The St. Paul Parks and Recreation system is going to look a lot different in the coming years, and city officials are asking residents for input on what that look should be.

Public meetings will be held over the next few weeks to gather ideas to come up with a plan that will guide changes and improvements to parks, athletic fields, recreation centers and trails.

"We are in a time of great economic, environmental and demographic change," Mayor Chris Coleman said. "We need to ensure we are spending wisely, and that our facilities reflect the needs of our community."

That means some buildings could close and others could get upgrades. The plan would provide recommendations for changes within the next five years, as well as 20 years out.

Some of the reasons for the plan are tighter budgets, high operating costs for rec centers, changing demographic and recreation needs, and facilities in need of repair.

The city now operates 25 rec centers, down from 42 in 2006. Running rec centers and their programs currently costs about $7 million per year.

The general thought has been to have fewer centers with better programs and more staff members. The Jimmy Lee Rec Center is an example officials point to: It has four gyms, an indoor water park and pool, computer room and more.

Parks officials have also been talking with library and school district folks about combining services or sharing space.

Combining public input with thorough research will ultimately shape the way the parks and rec system looks for many years to come, said director Mike Hahm.

The plan and recommendations for action should be completed by late fall. Public meetings will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the following days:

• Wednesday: Oxford Community Center/Jimmy Lee Rec Center, 270 N. Lexington Pkwy.

• May 24: Wellstone Community Center/El Rio Vista Rec Center, 179 Robie St. E.

• May 26: Phalen Rec Center, 1000 E. Wheelock Pkwy.

• June 3: North Dale Rec Center, 1414 St. Albans St. N.

• June 9: Hillcrest Rec Center, 1978 Ford Pkwy.

For more information, go to

Chris Havens • 612-673-4148