Park centers looking to share resources

Park and recreation centers throughout Minneapolis might soon be joining forces to offer programs together.

Some parks in Minneapolis, including those in Southwest, are considering switching over to a model suggested by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in its 2007–2020 Comprehensive Plan. The plan laid out goals for improving the quality and efficiency of the Minneapolis park system.

The suggestion many parks are now exploring is the creation of “hub” centers, which would require neighboring parks to split up services between centers and share resources, such as equipment and staff.

“It’s really about tailoring services to the community the park serves,” said Jennifer Ringold, a citywide planner for the Park Board. “And not all communities have the same needs.”

In Southwest, Lyndale Farmstead Park is planning to combine services with Fuller Park and Martin Luther King Park, said Ann Lynch, Lyndale Farmstead Park director. Each park would offer different programs specific to its area, and people in the community could use services or buildings at all three parks.

“The buildings don’t all have the same capabilities, and the communities don’t have the same needs,” Lynch said. “We’re not going to be losing programming. It will actually be expanding.”

Lynch said the switch would make programming better because each park could focus more time, money and people on their specific services.

Ringold said while the need for this type of programming has been around for years, there has been a significant move in the past year toward the hub model. Although the parks are at very different stages in the process, she said, most of them are moving toward the new system.

Ringold said parks that have already made the switch are reaping the benefits. She said not only does the new system allow parks to improve their services and save money, but larger service areas can also keep small programs alive with a bigger pool of people to draw from.

“Parks won’t have to drop as many programs because they don’t have enough people signed up,” Ringold said. “There will actually likely be more programs available with this model.”

The Comprehensive Plan where the suggestion came from involves dividing up Minneapolis into Community Service Areas (CSAs), which would include multiple recreation centers that could join together to offer services in their neighborhood.

“The model allows communities to work together and draw from each others’ resources, and to use the resources we have more efficiently,” Ringold said.

Ringold added that the communities, not the Park Board, really have the say in what kinds of services each center will provide and whether or not they want to join together with the other parks in their CSA.

Despite some fears of losing staff in the collaboration, Ringold said that is not the goal and will most likely not be the result either.

“This plan is not about cutting money or staff,” she said. “It was developed well before our current economic challenges. The need was already there. It’s about using our resources more efficiently.”