Though Ally Fellows considers herself relatively new to Northfield, she and her family have been frequent visitors to Northfield and the Riverwalk Market Fair for several years.
Having moved to area in November, Fellows has since started her own granola making business, Good Fellows Goodies. She is excited to participate in the Market Fair through August until her fall semester of college begins at South Dakota State University.
Traditionally filled with locally produced goods, artisan foods, musical entertainment, art and fine crafts, prairie inspired pottery, organic farm products and activities for the whole family, the Riverwalk Market Fair kicked off its 2021 season May 22. The open-air Saturday market, along the Cannon River in Northfield, is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through Oct. 23, rain or shine, with the exception of Sept. 11.
Participating in the Market Fair as a vendor for the first time, Fellows has enjoyed meeting members of the community and learning how to start up a small business. She finds the Market Fair to be a great environment because it “blends together a nice mix of food, arts and crafts vendors, drawing people of all ages and backgrounds to the Northfield community.”
Founded in 2010 by local artists and entrepreneurs, along with assistance from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, the Market Fair started as a venue for local entrepreneurs to market their products. The Riverwalk Market Fair website states it is has become a valued community asset where local residents gather, as well as a popular destination for visitors from the Twin Cities and the region.
Fellows said the Market Fair is a huge asset to Northfield, something that particularly brought her to Northfield on numerous occasions prior to moving.
“It introduced me to Northfield, its people, its culture and so many things that I like about Northfield,” said Fellows. “The Market Fair does such a great job of bringing together local vendors, artists and community members in a beautiful downtown setting.”
Riverwalk Market Fair Manager April Kopack, too, said the Market Fair brings consumers a feeling of community and celebration.
“We definitely pride ourselves in being an event. As much as we are a farmers market, art fair and other things, we are a celebration,” Kopack said. “We have patrons that do travel to come and experience the market, to purchase of course but also to take part in the community event.”
Kopack believes the weekly event also benefits local commerce, noting the downtown area on Saturdays is quite busy. She also hopes there is some benefit to the businesses in that area.
“As far as being a tourist destination, I think that’s another thing it brings to the city, people looking for a destination to visit,” Kopack said.
Though some vendors were a bit hesitant, like many businesses coming out of a time with so many unknowns, Kopack said the Market Fair opened with a large number of returning vendors, while new vendor capacity increased by 50%. To date, Kopack said there are about 70 vendors registered for the season, some to vend nearly each date, and some looking to try it out for one day or two.
With the event’s COVID-19 preparedness plan this year, Kopack said additional space was created to allow more space for both patrons and vendors. The plan allows for 40 vendors on any given Saturday, though she hopes they will begin to allow 50 as restrictions are loosened and people begin feeling safer. Currently, Kopack said they are at capacity and continue to explore ways to expand within their given space and look for possibilities outside of that as well.
“Right now we’ve been full these last consistent three weeks with the same amount of people coming in. I think we’ll see a shift here with more vendors registering,” she said.
Moving forward, Kopack is developing a partnership with Mar Valdecantos, vice chair of the Northfield Human Rights Commission and director of the Rice County Neighbors United nonprofit, to be more inclusive and reach out to populations in the Northfield community who may be under-presented. The goal is to add more diversity to the Market Fair and mitigate some of the barriers individuals have in getting to the market.
A consulting firm is recommending that nearly $14.7 million be invested through 2030 to construct a new storage facility, tank and numerous other improvements for the Northfield wastewater treatment plant that also serves Dundas.
The results of the wastewater treatment plant operations and facility study, compiled by Dallas-based Jacobs Engineering, were announced Tuesday during a Northfield City Council work session meeting by Group Project Manager John Borghesi. The plan is expected to come back before the council at a future meeting.
The wastewater treatment plant’s existing sludge holding tank allows for only three days storage. Borghesi said adding a 360,000-gallon storage tank for $3.8 million would increase sludge storage from three days to 10, giving staff more time to correct major equipment failures. Also, Jacobs recommended demolishing and replacing the existing biosolids cake storage facility for $3.9 million. That replacement would reportedly increase the maximum storage limits from the current 40 to 80 days to 180.
Other recommendations include replacing the biological aerated filter process blower for $2.1 million and spending $3.62 million for equipment renewals. Also, Jacobs found on-site control system and card access system upgrades would cost $864,000, and that the on-site well “has limited capacity and will not meet the demands of a fire suppression system.” According to Jacobs, it would cost $1 million to connect the water supply if fire suppression is required.
Currently, through an agreement, Dundas is allowed to use up to 4.6% of the Wastewater Treatment Plant facility load. Northfield Utilities Manager Justin Wagner noted the numbers identified in the report included projected population growth in both Dundas and Northfield. Drafts of the plan were also released in October and January.
In January 2018, flooding of the biological aerated filter in the basement due to a pipe plug failure caused 5 feet of water to flood the basement and 200 gallons to be released to the ground. Then, in May of that year, a fire in the biosolids handling facility caused significant damage, requiring emergency biosolids handling, an emergency treatment system, and repairing and rebuilding the permanent facility. In July 2018, a pipe failure in the sludge pump room caused 6 feet of wastewater to flood the basement and 1 million gallons of untreated waste water being discharged into the Cannon River.
In May 2020, Jacobs recommended the city hire an additional wastewater treatment plant supervisor to accommodate the facility’s size and better document maintenance procedures.
A number of recommendations established in a 2016 facility plan have already been completed, including ultraviolet disinfection, biosolids processing facility work, and the replacement of a Biological aerated filter gate.
Councilor Jessica Peterson White asked whether there were any other energy efficiency measures the city could take to reduce usage, like placing solar panels on a roof. Wagner noted that as part of a solar study, wastewater plant roofs were identified as potential locations for solar energy generation.
The cities of Faribault and Northfield plan to seek state bonding money in 2022 to connect significant portions of local trails.
The Faribault City Council on Tuesday approved submitting a bonding request for next year at an unspecified amount to construct a half-mile of the Northern Link Trail, from Hulett Avenue to under the railroad tracks at the west end of North Alexander Park, where it would connect with the Straight River Trail.
Mayor Kevin Voracek noted the trail would create a loop that attaches to the Mill Towns State Trail and could be used by bicyclists to head downtown. Faribault has unsuccessfully requested the state help fund the stretch for the last 10 years.
“For us it’s a huge safety issue,” he noted of the current concerns the city currently has with the stretch.
On Tuesday during a work session, the Northfield City Council unanimously expressed support for staff to submit a $10.05 million bonding request with a 70%-30% state-city funding split ($7.04 million from the state and $3.01 million from the city) to connect stretches of Mill Towns State Trail, including:
$648,960 from Riverside to Jefferson Parkway
$1.62 million from Jefferson Parkway to Prairie Street
$1.08 million to connect Prairie Street and Woodley Street
$2.05 million to connect Woodley Street and Highway 19
$4.65 million to connect Highway 19 and the Waterford Bridge in Waterford Township.
Cities are required to submit 2022 proposed bonding project information next week. Public Works Director/City Engineer David Bennett said councilors will have more feedback from landowners on the preliminary design by then. City Administrator Ben Martig asked if the council wanted to gauge the interest of Dakota or Rice counties in helping to fund trail segments outside of Northfield city limits.
Three sections of the Mill Towns State Trail are available for use. A 2-mile paved section between Cannon Falls and Lake Byllesby connects with Hannah’s Bend Park and city of Cannon Falls trails, which in turn connect to Cannon Valley Trail to the east. A second 3-mile paved section connections the cities of Northfield and Dundas. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the 3-mile paved section was built as a local route, but has been considered a part of Mill Towns State Trail since the master plan was completed in 2005. The trail connects with the city of Northfield trails near Babcock and Riverside parks on the north end and with the city of Dundas trailhead and local trails on the south end. A third 1-mile section is in Faribault between 17th Street Northwest and Park Avenue.
The Northfield City Council in April 2019 opted to have the trail follow Jefferson Parkway on the south side of the city, connecting schools and parks. Councilors ordered the route head east along Jefferson Parkway past Highway 246 and the city’s soccer fields and just past Prairie Creek Drive, eventually heading north, running parallel along Spring Creek Road.
When complete, the trail will be expected to connect Northfield, Dundas, Waterford Township, Randolph and Cannon Falls. The trail is also seen as important to developing the southeast Minnesota trail system, connecting Red Wing to Mankato.
A shifting trend
According to the University of Minnesota, average daily bicycle traffic volumes during the pandemic on 16 trails increased 39% from 2019-20 but declined approximately 15% on eight roadways and road shoulders. The Faribault Flyers Bike and Ski Club has seen a big uptick in interest as well, according to President Marv Trandem. From a typical size of about 50 members, the club saw its membership rolls increase to about 85 last fall.
“It’s our hypothesis that the different trends in bike use on different facilities are associated with changes in trip purposes,” said Greg Lindsey, professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “That means fewer utilitarian trips for work and shopping and more trips for exercise, recreation and mental health.”
Voracek called the trails “a great way” for users to be active.
“It provides a new … way of tourism, and the more people we bring through town, the more experiences they have, the more they want to come back,” he noted.
Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.