Parks board superintendent recommends 2022 budget

The parks board superintendent recommended the 2022 budget that will include a historic investment in youth programs.


Emily Urfer

The Van Cleve Park sign sits in Van Cleve Park on Wednesday, Sept. 29. Van Cleve will be hosting the “Como Cookout” on Saturday, Oct. 2.

by Hanna Van Den Einde

Minneapolis Parks Board Superintendent Al Bangoura announced his recommendation for the 2022 parks board budget that will include a historic investment into youth programs.

If passed, $2.6 million will be allocated to youth investments. Of the total amount, $1.3 million will come from the Minneapolis property tax levy and the rest will come from the American Rescue Plan. The funding will be directed toward youth programming in the parks, such as youth employment, creation spaces and nature-based programs.

Chris Meyer, the parks board commissioner for District 1, said the board wanted to invest in youth programming to provide equity in the city.

“Historically, people in richer parts of the city had access to better parks and better programming,” Meyer said. “The park board has stepped in with quality youth programming to try to provide equitable opportunities for everybody and we want to expand them.”

There are currently four creation spaces in the Minneapolis parks system that opened during the pandemic. With the new budget, the board will add two more of these spaces, which are indoor areas where people can try activities such as music or art.

Meyer said he was excited for the expansion of these spaces because more kids will be able to use them.

“It’s fitting for kids who might not be as interested in athletics, but don’t want to be in a quiet space like a library. It’s a collaborative space,” Meyer said.

Twenty-two full time employees will be hired to support youth programming if the budget passes. The new positions include youth program specialists and staff for creation spaces.

Billy Menz was elected to be the parks board commissioner for District 1 on Nov. 2 and will start his term on Jan. 3. Menz is a teacher at Edison High School and his campaign was centered around increasing youth programming.

Menz said that as commissioner, he wants to work with schools to host nature-based programming in the parks for youth.

“Something along [the lines] of where the park board collaborates with the schools to utilize the nature spaces that we have that we provide programming in the parks, but we’re also connecting schools to ensure that those students get to the parks,” Menz said.

Meyer said staff from the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board will recommend the programming before it is brought to the board.

“The idea is to get people to go out to the forest and look at animals or identify trees and get more familiarized with nature, which a lot of city kids often never do,” Meyer said.

The budget also included $11.5 million for the 20-year Neighborhood Parks Plan, an ordinance that was implemented in 2016 to repair and upkeep the parks.

Karl Smith is the former president of the Southeast Como Improvement Association. Smith said Van Cleve Park is the only park in the Southeast Como neighborhood, so creating another park could help complete the missing link of the Grand Rounds, a trail system that goes around Minneapolis.

“We’re one of the very few neighborhoods in the city that doesn’t have a park within a 10-minute walk of every resident,” Smith said. “There’s been talk for years about the Grand Rounds missing link and the missing link is here in the east end of Southeast Como.”