A proposed $9 million upgrade to the parks in South St. Paul is now on hold after residents weighed in on the renovation plan.

The findings of a survey of 400 residents show a mixed bag of support, and that’s not enough to push the project forward yet, according to City Administrator Stephen King.

An even 50 percent of those surveyed expressed support for the plan, 41 percent were not in favor and 9 percent were unsure.

The plans are not being canned. The focus now is on educating residents on the specifics of the proposal.

“It’s not necessarily that people are opposed. It’s just that they are unaware of what the need is,” King said.

While the preliminary results of the survey were enough to compel the City Council to hold off on rushing to join the school district on a referendum for May 21, the council wants to wait for a further analysis of the survey.

A more detailed report on the findings is expected in mid- to late April.

In the meantime, the city plans to move forward with an education plan. Chris Esser, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said the city will begin to reach out to the public with more information about the main components of the plan, which include renovations to Kaposia Landing recreation area and McMorrow Field as well as upgrades at Wakota Arena ice rink.

Esser said the city also plans to nail down the projected property tax increase for residents if the plan passes. The $9 million projected cost could change as the plans continue to develop, he said.

One good takeaway from the survey, King said, is that it shows strong participation by the public, which he said gives him confidence the city will be able to better inform residents on the issue.

It remains to be seen whether a referendum on a bond to fund parks improvements will be introduced down the road. If so, King said, it could come as late as next February. But before the city reaches that point, he added, it would again conduct a “dipstick” survey to gauge whether public support for the plan has increased.


Lannie Walker is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.