The Stearns County parks and recreation system needs a stable source of funding in order to operate and plan its facilities. Funding opportunities include:
Minnesota Statutes allow local governments to require dedication of land or cash in-lieu of land for parks and trails from new subdivisions. The dedication must be reasonable and rationally related to the recreation demand created by the development.
Stearns County Ordinance 334 addresses parkland dedication through fees or land as part of the County subdivision process. As of April 2020, the ordinance establishes a fee of $1,000 per lot for a subdivisions of 3 or more lots, or up to 10% of the undeveloped tract’s value, whichever is less. Seventy-five percent of the funds collected must be spent in Township of origin, unless there is an agreement otherwise, and may be used only for capital improvements.
Achieving the goals for the parks and recreation system may take additional funding, not only for large capital investments, but also for park revitalization, park maintenance, and improvements to accessibility, etc. Beyond the general County budget, other sources of funding (e.g., local partnerships, grants and donations) should be explored for implementation.
Public and private partnerships are valuable to community development of a parks and recreation system. These relationships can contribute to the development of parks, operation of athletic facilities, development and implementation of community programming and events, and natural resource management. Partnerships will continue to be important in Stearns County for both facilities and programming. Organizations with partner funding can also provide assistance with design, outreach and maintenance. Partnerships and relationships with private businesses can also result in easements and use agreements for trails across private lands.
Various grant funding is available throughout Minnesota, and the grants available for parks and trails change frequently. Organizations that may have grants available for parks and trails include the following:
Private donations are another potential funding source. These may be financial donations from individuals or area corporations, or donations of labor from recreation clubs or use agreements. Programs such as “adopt-a-trail” or “adopt-a-park” by an organization, business, or individuals have been used in many communities to help with maintenance tasks and raise awareness.
There are foundations and non-profits that are interested in fulfilling their missions by supporting local projects. There are a number of online tools that can assist with the process of identifying additional foundations that may provide financial support for park, trail, and bikeway improvements. The Minnesota Council of Foundations is a great starting point for identifying foundations. Another good starting point is to consider the businesses within Stearns County and identifying those that have a foundation or charitable giving department. In addition to retailers and manufacturers, be sure to consider businesses such as energy providers and communications companies.