Minneapolis' 55 miles of parkways — recreational roads interlacing the city's parkland and lakes and rivers — are declining at such a clip that Park Board staff estimate the entire system will be unusable in 15 years.

Unless the city finds a big pile for money to restore them.

"What we've heard constantly is to maintain what we have," said Park Superintendent Al Bangoura at Wednesday night's Park Board meeting. "Looking at parkways right now, it's a 100-year rehabilitation project. It is devastating. We won't be able to keep up."

Parkways belong to, but are not maintained by, the Park Board. A 1999 service agreement between the Park Board and the city of Minneapolis proclaimed that the former would care for all trees on city-owned property and special service districts while the city's Public Works department would assume upkeep of parkways in tandem with all other city streets.

The city has spent on average $750,000 a year on parkway maintenance. There's been no significant increase for more than a decade, despite the steady march of inflation. The mayor's budget for this year included a $50,000 boost for seal coating through 2026. But parkways need more sustainable funding because current levels allow for just half a mile to be repaved each year, said park project manager Dan Elias.

Park staff recommended and the board unanimously approved a request that the city increase its annual spending on parkways to $6 million, including repaving, seal coating and access improvements for those with disabilities. Reconstruction of failed parkway segments would require a separate program and funding.

"Deferred maintenance will negatively affect asset life, leading to higher future maintenance costs and lower roadway safety. So this costs money no matter what," said Park Commissioner Cathy Abene, pushing for parkway funding.

Chronic complaints about cracks and potholes rank among the top concerns that constituents bring to commissioners on a regular basis.

Park user Nina Reyes, who took a road trip last month from Massachusetts to Washington, said she didn't encounter any road worse than the one encircling Lake Harriet. "I thought I'd about break an axle getting there. I didn't, but truly terrible."

Over the past few years, the city's Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee has recommended increasing parkway funding. And the Park Board's 2022 general park satisfaction survey found that 56% of respondents would support increasing property taxes to improve parkways, compared to 25% who wouldn't.

City officials held a press conference earlier this week on the expensive patching of potholes this snowy spring.

Public Works Deputy Director Bryan Dodds said at that conference that the average condition of parkways seemed no worse than other streets in the city, that there's "need everywhere" and that the city has not yet identified a source for additional parkway funding.

Mayor Jacob Frey said he would read the Park Board's proposal and sit down with park officials to talk about balancing what they want against the needs of other city departments.

"I don't think there's any dispute that there are countless paving and ... street reconstruction projects that need to get done, including on our parkways," Frey said, adding that he wanted to search state and federal coffers for possible aid.

Park spokeswoman Dawn Sommers said parkways are not eligible for state aid, gas tax or other typical state funding only available for municipal streets and state highways. Parkways are classified as park roads due to their recreational design and low speeds.

Park staff aren't aware of any federal program they could tap into for parkway repairs and repaving, she said. The Park Board has used Federal Scenic Byways money for signage and mapping along the Grand Rounds, but that funding is not for roadway construction.