County receives $1.5 million for parks, trails

Anoka County has received more than $1.5 million in state parks and trail legacy dollars for projects in 2014.

On a recommendation from its Parks and Community Services Committee, the Anoka County Board Sept. 10 approved five grant agreements with the Metropolitan Council to receive the money.

The grant dollars come from the state sales tax increase that was approved by Minnesota voters in 2008 through the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the state Constitution.

The money, which is set aside for projects in the  county’s regional parks and trails system, is distributed by the Metropolitan Council via a formula put in place by the Minnesota Legislature, according to John VonDeLinde, county division manager for parks and community services.

The county got its first appropriation of parks and trails legacy funds in 2009 and the dollar amount has not varied much from year to year, VonDeLinde said.

The bulk of the grant money, $1,238,000, will go to county regional parks and trails projects.

These include:

• Bunker Hills Regional Park – short connector trail from the regional park to Avocet Street in Coon Rapids, $50,000.

• Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park – Pleasure Creek erosion control project, $230,000.

• Lake George Regional Park – playground reconstruction, $125,000.

• Rice Creek West Regional Trail – reconstruction of East River Road underpass at Manomin Park in Fridley for erosion stabilization, $198,000.

• Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve – beach improvements, $100,000; and campground maintenance facility renovations and expansion, $300,000.

• Wargo Nature Center – roof repair and reconstruction, $150,000.

In addition, the county will be reimbursed for the $85,000 it paid out in cash in June as the local share for the acquisition of the Leibel property for the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve.

According to VonDeLinde, the county has the flexibility to shift the dollars between projects, if needed.

Three of the grant agreements with the Metropolitan Council are to pay for two positions within the county parks and recreation department – volunteer/resources development coordinator and landscape designer – plus $130,000 to hire a crew from the Conservation Corps Minnesota to work in the county parks and trails system.

The volunteer resource development coordinator was brought on board in 2012 using parks and trails legacy dollars.

The role of the coordinator has been to cultivate new volunteer activities and initiatives as well as to seek new revenue streams from sponsorships, donations and grant dollars, VonDeLinde said.

The county used a crew from the Conservation Corps Minnesota to work in the parks system with legacy dollars in 2011 and 2012, but in 2013 the county earmarked the legacy funds for infrastructure needs instead, VonDeLinde said.

But the 2011 and 2012 agreements with Conservation Corps Minnesota worked very well for the county, he said.

“We missed them this year because they are a great resource,” VonDeLinde said.

The Conservation Corps, which comprises a crew of six, including a leader, provides its own equipment and transportation.

Crew members are college students or graduates in the field of forestry and conservation.

They will be working in the county parks from early spring to late fall supplementing the work of county employees, VonDeLinde said.

The Conservation Corps has done labor-intensive work in the natural areas of the parks system, performing work such as native prairie management, controlled burns, trail maintenance and building retaining walls, according to VonDeLinde.

“The Conservation Corps has been a good fit,” VonDeLinde said.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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