Year in Review, 2016 (It has been a busy one! Please consider an end-of-year donation or membership to help us keep on truckin’ in 2017. Thank you, and stay warm out there.)
Vision of Friends of the Parks and Trails of St. Paul and Ramsey County: To support and promote the creation, preservation and revitalization of the parks and trails systems of St. Paul and Ramsey County for the benefit of current and future generations.
Mission of Friends of the Parks and Trails of St. Paul and Ramsey County:
• To promote public support and appreciation for parks and open space.
• To educate the public and examine goals and priorities of park development.
• To identify, protect and enhance environmentally significant areas.
• To promote establishment and development of quality parks, trails and bikeways.
• To provide a vehicle for citizens to examine policies that affect parks and trails.
Friends of the Parks and Trails is a very active non-profit organization headquartered in St. Paul. We are celebrating our 31st anniversary this year.
Accomplishments for 2016:
Tree Sale and Tribute Tree Donation Programs – Each year, we hold an Annual Tree Sale so folks can purchase trees, shrubs, vines, and roses for their own yards or donate to parks. We actively encourage planting and replanting in our shared urban forest. With the onset of emerald ash borer (EAB), this work has been recognized as increasingly important. Twin Cities metropolitan area parks and public works departments are having to allocate more funds towards managing the devastating effects of EAB and less towards planting and replanting. In 2016, we donated over $9,000.00 to St. Paul, Ramsey County, and other park systems within the Twin Cities through our tree donation programs. Since these programs began over three decades ago, we have donated more than 7,000 trees to metro area parks. (See our website for more information on our 2017 sale. Order deadline will be April 21 and pick-up May 6.)
Boys Totem Town Task Force – The Friends’ executive director serves on this task force, led by the District 1 Community Council. Boys Totem Town is a Ramsey County juvenile correctional facility located on nearly 80 acres of land, much of which is wooded and in a natural state. Were this facility to close, the question remains of what to do with the property. The neighborhood plan states that in such an event, it is to become parkland. We are actively involved in that discussion and will continue this work into 2017.
Swede Hollow Park and Bruce Vento Regional Trail – We wrote comments, gave oral testimony, and attended open houses to provide feedback to the project team for the Rush Line transportation corridor. We were pleased when Swede Hollow Park was removed as one option. We remain concerned, however, that a section of the Bruce Vento Regional Trail is being put forward as a preferred option for bus rapid transit. While we do not oppose transit, we do not believe parks and trails should be used as transportation corridors when other viable options exist. We continue to work on this very important regional issue. Visit their website for more information and to leave comments. Note that the comment period closes January 4, 2017. http://www.rushline.org
Rondo Land Bridge – We have been in early discussions with multiple stakeholders, including the Minnesota Department of Transportation and community groups working to build equity and heal the Rondo neighborhood. The concept is to build a land bridge over I-94 that would serve multiple functions, including parkland. Watch for more to come on this topic. We are pleased to be part of the process in the early stages.
Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area – The Friends worked extensively with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the National Park Service, the City of St. Paul, and other interested groups in the revision of the rules for the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA). The Minnesota Legislature appropriated funds for the DNR to develop rules and regulations to guide development in the Critical Area, a designation it received in Executive Order 79-19 in 1973.
The Friends testified at the DNR hearings before the administrative law judge and wrote letters to the DNR Commissioner, the administrative law judge, and the St. Paul City Council. We spoke with the Minnesota Congressional delegation, the DNR Commissioner, met with members of the St. Paul City Council, met with Planning and Economic Development (PED) staff, and participated in working sessions at the invitation of the DNR.
Great River Passage Master Plan – The Friends were active in the planning and passage of the St. Paul Great River Passage (GRP) Master Plan. Most recently, we met with the newly-hired GRP Master Plan manager as she sets about defining priorities for implementing the plan and coordinating collaboration efforts. See their website for more information. http://www.greatriverpassage.org
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area – The Friends advocated for this National Park to receive funding for promotion as a National Water Trail. In 2012, it received this designation, only the second National Water Trail to be recognized in the United States. We continue to be actively involved in its development and promotion. Paddle Share opportunities were created this year, allowing the public to rent a canoe and paddle on the Mississippi River, much like the program to rent bicycles. The Friends’ executive director was an active participant in the pilot project and continues to be involved in growing the program. See this link for more information: http://www.paddleshare.org
Parkland Zoning and the St. Paul Comprehensive Plan – The St. Paul City Council adopted the St. Paul Comprehensive Plan in 2009 and is actively revising it in compliance with state law. One of the requirements in the Comprehensive Plan is that all parkland in the city be rezoned as parkland. Currently, the city zoning code does not have a separate zoning designation for parks and trails, but rather puts them in any zone, be it residential, commercial, or industrial. This is especially problematic because there is no clear definition of how much parkland there is in St. Paul. The Friends continue to work with PED to bring the zoning code into compliance with Minnesota state statutes that require the zoning code comply with the Comprehensive Plan. You can learn more about the Comprehensive Plan and comment by January 31, 2017 at this link: https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/planning-economic-development/planning/2040-comprehensive-planning-process
The Friends also participated in these activities:
- Universally Accessible Playground at Victoria Park. The Friends’ executive director is a member of this committee. The goal is to design and promote the first universally accessible playground in the city, approaching the experience from the lens of being welcoming and accessible to all, rather than adapting a playground to meet disability requirements. The fundraising phase is expected to begin soon.
- Regional Parks Equity Tool Kit. The executive director participated in a series of workshops to develop this tool kit. It will be used by the Metropolitan Council when making funding decisions.
- Robert Piram Regional Trail. We wrote a letter of support for the city of St. Paul’s efforts to get a federal grant for the Robert Piram Trail. The trail would be part of the Mississippi River Trail, going from Itasca State Park to the Gulf of Mexico. Read about the trail here: https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/parks-recreation/design-construction/current-projects/robert-piram-regional-trail
- Environmental Learning Center at Watergate Marina. The Friends are participating with city and state officials and other interested groups in determining the future of the Environmental Learning Center. It was part of the city’s proposal before the legislature, but because the tax bill was not adopted, work continues on this project.
- Wakan Tipi Center at Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. We wrote a letter of support for the Lower Phalen Creek Project’s work to receive funding for this project. This, too, was part of the legislative bonding bill that did not pass this year. We will continue to speak in favor of this project.
- Ford Plant Task Force. A representative of the Friends serves on this Task Force, helping to shape the future of the Ford property. https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/planning-economic-development/planning/ford-site-21st-century-community
- St. Paul Tree Advisory Panel. A representative of the Friends serves on this panel that helps set policies for the planting and protecting of trees in St. Paul. To learn more and to apply to be on the panel, visit this site: https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/parks-recreation/natural-resources/forestry/tree-advisory-panel-tap
- Active Living Ramsey Communities (ALRC). ALRC was instituted by Ramsey County to promote healthy lifestyles by bringing people and resources together to build active, bikeable and walkable communities. Interested leaders, practitioners and community members work together to create and promote environments that make it safe and convenient for people to integrate physical activity into their daily routine. A representative of the Friends continues to participate with this group. To learn how you can get involved visit: https://www.ramseycounty.us/residents/parks-recreation/active-living
- Rice Creek Commons, formerly known as the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant. The Master Plan was recently approved and we are following this project very closely. We will speak for parks, trails, and open space as this develops. Here is the latest information: http://ricecreekcommons.com
- Communications. We keep an active presence on Facebook and often send email communications to our members, alerting them to current topics and actions they can take to be involved and make a positive impact on park policies. Due to increased printing costs and postage, we only issued one print newsletter this year. Find it on our website at https://friendsoftheparks.org/friends-parks-trails-newsletter-2016/