Park commissioners recently announced a dramatic expansion of the board’s rehabilitation work thanks to new funding from a plan to better maintain neighborhood parks over the next two decades.
Beginning this year the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will ramp up investments for neighborhood park repairs with plans to spend $25 million — up from the previously allocated $4 million — over the next six years. The money will come from the 20-Year Neighborhood Park Plan, an agreement with the city that will raise $11 million annually over the next two decades to repair park assets like playgrounds and recreation centers.
By bolstering rehab projects the Park Board hopes to address a decades-long backlog of gaps in maintenance funding and save money in the future by addressing repairs before they become critical.
“We have been a very reactive workforce for a while. This is for the first time opening that window, opening that door to preventing these things from happening,” said Linden Weiswerda, a park management analyst with the board.
The board is now determining the first parks it will rehab. Over the past couple years the board has taken an inventory of all of its assets — wading pools, ball fields, etc. — to assess what needs replacing and when. Assets with a “critical need” — something that could fail tomorrow, Weiswerda said — like a roof in danger of falling apart and those with a “high need,” or visible damage with the potential of deteriorating, will be given priority over cosmetic repairs, or a “low need.”
“These projects range widely in their scale and complexity,” said Superintendent Jayne Miller in a statement. “So we look at factors like timing, cost estimates, racial and economic equity, and project efficiencies. We also factor in the possibility of storms or other unexpected damage that can shift priorities.”
What has been determined so far is how much funding will generally be allocated to certain repairs, though the board says they will have to be flexible in addressing emergency repairs and other unexpected work. Over the next six years, for example, the Park Board will invest $4.6 million into ADA and accessibility improvements — the largest category — $4.3 million into repairing roofs, nearly $3 million to enhance park lighting and another $3 million to maintain recreation centers. Other categories include rehabilitating sidewalks, operations facilities, park heating and cooling systems and synthetic turf.
This month the board will announce what neighborhood parks will see ADA and accessibility improvements. Rehab projects in other categories will be announced throughout the year as they’re finalized.
While the boost to maintenance is dramatic, Miller told commissioners that it will still be five to 10 years before the board will see a decline in rehabilitation investments. At that point the Park Board will be able to put more money into creating new amenities in neighborhood parks.
“This is 2017. We knew in 2000 that we already had a funding gap. So we’re already looking at a 20-year gap and backlog of investments that we need to have made into our assets,” she said. “While we’re going to do a lot of work this year, it’s only going to be a dent in that backlog.”
More information about the 20-Year Neighborhood Park Plan is available at minneapolisparks.org/npp20.