Faribault has a large number of parks, but according to City Planner Dave Wanberg and Parks & Recreation Director Paul Penansky, some of them aren’t being used to their highest potential.
Wednesday’s council update was a thorough inventory of the every city park, a review of a draft of the Parks, Trails and Open Space plan. The plan is part of the three part “Journey to 2040” vision the city has worked to develop with consultants from architecture and design firm Perkins + Will.
More and improved park facilities are a key part of the city’s vision to make Faribault a more livable city. Amid significant workforce challenges, the city envisions being able to maintain a solid rate of growth with a vibrant downtown area that combines additional green space and housing with carefully preserved historic character.
In addition to evaluating each park’s amenities (or lack thereof), the Parks, Trails and Open Space plan included proposed modifications and improvements to each park. After getting council feedback, Wanberg said that staff hope to secure council approval of the plan by December or even late this month.
Whatever fine the city’s vision for parks is, the council will ultimately need to fund park improvements. That’s been a challenge in recent years, with City Administrator Tim Murray lamenting that many city parks remain undeveloped or underdeveloped many years after they were acquired.
Councilors have expressed interest in funding park improvements, but the city faces significant financial challenges, even with a strong economy. This year’s levy increase is projected to be over 8%, the fifth straight year with a significant increase.
Although city officials have said they’d like to see a significantly smaller levy increase, most of the city’s budget is devoted to personnel costs, which are protected by union contracts. The budget crunch has left the city struggling to fund other expenses, like needed road projects.