Ben Silverglate really wants a new skate park.
There’s one within walking distance of the 14-year-old’s Eagan home, but it’s falling apart. Its metal ramps are rusting. All but one of its rails have been stolen. And although it draws a group of regular skaters, it’s not attracting many new faces.
“I’ve seen a lot of really nice skate parks, and when I compare them to Eagan, Eagan’s is very subpar,” said Silverglate, a freshman at Eagan High School. “Once Burnsville got their new one, I really realized that we needed to get on the ball about that.”
A new skate park — which Silverglate will be involved in creating — is on a long list of Eagan parks projects scheduled for completion in the next five years. Most of the city’s 55 parks were built amid a residential housing boom in the 1980s — and now their age is starting to show.
New Parks Director Andrew Pimental wants to make some major changes. Upgrades will include trails, public art and a splash pad and will cost about $5 million between 2017 and 2021.
Money will come from the park reserve fund, which now stands at about $2.7 million. The plan is to spend some of that money while feeding parks revenue back into it, maintaining a balance of about $1 million.
The reserve fund is a combination of tax dollars and park dedication funds that developers contribute when they build in Eagan. The City Council will give the official go-ahead for 2017 park projects in November or December, said City Administrator Dave Osberg.
The city tightened parks spending in the years after the Great Recession and hasn’t jumped on trendy items, like pickleball courts, in the way that some of its south metro neighbors have. Some projects, including lighting on athletic fields, natural trails at Patrick Eagan Park and warming-house upgrades, have been delayed for years.
“We were being a little more conservative in the last few years, and now I think we’re seeing that we need to do a little catch-up there,” said Michael Palmer, chairman of the Advisory Parks and Recreation Commission. “The key thing is saying, ‘What are the needs of the community?’”
Pimental has plans to boost community involvement in future park projects, starting with the skate park. At a workshop planned for early next year, attendees will be able to design the skate park of their dreams, using a list of possible features and a strict budget.
The idea is to give community members more say in what their parks system looks like and show what it takes to make it happen.
“When you’re talking about a city of just shy of 70,000 people, you’re big enough to demand most of everything, but you’re [too small] to really have the funds to do it all,” Pimental said.