Nature

Future Parkland Planning

Planning for future improvements and expansion to the existing parks and recreation system includes the analysis of park access and coverage, guidelines for future acquisition, master plans for the park system and individual parks and trails, and development of system facilities.



Policies

  1. Seek to expand and enhance the existing park system by acquiring property as opportunities arise in order to meet the goal of 20 acres per 1,000 residents and to add County Parkland to the system.
  2. Identify desired parcels throughout the county based on significant natural features, landscapes and potential acquisition opportunities.
  3. Seek investments into facilities and programs of the County park system to meet changes in recreational needs of residents and tourists.
  4. Invest in a Countywide Park System Plan to develop a vision, guiding principles, and priorities for the next 10-20 years.

Benefits of a Diverse Trail Network:
The existing County trails network is connected to a number of state and local trails. Additionally, state water trails may be connected to the paved, land-based trails to create a more dynamic linear recreation system, combining walking/running and bicycling, with canoeing and kayaking. Developing and promoting this potential network could expand tourism and economic development in the County.

Regional Park Planning and Funding:
The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC) allocates state legacy funds for park and trail projects. Stearns County has the opportunity to take advantage of this structure to acquire funding for potential park and trail improvements and expansion. A master plan must be completed for a certain facility, park, or trail that meets the requirements outlined by the GMRPTC before it can be designated as a regional facility.

Countywide Parks and Trails System Plan:
Prioritization of future projects, including land acquisition, park and trail development, and partnership projects is needed in order to align staffing, funding, and maintenance needs. The County can identify all potential projects, conceptual cost estimates, funding options and sources, and associated priority levels in a parks and trails system plan.

Park Access and Coverage

County and regional parks are typically provided within a 15-30 minute drive, or a 30-45 minute bike ride, of residents. Stearns County has identified the distance of ten miles as a standard for providing park access to residents. The figures below show that most of the county residents are located within ten miles of a county park or trail. Residents in the western part of the county are located more than ten miles from a county park, which may indicate the need for additional park land in that area. As there has been growth in the Sauk Centre area, this may be the primary location to consider for an additional county park.

As the County is underdeveloped in terms of the amount of County parkland acreage for its size (see the table below), there is the opportunity to acquire more land, particularly for natural resources protection and restoration. Specific sites should be identified as desired acquisition properties as opportunities arise with funding and transfers of property ownership. Compared to selected peer counties in Minnesota, Stearns County has a smaller ratio of parkland to overall county land area and to number of residents. Table 5.2 includes a detailed analysis of parkland acreage compared to population and land area. Also included is the regional parkland in the Twin Cities metro area for comparison. In the past, the metro area has generally received more state funding for regional parks and trails compared to the rest of the state, so this is not an “apples to apples” comparison, but provided for reference.

Based on the above evaluation of current park acreage compared to standards for 20 acres of park land per 1,000 residents, Stearns County should add 415 acres of park land to its system to meet guidelines. In the next 30 years, this guideline will grow to 565 acres.

 

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