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Continued: Chance to enhance Twin Cities parks clashes with cash crunch

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 6, 2013 - 3:31 PM

Should user numbers influence land buying priorities?

“You’d be hard pressed to find any parks agency that wouldn’t say that usage numbers count,” said Dawn Sommers, spokeswoman for the Minneapolis parks. “It’s wear and tear on our parks and it’s a public that demands and needs the services we provide.”

Parks planners in the outer-ring counties say that they have been pursuing sites for years that promise to be gemstones of major new installations. The time to make sure the most prized land is safely in public hands, they say, is when sellers are lining up to make reasonable offers.

Funds for parkland purchases come from several sources, Met Council officials say -- primarily from the state, through Legacy dollars and other means, but also from the council itself, which has bonding power.

Major parks acquisitions in the suburbs aren’t always for immediate use, or even primarily for use at all.

Anoka County has piled up hundreds of new acres over the past decade or so, and the bulk of them have been wetlands aimed at water quality improvement, said Jeff Perry, operations manager for Anoka parks.

In much more populous areas closer to the heart of the metro area, meanwhile, the pressing need is to expensively re-engineer built-up areas for trails demanded by an aging population eager to bike and walk close to home.

John Gunyou, who chairs the Three Rivers parks commission, covering suburban Hennepin and Scott, speaks of “shifting our organization from parks to trails, meeting needs a different way. There’s a huge increase in the use of our trails because of people like me, getting older, but still wanting to bike and jog.”

So far, said Scott County’s Themig, the agencies are working cooperatively to try and reconcile the competing demands. They met within the past two weeks to help create a plan, and Stefferud said the hope is to “sharpen their pencils” and reduce the cash-flow problem by finding a way to delay some purchases.

“My sense is that everyone’s acting in the long-term interests of the region as a whole, remembering that we’re creating something for people 50 or 100 years from now,” he said.

 

David Peterson • 952-746-3285

 

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