Park System Master Plan 2021
The City of Bloomington initiated the process of developing a new Park System Master Plan in November 2019. With extensive and invaluable assistance from consultants, City staff and most importantly, the community, the plan is now complete. At its August 30, 2021 meeting, the Bloomington City Council formally adopted the Park System Master Plan.
The process was purposeful and robust, capturing the voices of Bloomington residents while completing several studies to understand how Bloomington can provide new park amenities and experiences. Natural resources, trails, new park amenities and equity are priority themes that will be addressed with the new Plan.
Community Input Doesn't End Here
Adoption of the plan doesn't mean community involvement and participation in park projects is now over. The Park System Master Plan is just that, a master plan. As new park projects are considered and individual park plans are developed, hearing from the community will be a necessity.
The Park System Master Plan, as adopted, provides us with a clear action plan and guidance for improvements to Bloomington's parks, trails, facilities, recreational programs and green spaces. And the continued involvement of the community ensures its successful implementation.
The Park System Master Plan (PSMP) is a road map for planning and completing park improvements and guiding capital investments to ensure the park system serves the needs of the community today and in the future. The PSMP process incorporates:
- Local and national park and recreation trends
- Community demographics
- Facility needs
- Current and future programming needs
- Long term sustainability
- Equity and inclusion
- Information gathered from the community
The extensive community engagement process between November 2019 and June 2021, which included a statistically valid survey, stakeholder interviews, listening sessions, conversations with residents and staff, and online interactive engagement via project bloom! and the City’s Let’s Talk Bloomington site, has shaped the final Plan. Through studies and analysis we learned the following:
- Our parks are substantially similar
- Our parks have outdated amenities
- Our parks do not match current resident demographics and recreation needs
- New facilities and amenities are needed for current residents and to attract new residents.
In the end, the Park System Master Plan is the foundation for future decision-making, program planning, budgeting and park system investments.
Through the process outlined above, we learned a lot about what our parks have been, what they currently are, what we need them to be, and how to achieve the desired outcome. The Plan, which was adopted by the Bloomington City Council on August 30, 2021, includes four primary sections plus several appendices. Click below to view each one and learn more about the new Bloomington Park System Master Plan.
- Cover and Contents
- Our City + Our Parks: Vision, Mission, Guiding Principles
- The Parks Bloomington Has: History, Needs
- The Parks Bloomington Needs: Engagement Summary, Local and Regional Trends
- How We Get There: Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Approach, Action Plan
- Appendix A: List of Figures
- Appendix B: Community Engagement
- Appendix C: Assessment and Analysis Study
The City of Bloomington has 97 parks and over 40 miles of off-road trails. The Park System contains 45 playgrounds, 16 park buildings, 17 picnic shelters, two golf courses, an art center, indoor ice arena, outdoor aquatic center, a community/senior center, a swimming and recreational beach and a variety of athletic fields. Many of these facilities were built in the 1960s and 70s. While upgrades and replacement have occurred through the years, maintenance and modernization to meet changing needs remains a persistent challenge.
The Park System also supports a comprehensive array of arts, recreation, leisure and cultural programs to a diverse population with a wide range of recreational needs. Recreation program opportunities include: adult athletic leagues, outdoor skating rinks, adaptive recreation and inclusion services, arts-in-the-parks, bandshell concert series, special events (Summer-Fete, Winter-Fete, Halloween party, egg hunt), River Rendezvous, golf, indoor figure skating/hockey, swimming, tennis, pickleball and summer playgrounds.
Bloomington’s parks where developed over 50 years ago. Since then, the population and trends in parks and recreation have changed. Planning provides a road map for how to update parks to create a balanced system of amenities and recreational experiences.
The purpose of the Park System Master Plan is to establish a clear, 20-year vision for the Bloomington parks, trails, recreation, and open space systems. There are over 9,000 acres of parkland and open space in Bloomington, of which almost 3,000 acres are City-owned. Nearly 36% of the City’s 38 square miles is parkland or open space. Key areas of focus include (but are not limited to):
- Evaluate existing Park System features, amenities and services related to comparable communities and accepted national standards to identify where changes are warranted
- Develop a prioritization strategy to guide decision-making and investments in the Park System
- Identify and prioritize Park System needs, desires and interests of the community for the next 20 years based on anticipated demographic, economic and social changes and input from a recent Community Needs Assessment
- Establish a detailed implementation program for achieving the plan vision including the identification of funding opportunities and high-level cost estimates for high-priority actions
- Identify best practices to ensure the Park System is managed and maintained in a sustainable and equitable manner
- Involve robust community and stakeholder engagement
The City has been gathering community input about our parks since November 2019 through surveys, community conversations, stakeholder interviews and an online engagement tool, Project Bloom! Other project work includes studies and analysis of demographics and trends in parks and recreation, recreation programing assessment, and a level of service analysis.
What is a park system?
Bloomington Park System includes over 9,000 acres of parkland which includes Hyland Bush Anderson Park Reserve and MN Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The City of Bloomington has 97 parks, 45 playgrounds, 2 golf courses, Bloomington Ice Garden, Family Aquatic Center, Center for the Arts and Creekside Community Center.
What is a Park System Master Plan?
The Park System Master Plan is a roadmap for planning and completing park improvements, helping the City decide what parks to focus on first and ensure that changes and investments to a City park fit into the bigger picture of serving the needs of the community. The Park System Master Plan will use a summary of the community input received to create a 20-year vision for Bloomington's parks, trails, facilities and programs. This plan will guide City decisions for individual park improvement project and new programming in the future.
- Community Assessment: Summarizes demographic and recreation trends that will impact Bloomington as we plan for the future of our parks.
- Community Vision: Individual input collected online and in person is summarized into themes and a vision for the park system.
- System Analysis: Reviews the current level of service and programming in addition to comparing Bloomington to other similar cities locally and nationally.
- Implementation Plan: Applies the information from Steps 1 - 3 to recommend a prioritized list of park and trail improvements, operation and maintenance modifications, and programming enhancements.
What should I not expect from the Park System Master Plan?
Individual plans of all parks in Bloomington are not part of the System Plan. The Park System Master Plan will prioritize what parks should be improved and what types of park improvements the City should consider. Individual park improvements in the future will include a new community engagement process that builds on the information we are collecting now.
Why is a master plan needed?
Bloomington has 97 parks totaling almost 3,000 acres. Many of our parks were acquired in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Due to the age of our parks, changing community needs and trends in recreation, there will always be more needs and opportunities than funding. The new Park System Master Plan will help us decide which parks to focus on first and what new amenities and park experiences should be included. We will use the Plan and additional community input to determine the types of parks and park amenities needed to serve the population today and in the future.
Who is working on the plan?
The project team includes staff from the Parks and Recreation Department, Public Works Department, Park Maintenance Division, Planning Division, Community Outreach and Engagement Division, and a project consultant team led by Confluence that includes PROS Consulting and RSP Dreambox.
How can I contribute my ideas?
Public input is a critical part of the Park System Master Plan. Staff has engaged in-person and virtually to discuss how to better serve residents through the Park System Master Plan. Online engagement will be important throughout the process. The interactive, online engagement tool project Bloom! was launched January 2020 and was open through October 2020. A summary of what we heard can be found at project bloom! Online engagement has transitioned to the City’s “Let’s Talk Bloomington” site. Please continue to share your ideas to help shape the Park System Master Plan.
Where do my ideas go?
Your ideas will be grouped into themes of consistent needs and desires for parks and park experiences. The resulting themes go into the plan and help guide and prioritize park, trail, facility, and programming investments moving forward. In addition, your input will be saved for many years to come as individual parks are assessed for improvements. Survey data and information shared will provide foundation and focus along with other analysis and studies that shape the recommendations in the Plan.
What does Bloomington have in its park system?
The Bloomington park system includes:
- 97 Parks: Includes neighborhood parks, community parks, natural resource and regional parks
- Facilities: Bloomington Center for the Arts, Bloomington Family Aquatic Center, Bloomington Ice Garden, Creekside Community Center, Dwan Golf Course, Hyland Greens Golf and Learning Center
- Trails: Nearly 40 miles paved, and 40 miles unpaved
- Programming and special events for youth and adults
When will it be complete?
The Park System Master Plan will be completed in the first quarter of 2021.
How can I be kept up to date on the progress of the planning process?
The project website (blm.mn/park-master-plan) will include opportunities to provide ideas in input. Project communication will be included in the Bloomington Briefing, weekly and monthly City e-newsletters, shared on social media and updated on the project website.
What will the Park System Master Plan cost?
The consultant fees for the Plan itself are contracted at $149,000 and funded partly by the Parks and Recreation Department and partly by the Planning Division. The Park System Master Plan will have recommended individual park projects that will be funded through the Parks and Recreation Capital Fund, Charter Bonds, grants, and other sources that might be subsequently identified.
How does the City pay for park improvements?
The City pays for park improvements through a variety of funding sources listed below. As we continue through the Park System Master Plan process, we hope to continue to find additional funding opportunities.
- Parks and Recreation Capital Fund: When new development happens in Bloomington, a park dedication fee is required and deposited into that fund. Yearly deposits into this account are unpredictable and over the past several years have ranged from $0 to $500,000.
- Charter Bonds: Beginning in 2017, the City Council has issued Charter Bonds for specific park projects such as playground replacements and the wheelhouse at Dred Scott Playfields which is currently under construction. The payments for these bonds are paid for by City tax dollars.
- Regional Park Grants: For projects within the Regional Parks (primarily Normandale Lake and Bush Lake Beach), grants are issued through the Metropolitan Council for capital improvements.
- Other Grants: Subject to availability, these grants have funded park projects in the past such as the Hennepin County Youth Sports Grant.
- Franchise Fees: The City pays for trail maintenance and improvements of existing trails through franchise fees. New trails are funded through the same sources listed above for park improvements.