Three Rivers Park District Update

March 25, 2012 at 6:38 am 2 comments

There is no end to the third party groups in Minnesota trying to spend your money. now the Three Rivers Park District is now complaining they don’t have enough $$$$$!. From the Sun Post;

Three River Park District Supt. Cris Gears has overseen many projects and witnessed a lot of change within the Park District since he took the position five years ago. The annual visitor count increased 60 percent, from five million in 2007 to more than eight million today at the district’s 21 parks. Gears also guided the development of Silverwood Park near St. Anthony, the largest single project investment for the district, and numerous other projects throughout the sprawling Twin Cities metro boundaries.

But the last five years have also brought their challenges. The Park District’s annual operational budget, which is tied directly to property values, has decreased over the last three years and the ability of the organization to raise taxes is frozen, Gears said.

Awe, they can’t raise taxes? Poor government bureaucrats!

When the Minnesota Legislature created Plymouth-based Three Rivers in 1957, it provided the organization with taxing and bonding authority. Although given taxing authority, state law establishes a formula on how much the Park District can levy in property taxes. When property values decrease, the limit on how much the Park District can levy in property taxes also decreases.

Doesn’t that make sense? Should they be able to just levy whatever they want while our property values go down?

Despite the difficulty of working in a tighter budget climate while demand for park services skyrockets, when the board offered him another five-year contract, Gears accepted. Three Rivers Board of Commissioner Chair Larry Blackstad said the district is very fortunate to have someone of Gears’ caliber, a person who “has diverse experience with parks and government.” Previous to taking the superintendent position, Gears has worked as a city manager, county administrator and director of parks and recreation in the metro and in the Seattle, Wash., area.

So he had bounced around from one government position to another.

And it’s his unique professional background coupled with his “rather unflappable” disposition that makes Gears the right man for the job during challenging economic times, said Three Rivers board member Sara Wyatt. Finding ways to “manage competing priorities” that the current fiscal climate created tends to take up much of Gears’ time, he said. Exploring other ways to generate more revenue, such as increased user fees and building alliances with other agencies, are ways Three Rivers can maintain quality levels of service and keep the parks clean and safe, Gears said.

“I think perhaps one of the things I am most proud of is developing relationships with other agencies that didn’t exist before, and because of those relationships, we are able to do so much more.”

One of the relationships Gears has forged is the a partnership agreement between Three Rivers and Scott County, much different than the “tenuous relationship” that existed prior to Gears’ arrival. Gears also helped facilitate an agreement with the Department of Natural Resources regarding the Coon Rapids Dam. Because of the agreement, the department is going to spend $16 million to refurbish the dam, which Three Rivers owns, to help stop the advance of Asian Carp.

Wyatt noticed Gears’ resourceful efforts to maintain high quality parks and trails within fiscal constraints. “His collaborative efforts in finding cost-saving partnerships and minimizing duplication of functions have helped the district serve over eight million visitors while keeping operational costs flat,” she said.

Over the next five years, many projects are on the horizon. The expansion of the Rush Creek Trail from Maple Grove to Crow-Hassan Park Reserve is in the preliminary stages as well as hopes to improve facilities at the Hyland Ski and Snowboard Area in Bloomington, Wyatt said. According to the Three Rivers’ Vision Plan, the 2012 estimated total expenditures for capital improvements is $23.8 million.

So wait a minute; your budget is supposedly decreasing, yet you are continuing to grow and expand at the cost of nearly $24 million!

The annual operational budget is $35 million, with $27 million coming from taxes and $8 million from fees, Gears said.

Three Rivers Park District owns more than 27,000 acres of land in Hennepin, Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Ramsey, Scott and Wright counties. Three Rivers is the only regional parks agency in Minnesota with an elected board with its own taxing and bonding authority.

Yes, and that amount of land is taken off the tax rolls and is growing and growing!


Entry filed under: County, Taxation, Three Rivers Park District.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Leigh Harrod  |  January 1, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    I wish someone in the media would take a good hard look at the DEBT OBLIGATIONS that Three Rivers Park District has racked up in the past 10 years. Now over $87 million. This is unsustainable.

  • 2. leigh harrod  |  September 17, 2013 at 8:16 am

    New board is in place since last election. That means there is a chance the new Board members will stop the old “Business as Usual ” and face the economic realities of living within your means. Personally, I think they should review the entire business model. Payment on the debt now takes 30% of their annual income. Debt has grown by another $10 million. Are these bonds secured by the public park lands as security? Scary.


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