New funds restore vital staff hours and help manage vegetation across the system.
With this week’s City Council approval of the new 2023 Saint Paul City budget, important decisions increase impact at Parks and Rec:
• ARP Funding: the 2023 budget includes $1,287,110 in American Rescue Plan funding to restore hours at recreation and aquatics facilities that were reduced due to the pandemic. Restoring these services includes adding back 25 full-time equivalents (FTE) staff positions to serve community needs more fully.
• Right Track Youth Employment Program: ARP Funds also cover 4 FTEs associated with the expansion of the Right Track Youth employment program that provides employment, training, and career development within Parks and Rec for approximately 700 youth. Additional private grant funding for Right Track allows for an increase of 4.0 FTEs in the grant fund. The department is also leveraging funding from the Port Authority to add a new Office Assistant and Youth and Community Program Specialist to support Emerald Ash Borer work.
• Increased maintenance for the upkeep of new parkland and site amenities: With the construction of additional parks at Highland Bridge (formerly the “Ford Site”), the Parks Department has identified additional operations and maintenance needs. As a result, the 2023 budget includes additional hours for a Plumber, Operating Engineer, Carpenter, Electrician, Landscape Worker, and Natural Resource Technicians.
• New funds for vegetation management: The City Council also added approximately $470,000 to support additional vegetation management in partnership with public works. This additional funding adds additional dedicated trash crew to dump over-flowing trash cans in parks in the busier warm weather months and conduct more aggressive management of green space that was currently receiving only the mowing/trimming/plowing that other larger parks were receiving.
• Free Youth Swim Lessons: The City Council also approved a $10,000 match of private donations to support up to 500 additional free swimming lessons for youth in 2023. Data from the new system-wide parks plan shows that aquatics programs are the most widely used and popular within the parks and rec system.