The following story was reported by Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield on WCCO-TV on June 16, 2015. Click on the highlighted link for the video.
It’s one of Minneapolis’s biggest sources of pride: The No. 1-ranked park system. But things are changing in 157 of those parks, and not for the better.
The president of the parks board says it’s all about funding. The big city parks like Lake Calhoun or Minnehaha Falls get state funds because they bring in tourists. But the smaller, neighborhood parks have to rely on general funds from the city. The Minneapolis Park Board says they need $14 million to keep up those smaller parks. This year, they got $5 million.
For 5-year old Evan and his sitter, Bryant Square neighborhood Park is pitch perfect.
“I kind of like the smaller parks because you don’t have as many people there and you can do as much as you want,” sitter Chris Denton said.
And parks are as much a part of Minneapolis as a June shiver.
But smaller parks like Bryant Square and Logan in northeast Minneapolis are facing some dark days, according to Minneapolis Park Board President Liz Wielinski. She says the neighborhood parks aren’t in danger, but could be close.
“I wouldn’t say they are right now but I think over the next few years we’re going to have to start making some serious choices about what we can keep open and what we can’t,” Wielinski said.
The president of the park board says unlike the larger parks, the smaller ones rely on city funding and this year they are about $10 million short of what they need for up-keep.
“What you’ll see is a ball field will all the sudden just be grass or a pool will not be fixed, it will be covered over,” Wielinski said.
She says they’ve also had to cut corners on the basketball courts, and tennis courts too.
Spending what money they have on safety sensitive areas like pools and playgrounds. She’s hoping Minneapolis residents will vote on a referendum and pitch in.
“If you don’t re-invest in your parks, they don’t become No. 1, they don’t stay No. 1,” Wielinski said.