Budget skills and love of outdoors strong in new Three Rivers Park District leader

  • Article by: SUSAN FEYDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 15, 2014 - 9:45 AM

Boe Carlson, 41, has worked for the Three Rivers Park District since 1998. He was named its superintendent about a month ago.

Photo: JERRY HOLT • jerry.holt@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

It’s been more than 20 years since Boe Carlson abandoned his plan to go to law school and turned onto a career path that fit his passion for the outdoors.

“I realized the last thing I wanted to do was spend my career sitting behind a desk,” Carlson said.

Today, he’s about one month into the job of overseeing the state’s largest park system. Carlson, 41, is the new superintendent of the Three Rivers Park District, which owns and operates more than two dozen park reserves, regional parks and regional trails on 27,000 acres, mostly in suburban Hennepin County.

Carlson, who began his career with the Park District in 1998, most recently served as associate superintendent for park and trail operations.

He says his love of the outdoors began when he was growing up in Golden Valley, where he worked for the city’s park and recreation department during summer breaks from high school and college. After deciding not to go to law school, he joined AmeriCorps, where he worked in environmental education programs for Idaho’s state park system. He later returned to the Twin Cities, earning a master’s degree in public administration from Hamline University in St. Paul.

Carlson succeeds Cris Gears, who retired after holding the top post at Three Rivers since 2007.

John Gunyou, Three Rivers’ board chairman, said Carlson was one of four internal candidates considered for the superintendent’s job. “The board decided to first look within the organization for a successor, largely because of the unique nature of our district and the available talent within our existing senior staff,” he said.

“I think it’s fair to say we unanimously selected Boe based primarily on his extensive experience with all aspects of Three Rivers operations,” Gunyou said.

Ready to ‘right-size’

Carlson steps into his new job as Three Rivers continues to shake off the effects of the recession and its impact on the Park District’s budget. Most of its operating budget comes from taxes levied on properties in Hennepin County — property taxes account for nearly 80 percent of the district’s general fund $34.1 million operating budget this year. The decline in both homebuilding and property values during the economic downturn put a crimp on that funding source.

“We were able to capitalize on growth [in households and property values] back in the day, but that’s no longer realistic,” Carlson said. “We’re realizing how to right-size our organization.”

The Park District has trimmed some expenses — reducing its workforce with early retirements and cutting some programs, like mounted horse patrols. Carlson said the expense reductions present a challenge because park usage continues to climb, with more than 10 million visitors a year, about double from five years ago.

“We do have to think of a new way to do business, and partnerships are a key part of that,” Carlson said. An example, he said, is its four-year-old partnership with Scott County to provide regional parks in the south metro county. Under the arrangement, the county and Park District share some resources and expertise.

“I know our board feels very strongly that type of arrangement could be replicated in other areas. We can expand our reach, and it doesn’t have to come solely at our expense,” he said.

Carlson said state Legacy Amendment grants present another potential revenue stream. In May, the Legislature approved $370,000 in funding for a 250-acre prairie restoration project at the Crow-Hassan Park Reserve in Hanover. Work on the restoration will start next year and will be ongoing over the next three to four years. The restoration will provide nesting habitat for several species of birds, mammals and reptiles as well as native pollinators.

Other projects include an ambitious makeover of French Regional Park in Plymouth, one of the metro area’s most visited parks.

Next month the park’s boat launch will be closed for reconstruction. Water mains within the park also will be reconstructed this fall. Starting next May, rehab work will be done on roads, parking lots and paved trails.

Carlson and Gunyou agree that a top priority going forward will be to bring more of Three Rivers’ recreation and natural resources programs into inner-ring communities.

  • related content

  • Carlson is working on ambitious new plans, including a 250-acre prairie restoration project at the Crow-Hassan Park Reserve.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


San Francisco - WP: J. Affeldt 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Guthrie 2
New Orleans 7:25 PM
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Milwaukee 106 FINAL
Charlotte 108
Philadelphia 91 FINAL
Indiana 103
Atlanta 102 FINAL
Toronto 109
Brooklyn 105 FINAL
Boston 121
Washington 95 FINAL
Miami 107
Chicago 104 FINAL
New York 80
Minnesota 101 FINAL
Memphis 105
Detroit 79 FINAL
Denver 89
Houston 104 FINAL
Utah 93
Golden State 95 FINAL
Sacramento 77
LA Lakers 99 FINAL
Phoenix 119
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Portland 106
Detroit 4 FINAL
Washington 2
Nashville 4 FINAL
Edmonton 1
(2) Florida State 6:30 PM
Troy 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:02 PM
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
Vancouver FC 1 FINAL
FC Dallas 2
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question