court and horseshoe pits along with other amenities.

In both parks I feel a sense of community, of closeness in appreciating a beautiful spot in the heart of a city. There’s a certain vibrancy, a rhythm, a definitive weaving of people and place.

Ducks and geese overrun Morehouse Park. So watch for droppings. Everywhere.

Ducks and geese overrun Morehouse Park. So watch for droppings. Everywhere.

And that is what I seek in a park. Not just a picnic table under a tree. But a certain sense of belonging, of connecting with nature and community on a Minnesota summer day.

BONUS PHOTOS from Sunday afternoon at Morehouse Park:

A sign next to the bridge reads: "When we preserve a historic place, we preserve a part of who we are."

A sign next to the bridge reads: “When we preserve a historic place, we preserve a part of who we are.”

A robin hops along the bank of the Straight River in the dappled sunlight of a June afternoon.

A robin hops along the bank of the Straight River in the dappled sunlight of a June afternoon.

Waterfowl aplenty populate sections of the park.

Waterfowl aplenty populate sections of the park.

Geese hug the riverbank.

Geese hug the riverbank.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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19 Responses to “What makes a great park, in my opinion”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    Yes, water! That element creates enticements for so many of our senses and feeds our dreamy imaginings. I think that’s why so many have indoor fountains (myself included!) that add a subtle serenity to the indoor spaces. Your photos are totally awesome!!!!!

  2. Jackie Says:

    Rick and I are big fans of water, lakes, rivers and oceans, it’s surely adds to the beauty of parks… I totally agree with you on all accounts 🙂 Like you and Doreen, I also have a fountain… mine is in my outdoor living room (the deck) 🙂

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    To spread a blanket in the shade of a tree beside the water – that is summer.

  4. Littlesundog Says:

    What a soothing post… there’s just something lovely and aesthetically beautiful about water. You’ve done a great job showing all sorts of “water” life flourishing!

  5. Wow that place is absolutely beautiful.

  6. Don Says:

    A well maintained park along a body of water be it a lake, ocean, river etc. is like a battery charger for the soul.

    Great pictures! In my mind I can hear the water flowing, the ducks quacking, the geese honking and the quite solitude of my own mind.

  7. Beth Ann Says:

    Water tops my list as well. Has to have water. Even if it is just a simple fountain. Water symbolizes so much to me and I am so thrilled that my next house will be on a lake where I will be able to see the water every single day. Thanks for a stroll through a lovely park.

  8. hotlyspiced Says:

    Beautiful to see such lovely images of summer. I agree that to me, a park needs water and it’s all the better when we see geese, swans and ducks enjoying that environment xx

  9. Ruth Ann Triplett Says:

    Love your pictures of Morehouse Park! Makes me homesick. I grew up in Owatonna and have many happy memories at that park. Though I have lived in CA for over 50 years, Owatonna will always be home.

  10. Reminders of a gentler time perhaps?


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