NORTH MANKATO — The city of North Mankato is inviting residents on Saturday to Benson Park to showcase some of the area’s new additions.
The city’s first-ever Party on the Prairie takes place from 2-7 p.m., weather willing.
City officials decided to host a fall festival in Benson Park after they made progress on park improvements this summer. Aside from a new shelter and restrooms, a fishing pier was installed last year, and native prairie plants have thrived ever since they were planted about three years ago.
“There’s a lot of new features up there and we just wanted to introduce the community to that,” North Mankato Mayor Mark Dehen said.
Those improvements, along with a redone parking lot at the park, have been on the city’s to-do list for more than a decade. City officials have long had a Benson Park master plan, but various City Councils decided to prioritize the city’s capital projects budget toward other projects such as the recently redone Spring Lake Park Swim Facility.
The council decided last year to put Benson Park upgrades at the top of the city’s list.
“It’s past time,” Council member Billy Steiner said in September 2018. “I just think it needs to be done now.”
Residents can enjoy a variety of food, beverages, activities and live music Saturday during the Party on the Prairie. Attractions include a scarecrow walk, bouncy house, an apple slingshot, a corn pit, face painting and more for the family, while the food includes pumpkin pie, apple crisp, cider seasonal alcoholic beverages and various food trucks.
People can also check out some of the park’s newest additions: the boulders that closed Judson Bottom Road between Valerie Lane and the bottom of Lookout Drive for most of the spring and summer.
North Mankato regularly closes Judson Bottom Road in the spring due to flooding. Yet boulders and large landslides in the area during the summer spurred city officials to study the nearby bluffs before opening the road once more after it was closed in March.
The city reopened the road last month and added the boulders at Benson Park, which Dehen said was a positive contribution for a scenic area in upper North Mankato that doesn’t get enough attention from residents.
“It’s really quite beautiful out there so we’re really pleased with that,” Dehen said.