Residents of the western suburbs will have a new way to soak up the outdoors this summer: Flying through the air, courtesy of their regional parks system.
Hoping to boost interest in its attractions, the Three Rivers Park District is investing in a portable zipline and inflatable planetarium to wow residents at community events outside the park district this summer.
District leaders say it’s part of a strategy to connect with communities closer to the urban core and raise awareness about Three Rivers’ 27,000 acres of park facilities scattered from urban Robbinsdale to rural Rockford.
Three Rivers already owns a portable climbing wall, and Superintendent Boe Carlson said the zipline takes that type of programming to the next level.
“It’s an exciting thing that’s pretty dramatic,” Carlson said. “It’s going to get a lot of attention and we hope to turn people on to Three Rivers Park District and what we do.”
Twin Cities residents have been hearing a lot about ziplines this winter, following the “Bold North” zipline over the Mississippi River during the Super Bowl. Three Rivers’ mobile zipline, looking like a giant staircase on wheels, will be more modest than the 10-story structures that carried the zipline over the river.
“I don’t think we want to risk stringing this over a water body,” Carlson said. “But it’s certainly that type of experience.”
The inflatable planetarium, usable day and night, will hold 30 children. “You can run through a pretty detailed program and really guide whatever kind of nighttime education you want to do in a 15-minute program, up to an hour,” Carlson said.
Carlson said the zipline and planetarium will be on display at an event tentatively called Sochacki Expo, held in Robbinsdale’s Sochacki Park; a staff report says the event also will feature archery, slacklining and geocaching.
The zipline and planetarium also are planned for Centennial Park, Brooklyn Center; Taft Park, Richfield; and the MAC Nature Area in Crystal.
The zipline and the planetarium will cost $150,000. Three Rivers had originally planned to pay for it through an allocation from the Legacy Fund, a pot of state sales tax dollars partly earmarked for state and regional park improvements. But Carlson said they opted for an alternate funding source after hearing concerns from the Metropolitan Council, which administers the funds.
Met Council spokeswoman Bonnie Kollodge said the council was considering the request when Three Rivers removed it.
“Staff were working to develop guidance for spending Legacy funds on projects that occur outside the boundaries of the Regional Parks System and ensure that this project — and future Legacy projects — meet the Minnesota Constitution’s requirement that Parks and Trails Funds ‘must be spent only to support parks and trails of regional and statewide significance,’ ” she said.
The Met Council passed a controversial policy several years ago requiring regional parks agencies to allocate a share of their Legacy funding to programs “connecting people and the outdoors.” However, the Legislature passed language in 2017 weakening that requirement.