Service Area and Park Planning
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 Next Steps
Adoption of the master plan is just the first step. Now the work of developing service area and individual park plans begins. The Park System Master Plan, as adopted, provides a clear action plan and guidance for improvements to Bloomington's parks, trails, facilities, recreational programs and green spaces. The following nine parks have been identified for the first phase of planning: Brookside, Bryant, Gene Kelly, Poplar Bridge, Running, Smith, Southwood, Sunrise, and Tretbaugh.
PARK CONCEPT PLAN DEVELOPMENT
Feedback and opinions were gathered from hundreds of individuals who attended community conversations in the nine parks. Resident and stakeholder input at these in-person events along with input online at Let's Talk Bloomington was extremely valuable and helped guide the next steps in the process.
The information gathered from the community was put to use as City staff and consultants gathered for an all-day workshop dubbed "Park-A-Palooza" to work on the next steps in planning. Based on public feedback, possible changes to the nine parks were discussed and preliminary sketches created to help conceptualize what the new parks might look like. Watch a video recap of Park-A-Palooza below.
Once again, Community Conversation events were held at all nine parks to present the concept plans generated from the Park-A-Palooza workshop and to gather more input from residents and other stakeholders. That information was compiled and analyzed in anticipation of the continued development of draft concept plans.
Draft concept plans for Tretbaugh and Bryant parks were finalized. These are the first two parks scheduled for redevelopment and renewed amenities. The concept plans can be seen at Let's Talk Bloomington.
The City of Bloomington has 97 parks, 45 playgrounds, 16 park buildings, 17 picnic shelters, over 40 miles of off-road trails, and 9,000 acres of parkland. Neighborhood and community parks are distributed throughout the City so that 87% of residents are within a 10-minute walk from parks or greenspace. Parks account for 36% of the City’s land area. Bloomington’s parks were developed over 50 years ago. Many parks were constructed with the same design formula and elements and have not been updated to reflect current trends in parks and recreation or the changing demographic of the City.
Additionally, the park system also contains two golf courses, an art center, an indoor ice arena, an 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 1970s.
While upgrades and replacement have occurred through the years, maintenance and modernization to meet changing needs remains a persistent challenge. The population and trends in parks and recreation have changed. The Park System Master Plan provides a road map for how to update parks to create a balanced system of amenities and recreational experiences.
The Park System Master Plan
Park System Master Plan: In August 2021, the City Council adopted a Park System Master Plan (PSMP). Residents, City leadership and staff identified that significant investment is needed to update and improve the quality of parks. The PSMP provides a roadmap to guide park investments and programming to ensure that park investments are community-driven, equitable, and advance the priorities identified by the community. The PSMP establishes a commitment to deliver accessible, equitable, innovative, and high-quality recreational amenities and experiences. The PSMP establishes priority park elements (Attachment A) and guiding principles (Attachment B) which will be foundational to the Project. New investments will re-envision parks for today and into the future. The entire PSMP can be accessed at https://www.bloomingtonmn.gov/pr/park-system-master-plan-2021.
The PSMP 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, Easter egg hunt), River Rendezvous, golf, indoor figure skating/hockey, swimming, tennis, pickleball and summer playgrounds.
Service Area and Park Planning Details
Section Four of the PSMP is the Action Plan. It outlines goals and specific actions in 10 categories. The execution of the project will be consistent with the action plan, as applicable. The PSMP emphasizes the City’s commitment to an equity-based approach to create and manage parks, trails and recreation programs to ensure all residents are served with parks facilities and programs they desire and need. Parks must reflect the neighborhoods and people that surround and use them. The PSMP addresses equity through two lenses.
- The “citywide” lens looks at the whole City to understand the big picture needs, important geographic barriers, and relationships across the City.
- The “neighborhood lens” zooms in on certain areas of the City and recognizes that neighborhoods are unique and have different needs and wants based on City infrastructure and demographics.
To operationalize these concepts, an Equity Prioritization Tool will be utilized. This tool uses neighborhood characteristics, population characteristics and park condition characteristics to calculate an equity prioritization value. A Geographic Information Study (GIS) is underway which will provide data to implement this tool.
The City of Bloomington will partner with design services to create park concept plans for nine neighborhood parks, schematic design for two neighborhood parks, and a design standard for park shelter buildings to be replicated across several City parks.
The City will work with a licensed landscape architect and other professionals as needed, including, but not limited to, licensed civil engineers and licensed building architects ("Design Team"). Collectively, the Design Team is expected to have knowledge and expertise in the areas of park design, park facility design, and trends and innovations in neighborhood park and park facility design.
The Design Team will collaborate with City staff, the City Council, the City's Parks, Arts, and Recreation Commission, and other City commissions in the execution of the overall project.
Community engagement is a significant portion of the project. The Design Team will work with City staff on public engagement in all aspects of the project’s execution.
The Project involves four components: community engagement, neighborhood parks, schematic design for two parks, and design standard for park shelter buildings.
Community Outreach and Engagement
Proposer will work with City staff to develop a community engagement and outreach plan that will guide this component of the Project. Proposer will develop community engagement materials for public consumption, attend and lead several informational meetings at each of the nine neighborhood park locations, and attend and lead several public presentations to inform and gather feedback from the community.
Neighborhood Park Concept Plans
Proposer will complete individual park concept plans, consistent with the PSMP, for nine neighborhood parks: Sunrise, Southwood, Brookside, Poplar Bridge, Smith, Running, Gene Kelly, Bryant and Tretbaugh Parks (the “Neighborhood Parks”). Concept plans will build on the input the City gathered as part of the PSMP and the information in Figure 3-29: New Facility Proposed Locations (Attachment D). Concept plans must have enough detail to demonstrate a functional design, including information on grades, building location, inclusive play locations, and consideration of any regulatory issues. Concept plans are requested to include illustrative colored renderings for each site that will inform schematic design.
Concept plans for the neighborhood parks will build from the level of planning done as part of the PSMP including the Tretbaugh Park Plan Example attached. This approach to planning, considering parks across all service areas, is intended to achieve an appropriate balance of recreation facilities, programs, and experiences in each service area to support access to parks, trails, sports facilities, and recreation amenities that residents desire. Plans will consider the integration of natural resources and water resources improvements, transportation plans, access to utilities and fiber optics to support park amenities, phasing of construction, landscape and long term maintenance needs.
The Schematic Design / 30% Construction Drawings for Bryant Park and Tretbaugh Park will build upon the concept planning phase to more precisely develop project design details and regulatory requirements related to all project components and specifically permitting and regulatory requirements, itemized cost estimates, phasing and schedule. This will include a Basis of Design report of the work and plan sheets related to existing and proposed conditions including surface and subsurface conditions, utilities plan, grading plan, site layout of all amenities, landscape plan, and illustrative colored renderings.
Stormwater management and natural resources restoration are expected to be substantial components of Bryant and Tretbaugh Parks. Bryant Park is 100% within a 100-Year Floodplain. Wetlands within the park have not been delineated and will be jurisdictional although they receive significant stormwater inputs. Improving water quality and floodplain storage are water resource goals for Bryant Park. Park designs will endeavor to integrate natural resources and the park user experience. The Consultant Team is responsible for performing wetland delineation and preparing all submittals for the approval of the wetland delineation and all wetland and water resources related permitting requirements of the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District, City of Bloomington and other potential State and Federal permits as may be required.
Proposer will complete a standard park shelter building design that can be replicated in eight of the neighborhood parks. The general scope of design for the park building is anticipated to be approximately 2,000 – 3,000 square feet, to include gender-neutral restrooms accessible from inside and outside, keyless entry system, internet access, compliant with American Disability Act, further sustainability goals from the PSMP “Action Plan”, and that support year-round programming, including winter skating, private rentals, meetings, and camps[A5] [A6] .
The park shelter building design will be completed to Schematic Design Phase and specifically include project design details and regulatory requirements related to all project components and itemized cost estimate. This will include a Basis of Design report of the work and plan sheets related to existing and proposed conditions including surface and subsurface conditions, utilities, grading plan, site layout for each site. A representative illustrative colored rendering to inform design development is requested.
Staying consistent with the Park System Master Plan
All park concept plans, schematic design plans, and park shelter design will be consistent with the PSMP, specifically including priority park elements (Attachment A), guiding principles (Attachment B), and action plan (Attachment C).
Natural resource improvements are a priority consideration for incorporation into all park plans. Considerations will include the incorporation of native plant restorations and water resources improvements to meet and exceed regulatory requirements.
Completion of the Project will support future park renovation project planning and investments in site amenities, including placement of new park shelter buildings and design and placement of fully inclusive playgrounds at Bryant and Brookside Parks, as shown in Figure 3-30 (Attachment E) and 3-31 of the PMSP.
The Action Plan consists of goals and actions in 10 categories. Together, this mix of new programs, tools, and partnerships outlines a strategy to re-imagine and upgrade parks in Bloomington. As implementation unfolds, the City will assess and monitor these actions with an emphasis on adequate staffing, financing, and equitable resource allocation.
Along with a commitment to deliver accessible, equitable, innovative, and high quality recreational experiences, flexibility in implementation enables the City to adjust, refine, and improve strategies.
Bloomington also recognizes that given the long planning horizon of the Park System Master Plan (PSMP) it may be necessary to modify specific actions as conditions change. Shifts in development patterns, redevelopment, demographic changes, technology, or recreational interests can reshape needs and priorities, warranting new implementation approaches. The PSMP and this Action Plan are living documents that guide, but don’t prescribe. The expectation is that modifications will be made in the future.
The PSMP policies reflect the overarching principles that seek to elevate the City’s parks, facilities, and programs into an excellent system in the future. The icons next to the policy categories represent the four PSMP Guiding Principles and the seven City Council Priorities that are working together.
View the tabs below for more details on the individual parts of the Action Plan or download the Action Plan as a PDF.
GOAL: Protect and restore natural resources to sustain a healthy, diverse and balanced natural park system for all to enjoy and understand.
SUMMARY: Bloomington's networks of parks, green spaces, trees, and water protect sensitive natural resources that exist throughout the City. These natural areas provide people the healing effects of the interaction with the outdoors.
While providing Bloomington residents a high level of recreational value, the City will use best design and operational practices and timely implementation of resiliency measures to protect the future of Bloomington’s natural resources. There multiple benefits of supporting and maintaining natural environments.
Current parks and open spaces in Bloomington help to manage stormwater flow, lowering the risk of flooding and improving groundwater recharge.
Trees improve air quality by removing pollution and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing heat island effect, and serving as natural cooling centers for residents.
Natural protective functions of parks can be achieved through low-impact design and green infrastructure integration. The parks and conservation areas within the City can better withstand extreme impacts of severe weather events and other effects of climate change with proper management.
- Establish a Natural Resource Management position.
- Create a natural resource budget in the park maintenance budget.
- Complete a Natural Resource Management Plan in 2021-2022 that builds upon and coalesces previously completed plans and studies.
- The Natural Resource Management Position should be responsible for prioritizing and addressing natural resource issues. The Sustainability Commission should advise and provide guidance on natural resource issues, and should receive periodic reports from the NR Management Position.
- Work with the Water Resources Department to implement projects from their completed parks opportunity zones study. Collaborate to integrate multi-functional green infrastructure into parks that increase both recreational and environmental value.
- Build upon existing partnership with Three Rivers Park District (TRPD) and collaborate around opportunities to enhance natural resources in shared parks.
- Develop an urban forest inventory to understand and increase the park system’s resiliency by diversifying the species composition.
- Identify opportunities to integrate more natural areas into Service Area 4, especially west of Highway 77. The Xcel Utility Corridor is a good candidate and has already completed restoration/ planting projects. Xcel has completed similar projects in other communities to foster good will and may be receptive.
- Incorporate natural areas and native plantings into all park redevelopment plans as recommended in the park design standards. Incorporate green infrastructure into park redevelopment plans to treat runoff from proposed and existing impervious surfaces where appropriate.
- Provide natural resource based programming for residents. Partner with organizations already providing environmental and natural resources programming such as USFWS, TRPD, and Nine Mile Creek Watershed District. These organizations may have ready made programming opportunities for residents.
- Create an education and media program with the Communications Department that tells the story of natural resources in Bloomington. Utilize articles in the Briefing, videos on the City’s website, and on-site educational signage to alert residents to critical work that is being done, why it’s important, and why it’s being done by the City. Identifying natural resources in parks could be listed in a prominent location on the City’s website.
- Coordinate volunteer efforts through the NR Management position to fully engage and activate the public. Develop a list of projects for resident participation and post on-line to encourage action and build community.
- Take a leadership role in the discussion around developing the Minnesota River Valley as a Regional Park Reserve and/or expanded partnership with the MN Valley Wildlife Refuge. Work with agencies on both sides of the river to coordinate opportunities around natural resources management and trail connections to support this effort.
- Clarify the Parks and Recreations Department’s role in working with agencies to prioritize resources. Define leadership and relationship dynamics for the following project types:
GOAL: Achieve an appropriate balance of parks, recreation facilities, programs, and experiences in each planning area to support access to parks, trails, sports facilities, and recreation amenities that residents want and need.
SUMMARY: Level of service allows Bloomington's Parks and Recreation Department to measure the balance of parks and amenities throughout the City and by the population served. This includes parks, facilities, and amenities and their level of population access impact. This method of measurement has been used for thirty years by planners for park and recreation system master plans to demonstrate fairness and equity.
Additionally, park planners and landscape architects are also using a recreation value assessment which allows park agencies to assess how well their parks, amenities and facilities are used based on their condition value and how wide the demographic appeal is for each type of park in the system compared to the neighborhood or community its serves. A park within a 10-minute walk is a good indicator of equity and quality of life. However, if that park has outdated amenities and equipment that attracts little public use, it will not be a productive park and indicates an unwise use of city funds to operate and maintain it.
Creating both population-based metrics and recreation value metrics will create parks that have wide age segment appeal, wide recreation value and high park destiny value. The end goal is to create a more appealing park system to users of all ages and capabilities.
- Address under-served amenities in the Level of Service study and needs identified during community engagement.
- Increase the CIP budget to meet the park redevelopment needs. Consider alternative funding strategies to address in a more timely manner.
- Use Service Areas to balance facilities, amenities, and park experiences and to build equity throughout the system.
- Decommission over-served facilities such as tennis courts, softball fields, and outdoor hockey/ skating areas in the City. Focus on maintaining larger facilities with multiple fields and/ or courts in order to host tournaments or league play.
- Update individual park plans to meet current resident needs. Utilize a community-driven plan update process to ensure neighborhood needs are considered and incorporated into all redeveloped parks.
- Follow updated park design principles for neighborhood and community parks and focus on experiences in addition to amenities.
- Enhance access and connections to the regional park system.
- Provide new and emerging trend facilities to maintain innovative parks that meet the current resident needs (e.g. bike playgrounds/ skills areas).
- Provide high speed internet service at all facilities and public wi-fi access where appropriate. Prioritize community parks, recreation facilities, and community building park locations.
- Provide quality LED lighting at key fields to extend programming hours and opportunities. Especially multiuse fields.
GOAL: Implement past planning recommendations and integrate parks as key destinations into the overall transportation system. Provide a variety of interesting and safe trail experiences inside parks to encourage mobility as recreation.
SUMMARY: Trails were identified as high priority in Bloomington. Through coordinated planning and design, parks and trails can work in harmony with other public services and infrastructure to improve quality of life in Bloomington. Trails, pedestrian paths, and bikeways expand mobility options, increase safety, encourage people to drive less, and connect major destinations in the City.
There are great benefits to connected trails systems. Off-street trails, bikeways, linear parks, natural surface trails, and multiuse paths all become part of a continuous network for people to experience their city without using their cars. Busy, attractive trails bring positive energy to their surroundings, making neighborhoods safer and more prosperous. Trails used for exercise, regular social interaction and relaxation improve physical and emotional health of residents. Trails that combine elements of green infrastructure with recreational spaces can attract additional support and funding. Trails that connect public gathering spaces with commercial uses, such as restaurants, enliven their broader surroundings, creating momentum for economic investment.
Bloomington has a strong network of natural surface trails in the City that should be considered as a destination for residents and visitors. Natural surface trails provide significant cost-benefit value and should be considered and integrated into the overall trail plans for the City.
- Support and assist the implementation of the Alternative Transportation Plan and Comprehensive Plan trail recommendations.
- Develop loop trails in neighborhood and community parks.
- Complete a comprehensive signage and wayfinding plan that addresses consistency across the City, integrates with regional trail signage, and brands individual trails and trail corridors in the City.
- Ensure all new or reconstructed trails and walkways are fully accessible and ADA compliant.
- Complete a natural surface trails plan to inventory natural trails, identify appropriate uses, identify opportunities to expand the system, increase awareness through marketing, and assign an operations and maintenance strategy.
- Continue to support the completion of the state trail to make the connection to the Old Cedar Avenue bridge.
- Prioritize off-road trails that directly connect to parks and schools in order to maximize safety and appeal for less skilled riders.
GOAL: Build equity and accessibility into the park system to provide exceptional parks and recreation opportunities for all residents to meet their needs and their community’s needs.
SUMMARY: Equity and access to parks, recreation facilities, and programs mean that all Bloomington residents can enjoy meaningful park and recreational opportunities regardless of where they live, their background, age, or ability. Factors such as the distance from a park, the design of a park space, facility, or park condition, affect people’s ability to access recreation. Designing parks for activation is critical to the success of every park in Bloomington. As many age segments as possible should be served through each type of design to create a positive experience.
Equity recognizes that many factors influence where parks are built and how they are maintained. Availability of quality recreational opportunities should be a given. An equity-driven approach to parks and recreation facilities acknowledges that people who live in areas of the City not served by a park have greater recreational needs and the City needs to recognize and prioritize their investment in resources to support these citizen’s needs.
When residents can get to parks and recreation facilities along a safe and convenient walking or biking trail, they are more likely to exercise, play, relax, or interact on a regular basis. The goal of a 10-minute walk to a park across the City can provide enormous opportunities for people of all ages to recreate. Once people get to a park and the park spaces are safe, clean, and well-maintained, they will continue to be users of the park for years to come. Facilities that incorporate multigenerational and multifunctional design welcome users of all ages, and abilities to participate fully and equally in recreational experiences that creates a lifetime user.
- Complete the Equity Prioritization Ranking Tool created during the PSMP process to inform CIP budget recommendations.
- Update neighborhood and park plans based on a completed Equity Prioritization Ranking Tool and park design standards.
- Continue working toward ADA compliance for the park system.
- Distribute larger community facilities as recommended in Section 03 to ensue equal geographic access across the City and service areas.
- Utilize a community-driven planning process for all major investments in parks. The Parks and Recreation Department and Community Outreach and Engagement Division should develop a standard engagement process and goals to be utilized for each project. Engagement should focus on a 0.5-mile radius around the park. Utilize citywide or neighborhood demographics as a goal for engagement as appropriate for the project.
- Complete annual programming surveys to identify barriers to participation and program needs that aren’t being met.
- Continue to collaborate and provide leadership for the City’s Racial Equity Action Plan and support Park and Recreation Department's Racial Equity Action Team.
- Evaluate the fee assistance policy that allows ability to pay based pricing for programs. Create a separate budget and funding source to support payment assistance that can be tracked over time to ensure allocations are more accurate. Provide no-cost programming for those in need.
GOAL: Enhance the value of recreation services by enhancing existing recreation facilities to build new facilities and support the existing and new core programs desired by the community in the most cost-effective manner.
SUMMARY: Parks and recreation systems connect residents and visitors to available amenities and services on a year-round basis through active programming.
Bloomington has limited indoor recreation program space for a city its size. Being a cold weather city leaves many residents with limited access to indoor public park and recreation spaces to just six months a year. The exceptions are an indoor senior center, which is limited in size, and the Bloomington Ice Garden which is old but services both hockey and figure skating needs well.
The delivery of safe, affordable, and enjoyable indoor core programming spaces ensures meaningful recreation and social activities for people of all ages, including children, adults, and persons with disabilities on a year-round basis. Matching programs to facility design maximizes their use and grows a year-round multigenerational user base. Forcing programs into spaces that were not designed for that program creates a negative experience for the users of the program, as well as people teaching, training, or delivering the program.
Matching indoor spaces to core programs builds a year-round user base that maximizes the City’s investment and builds wider age segment appeal. Development of multifunctional and multigenerational facilities serve all residents versus special interest groups. Managing these types of facilities can support their operational cost if designed correctly and priced correctly. These types of facilities can have high economic impact value if designed correctly.
Marketing, particularly use of social media and mobile platform technology build awareness and participation in programs and facilities. Communication efforts should factor in language and other barriers to reach all Bloomington’s residents.
An annual survey and feedback program would aid the Parks and Recreation Department in identifying program successes and challenges, barriers for participation, and unmet programming needs.
- Identify gaps in programs provided for existing core and non-core programs according to the Needs Assessment completed for the PSMP. Find new ways to provide new core programs desired by the community, and where and how to deliver them to the community. These could include fitness and wellness, outdoor adventure, environmental education, and winter programs.
- Develop a true cost of service for all existing and new programs to classify them as core essential, important, and value added.
- Develop a new pricing policy that incorporates the classification of programs, cost of service and cost recovery goal that will support operational costs based on a public and private good for the service.
- Teach and train the staff to track the cost of service, price services based on classification and how to communicate the price of programs to the community.
- Update the school district partnership agreements to make it fair and equitable and include a yearly review process.
- Enhance pricing for golf, sports for youth and adults, ice related programs and facility uses, and aquatic related programs. They are undervalued for the quality of the experience.
- Develop a sports tourism strategy for the department regarding tournaments in hockey, golf, adult and youth sports, aquatics, and outdoor adventure.
- Determine a long-range vision for recreation, community centers, ice facilities and aquatic centers that will emphasize the preferred service delivery model and its role in the community for all core services.
- Define the role of other service providers in the City and identify gaps.
- Identify potential partners for capital investment, programming, and maintenance in existing and future facilities.
- Find dedicated funding sources for recreation facilities in the City. Develop new facilities and update existing facilities over the next five years to maximize their value to citizens of the park and recreation system.
- Develop feasibility and business plans during the inception of all new and renovated recreation facilities to maximize the cost recovery capabilities and operational costs.
- Address the issue of blanketed permitting of sports fields to associations.
- Add a new updated clubhouse at Dwan Golf Course to enhance programming and revenue generation.
GOAL: Create an organizational structure that allows the Parks and Recreation Department to thrive, be accountable for all finances associated with parks and recreation and serve the community up to the standards they are capable of delivering.
SUMMARY: The current organizational design of parks and recreation services is split between the Public Works Department for park maintenance and the Parks and Recreation Department which carries out programming, facility management, and park planning. Though this organizational structure has been in place for a long time, it limits the Parks and Recreation Department in its ability to have effective control over the parks and its budget. This relationship is unique nationally, and among the communities compared for benchmarking.
In Bloomington, the park maintenance duties include additional responsibilities not directly related to parks and recreation which needs to be accounted for in duties and expectations of staff members. A higher level of city-wide coordination to achieve the desired results is needed. Communication and collaboration between the Public Works and the Parks and Recreation departments is critical in this arrangement and processes should be defined for long-term success.
The following action plan items address the necessary collaboration and communication strategies for organizational improvement. This organizational design needs to be monitored for its impacts on the City and the Parks and Recreation Department on a yearly basis.
- Communication and collaboration between the departments is essential for long term efficiency and effectiveness.
- Develop a separate park maintenance budget within the Public Works general fund budget to better allow for transparency and accountability.
- A position should be created or duties assigned to manage earned income opportunities, partnership equity, pricing of services, grant research and pursuit, tracking data on park programs and facility use, as well as tracking key performance indicators.
- Additional staff resources are needed to expand on community engagement and volunteer efforts associated with racial equity initiatives and park planning.
- Supervision of Recreation Division should shift from the Parks and Recreation Director to the Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation.
- Staff Levels are not adequate to complete recommendations in the PSMP. The following are needed to achieve recommendations:
- Increase staff capacity for Natural Resources Management. Examine internal job descriptions to shift capacity.
- Increase staff capacity for Community Engagement efforts.
- Increase staff capacity for Project Management of CIP projects.
- Conduct a staffing level assessment for the Parks Maintenance Department.
GOAL: Demonstrate the economic value of parks as part of the budget process each year.
SUMMARY: Currently the Parks and Recreation Department has not presented an economic impact assessment to the City Council of parks and recreation services to the community. This would include proximity values of homes to parks, health and wellness impacts to the community, economic impact of sport tournaments to the City through hotel taxes and food and beverage taxes and other economic elements. Theses analyses make the solid argument that parks and recreation services is not a “spending” department but an “earned income” department.
Creating the system of tomorrow requires dedicated, sustainable, and equitable financing to support quality recreational experiences for residents and workers. A balanced investment approach to increase recreational opportunities throughout the City emphasizes funding for the development of new parks, investment in existing parks and operations and maintenance as well as access to recreation facilities and programs. The continued acquisition of new parkland in redeveloped areas, new park experience creation, and the construction of recreation facilities is a foundational action in meeting the recreation needs of existing and future populations. As they age, parks require periodic reinvestment to maintain consistency and deliver quality experiences. Efforts to upgrade assets, add recreational amenities and expand capacity increases the recreational opportunities available within existing parks. Ongoing, there needs to be adequate resources for operations, maintenance and staffing. These are also essential in the strategy to extend in the parks system’s useful life and enhance user experiences.
As a citywide parks network, improving equitable access to parks and recreation programs for everyone is a foremost priority. Funding sources must be sufficiently flexible to address these historical deficiencies and reduce gaps in recreational opportunities that accumulate over time. Innovate equitable partnerships with private and other public not-for-profit entities along with new revenue generating opportunities can expand the resources to a create a system of tomorrow.
- Identify a dedicated funding source for capital improvements for the Department to update parks, develop new community center facilities, build trails, restore native landscapes, and improve existing infrastructure.
- Develop an Economic Impact Plan for the Department to analyze benefits of parks, including the approximate value of homes near parks, trails, and natural areas.
- Establish processes to track costs and revenues per amenity and program annually.
- Explore establishing a Parks Foundation to help raise funds and advocate for the park system.
- Consider utilizing the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agency (CAPRA) Accreditation from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). Alternatively, use the CAPRA Accreditation process as a management system of best practices to promote excellence in the short-term.
- Develop park plans for two to three parks a year to begin updating the park system. Utilize an equity prioritization tool to influence the order of parks.
- Over the next three years, develop performance measures the Department will use to track and demonstrate efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery that can be shared with key leaders of the City.
GOAL: Establish equitable and fair polices for the management of partnerships, pricing, land use and development, earned income, administrative costs, and EDI to operate in the most efficient and effective manner.
SUMMARY: The Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department has many partnership arrangements with various groups across the City and internal city departments. Not all partnership arrangements are equitable. The Department has not effectively tracked their true cost of the partnership and its impact of their operational budget. Policies help to manage expectations, reduce a sense of entitlement, and create fairness and equity if managed correctly.
With tight budgets and growing needs, parks and recreation systems often must do more with less. Sustainable systems look for arrangements with other public agencies, not-for-profits recreation providers, the private sector, and volunteers to expand possibilities for new parks and recreational offerings. These partners can complement City service delivery. Other partners can include school districts and private interest groups. Establishment of park foundations and conservancies can help raise money and provide operational dollars to support park attractions and programs.
- Establish and or update existing partnership agreements for public/public partnerships, public/not-for-profit partnerships, and public/private partnerships. Partnerships that should be addressed include:
- Bloomington Public Schools - Create equitable policies and fees.
- Three Rivers Park District - Review partnerships regarding Hyland Golf Course. Revisit roles as Implementing Agencies for the Hyland-Bush Anderson Lakes Park Reserve. Explore additional partnerships around the Minnesota River Valley, environmental education programming, and connecting residents from all of Bloomington to the Regional Park.
- US Fish and Wildlife Services - Explore environmental programming partnership opportunities. Update and consider expanding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for maintenance in the River Valley.
- Athletic Associations - Clarify expectations regarding fee for use and service levels based on programming and cost of service. Consider new field use fee as is done in most communities. Address blanketed permitting of fields and diamonds.
- Establish written partnership agreements that bind each partner in an accountable manner. Review and update these agreements on a yearly basis. All partnership obligations should determine the true cost of each partner’s investment in the partnership. This will assure there is no non-equitable spending by one partner over another partner that may cause entitlement to occur.
- Pricing policies will be established based on a classification of what is core essential, important, and value-added services as well as the level of public and private good that exists. These policies will also outline the cost benefit of the service provided and should be coordinated and agreed to by all partners.
- Not-for-profit partnerships should be established to support the end goal of the Department financially and ensure all costs/ revenues are fair and responsible for the outcomes desired by each partner.
- Organizational policies should be determined by best practices in the industry regarding personnel, work culture, training, and safety of staff to ensure the most efficient and effective service delivery.
- Asset management policies should be developed based on efficiency and effectiveness of the resources to ensure wise use of taxpayer dollars.
GOAL: The Parks and Recreation Department will become an outcome-based driven organization that tracks efficiency and effectiveness in all the services they provide.
SUMMARY: Park and recreation systems inherently do not demonstrate how efficient and effective they are because they do not track data well on key performance metrics. These metrics tell their story of their daily, weekly, and yearly impacts on the City and show their operational budgets. When agencies tell their story well through data, they can demonstrate their value and impact on the community. Bloomington Parks and Recreation has limited performance measures that they track to tell their story and impact. Managing to outcomes versus effort will be a positive paradigm shift for the department in the future and in making their argument for needed facilities, programs, capital improvements to key decision makers in the City.
- The Department should identify five performance metrics for each division in 2021 and add two additional metrics over the next five years. These metrics will track overall efficiency and effectiveness and the impact of their work.
- The Department should train staff to write and track key performance metrics for each division and report their results quarterly to the Director.
- Resource spending on operations and capital improvements should be tracked and recorded to assess and demonstrate fairness and equity in serving community needs.
- Established metrics will be used to identify low performing areas of the system that should be modified eliminated to achieve maximum efficiency.
- A cost benefit analysis will be developed to track programs, facilities, marketing, and maintenance expenditures. This method will be modified as needed.
- Updated business plans should be created for all revenue producing facilities including city golf courses, Bloomington Ice Garden, Bloomington Family Aquatic Center, and other revenue producing facilities.
- Marketing and communication materials should be tracked for cost-effectiveness.
- The Parks Maintenance Division in the Public Works Department should conduct a Service Evaluation to assess operations, adequacy of staffing and budget, and organizational setup. The report should make recommendations for improvements in these areas.
GOAL: Support the ongoing efforts of the Sustainability Commission by making the park system more sustainable and resilient to the effects of climate change.
SUMMARY: While natural resources is a significant component of sustainability and resiliency, there are several other aspects of sustainability that the Parks and Recreation Department should consider in their work.
Park buildings are significant energy users. This energy use currently has a large impact on operating expenses and contributions to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Facilities can have a large impervious surface footprint that contributes to water quality and quantity issues. Turf grass maintenance with mowers has a considerable impact on air quality and carbon emissions. Material choices in parks facilities can contribute to pollution by using unsustainable or toxic materials or production processes. Irrigation and aquatics use require significant water resources to be consumed. Fertilizers and pesticides can pollute waterways and harm beneficial insects.
Despite these potential issues, parks are a source of environmental health for the City due to the ecosystem services they provide such as flood control, water and air quality improvement, carbon capture and sequestration, wildlife habitat and biodiversity preservation, and numerous psychological and spiritual benefits for humans. The City Council has made environment and sustainability a priority for the City moving forward. The Parks and Recreation, working with the Sustainability Commission, can be a leader in implementing strategies that make Bloomington more sustainable and resilient.
- All new park building facilities, and major park renovations, should follow the City of Bloomington’s current Sustainability Policies and recommendations, and work towards the goals outlined in Bloomington’s Energy Action Plan (2018).
- Consider using the Sustainable SITES Initiative as a guide for major park redevelopment projects. SITES is a tool, similar to LEED, for outdoor environments that helps create ecologically resilient communities and benefits to the environment, property owners, and local and regional communities and economies.
- Identify areas of parks where actively maintained turf can be reduced. Reducing mower run-time will have positive air quality and carbon emission benefits. The Sustainability Commission’s restoration priority study provides guidance for this work.
- Develop an urban forest inventory database to track the existing forest and plan for improvements. Increasing forest diversity and utilizing species more adaptable to climate change will make parks more resilient over time and reduce maintenance costs.
- Improve the trail network and pedestrian access to parks in order to reduce the overall vehicle miles traveled.
- Explore integration of green infrastructure into parks to manage stormwater runoff generated from rainfall. Partner with the Water Resources Department, Nine Mile Creek Watershed District, and other watershed districts to identify parkland for stormwater quantity and quality control efforts. Recreational needs should always be accounted for and protected so that valuable parkland isn’t taken for a single-use stormwater volume practice.
- Continue to develop sustainability education campaigns through parks. Consider a "Seeing Yellow" campaign or similar to educate residents on benefits of minimizing chemical inputs and allowing some areas of parks to receive less maintenance – even if that means more dandelion growth. Similarly, pollinator lawn mixes contain clover and other nontraditional lawn species that may be considered weeds, but that have significant environmental value. Perception and education are key elements.
- Develop a park resilience action plan as part of any citywide efforts to efficiently adapt to climate change effects. Identify the key issues throughout the park system and prepare to address.
- Consider long-term versus short-term costs and payback periods in capital improvement planning. Sustainable approaches are often considered more costly upfront but provide long-term cost savings. The lifecycle cost should be considered in budget decisions.
- Develop sustainable infrastructure that showcases sustainability such as solar panels, wind turbines, green infrastructure, natural areas, etc., in highly visible locations accessible to the public. Provide education opportunities and interpretive signs associated with this infrastructure.
- Continue to facilitate composting and recycling in the park system by maintaining collection points.
- Develop a formal Integrated Pest Management Plan to be approved by Council.
What is a park system?
Bloomington's park system includes over 9,000 acres of parkland which includes the Hyland Bush Anderson Park Reserve and MN Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The City of Bloomington has 97 parks, 45 playgrounds, 2 golf courses, the Bloomington Ice Garden, the Bloomington Family Aquatic Center, the Center for the Arts, and the Creekside Community Center.
What is a Park System Master Plan?
The Park System Master Plan (PSMP) is a roadmap for planning and completing park improvements, to help 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 PMSP 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 PSMP. Instead, the PSMP 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 1960s and 1970s. 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 PSMP will help us decide which parks to focus on first and what new amenities and park experiences should be included. We will use the PSMP 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 PSMP. Staff has engaged in-person and virtually to discuss how to better serve residents through the PSMP. 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 PSMP.
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 PSMP itself are contracted at $149,000 and funded partly by the Parks and Recreation Department and partly by the Planning Division. The PSMP 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 PSMP 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.