County officially acquires Coney Island

Carver County has taken another step towards revitalizing a treasured part of history, unanimously approving the purchase of Coney Island at the Jan. 19 county commissioners meeting.

“The public is very excited for the island to become a park,” commissioner Tim Lynch said.

Coney Island is about 30 acres and located in Lake Waconia. The island has a rich history that dates back to the mid 1800’s.

The Coney Island Hotel opened in 1866, and during the late 19th century and early 20th century, Coney Island was a popular vacation destination. Between 1903 and 1905, the University of Minnesota Gophers held pre-season practices on the islands football field. But, by the late 1950’s and early 1960’s the island became vacant.

The county entered a Charitable Pledge and Donation Agreement with the Norm and Ann Hoffman Foundation in March. The foundation pledged $900,000 to be used towards cleanup and making improvements to Coney Island.

“This is a really incredible gift for the citizens of Carver County,” Lynch said. “When you’re out and about and you see Norm and Ann Hoffman, thank them.”

Years ago, Norman Hoffman heard there were parties interested in renovating the island. Hoffman said the plans he heard of would likely be too costly for many people looking to enjoy the island.

“It should be available to everyone,” he said last March.

Now Carver County has agreed to acquire the land from the Hoffman Foundation. Hoffman said the intent in purchasing the land years ago was to preserve the history and open a park, and that is what the county has planned for the island.

At a Jan. 13 meeting with community members, the parks department presented two concepts for both the island and the main park that were based on input gathered through community outreach at public meetings, online surveys and community events like Nickle Dickle Day and Carver’s Steamboat Days. The concepts consisted of a minimalist approach and a more highly-developed approach for each of the properties. Those in attendance at the meeting were given design maps for each approach and encouraged to write notes and add suggestions in a further attempt to gather as much public input as possible.

Attendees were reminded of the park’s vision statement and asked to keep it in mind while discussing the proposals.

“The vision statement is: The vision for Lake Waconia Regional Park, including the historic Coney Island, is to provide the region-wide population a unique park experience focused on the shores of Lake Waconia,” said Candace Amberg, a consultant and architect with WSB & Associate, a design firm contracted by the county.

Several concepts envisioned for the park are currently on the county’s website, where residents can comment and give input on the designs.

Whatever the final design ends up being, the county is excited for the future of Coney Island.

“It’s going to be a neat, neat place,” commissioner Tom Workman said. “Maybe we can clear a big enough area that the Minnesota Gophers football team can get back out there for an early practice, maybe a hog roast to boot. I look forward to getting out there.”