South St. Paul wants the go-ahead from voters to spend $9 million to revitalize the city's parks and recreation system, but first it's testing the waters with a resident survey.

A large portion of the parks update would be focused on Kaposia Landing, according to Parks and Recreation Director Chris Esser. The project would add four softball diamonds, a baseball diamond, a pavilion, two playgrounds, hiking trails and scenic overlooks to the 87-acre park. The city's ice arena also would get upgrades.

"A whole generation has gone by without any park improvements done," Esser said. "We think this is the right point in time to ... improve our parks and recreation system for the public to use, improve housing values and give the newest generation an opportunity to recreate the way we did."

The $20,000 phone survey was ratified by the City Council last week, and calls are already being made to South St. Paul residents, said City Administrator Stephen King.

Decision Resources Inc. will administer the 124-question survey to 400 residents, mainly assessing public interest in the parks project, but also tacking on some other questions. A professionally administered survey of this scale has never been done in South St. Paul, King said, and the city is taking the opportunity to also examine residents' satisfaction with other city services.

"Obviously, if we get very low marks in any one sector, that's gotta cause us to take pause and look at what we're doing," King said.

Kaposia Landing was built over a former demolition landfill in 2007 and now features a dog park and one trail, Esser said. With new facilities at Kaposia Landing, ball diamonds at McMorrow Park would be turned into flat fields.

The update would also fund a renovation of the 50-year-old Wakota Ice Arena, adding training facilities, meeting and viewing areas and updated locker rooms, Esser said.

According to Esser, South St. Paul hasn't approved a parks referendum since 1990. He said he hopes the latest initiative will find support from the community.

Results of the survey will be available as soon as next month, when the city will consider a bond referendum to fund the project, Esser said. The parks department plans to coordinate the timing of a referendum with the South St. Paul school district, which is considering a levy referendum of its own, King said.

In the meantime, the city will take its time with the parks proposal.

"It will play out in slow motion," King said. "It's still very, very fluid, and we're at the step-by-step, front part of the process."

Tony Wagner is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.