Met Council awards $2 million in parks equity grants

Date: Friday, May 3, 2024
Two people fishing at a lake on a sunny day.The Metropolitan Council has awarded a total of $2 million in parks equity grants to 22 projects proposed by regional park agencies in the seven-county metro region. The goal of the grants is to expand access for people of all races, ethnicities, incomes, abilities, and national origins to the regional parks and trails system.

The funded projects include purchase of adaptive equipment for people with disabilities, an American Indian Historical Cultural Study, a farm-to-school outdoor classroom, water safety/drowning prevention programs, and many others. 

“We want every resident and visitor to this region to enjoy the fantastic recreational opportunities the regional park system offers,” said Susan Vento, vice chair of the Met Council’s Community Development Committee. “These grants support the great efforts of our partner park agencies to make that a reality.”

Met Council prioritizes equity in parks policy plan

In the current regional development guide, Thrive MSP 2040, the Met Council made a commitment to “strengthen equitable usage of regional parks and trails” and created the equity grant program, among other projects, to carry out that commitment. The Met Council engaged park agencies and community-based organizations to create the program, which was first piloted in 2019 with three projects. We made the first full round of grants in 2021. Some of those funded projects are complete while others are still under way.

A technical review committee comprising selected members of the Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commission, the Met Council’s Community Development Committee, and regional park implementing agency staff reviewed the 22 applications and were able to fully fund 20 of the projects and fund the eligible portions of the remaining two projects.

“All of the projects had merit and were worth funding,” explained Jessica Lee, planner in the Met Council’s parks unit. “The projects were, on the whole, more refined and prioritized than in the past.”

Park agencies encouraged to partner on projects in the future

Lee said that more than half of the projects are for programming work across an agency, not just focused on one park or trail. Two park agencies co-developed a project, and the Met Council hopes to see more partnering in the future. Lee added that parks staff will likely incentivize agencies to work together in the next grant round, and agencies are also encouraged to partner with schools and other organizations when appropriate.

Read summaries of the awarded projects.

The Minnesota Legislature created the regional parks system 50 years ago and gave the Metropolitan Council authority to plan and help fund acquisition and development of the system. Today, there are 56 regional parks and park reserves totaling more than 54,000 acres, 400 miles of interconnected trails, and 8 special recreation features operated by 10 park agencies. The system provides a wealth of opportunities for recreation, exercise, gatherings, and solitude, and protects significant green space and wildlife habitat.

Posted In: Parks

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