The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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January 31, 2014

Our View: Nurture plan for parks

Why it matters: As the community grows, so too will the need for recreational and green space. But resources in government, as always, are limited

The three-part series presented by Free Press Media reporter Mark Fischenich underscored the growing “wish list” for more parks in Mankato and the economic reality to fulfill that demand.

First there’s the operational reality that it costs to maintain, improve and expand some of the existing parks. Cost? $13 million. Add in the wish list and we’re tripling that number.

Normal city planning identifies the basic standard of having a large community park within 1.5 miles of homes. With the city expanding as rapidly as it has and land being as expensive as it is, the dollar amount quickly adds up.

Then there’s the additional goal of ensuring neighborhood parks are available within walking distance of all homes without having to cross any major roads. Ten of these exist but as things progress there appears to be a need for another 17 such parks. While requiring developers to provide land or money for neighborhood parks we should remember land alone doesn’t make a park. And existing neighborhoods such as Lincoln Park neighborhood or other areas south and southeast of MSU have no neighborhood parks and they deserve to be included in future plans. But the price tag is expensive in paying for turf, trees, playground equipment and basketball courts.

Now we come to the big ideas such as sports facilities, swimming pool upgrades and even a $2.5 million bridge connecting Sibley and Land of Memories.

To date, the city has accomplished much since its comprehensive plan of 12 years ago. The new Riverfront Park, Kiwanis Park, the extension of the Minnesota River Trail to Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail and a connection to Minneopa State Park were among the major additions to the park system and in some cases with help from outside groups and businesses. The recession slowed down some of the progress.

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