Parks and Trails
Parks and trails are one of the few ways a city can stand out from others. Dayton has a rare combination of having the largest natural park in the county within it’s borders, as well as being on the banks of the Mississippi. If we didn’t take advantage of that we would be committing malpractice as a community.
How do we take advantage of that? First we coordinate with the park district and the county. Both have been tremendous partners within the past few years, but in the past we had a very acrimonious relationship. The Park District and the County are both willing to work with us on a crossing across CR121 into the Park District. Dayton can either join in their efforts, which they will do with our without our help, or we can make our own crossing. We currently are assessing both options to figure out what is best for Dayton. Three Rivers has a plan to build a massive trail along the Mississippi from one end of town to the other, but they have already told us they don’t aggressively approach land owners. We, the City, can do so. We can build the projects and then get reimbursed from Three Rivers. Using such a method I believe we can have that connection made within ten to twelve years….but it requires up front funds, which we currently have. We won’t have those funds if we spend that money on other projects. Also, given the acres of horse farms in Dayton, I believe we need to look at future bike trails and put them in now as unpaved trails usable by horses (in our more rural areas of course). Connecting to Elm Creek Horse trails is critical to our “rural character.”
It’s up to the Park Commission to vet and recommend projects for the Council, and ultimately up to the Council to decide how to spend city funds. A robust trail system connecting our parks, rivers and other communities can make us a “stand out” community in the North West burbs. I very aggressively review development plans for high quality trail connections. Developers are willing to spend a bit more on trails and parks if they directly improve the neighborhoods they are creating.
As for Parks….I believe every home should be within 10 minutes of a park. As new developments come in, this is should be our goal. And all parks should be connected to all other parks by our network of trails. We need to do a city-wide assessment of park needs. There are many things we can put in our parks. Splash Pads, Sheets of Ice, Athletic Fields, Pickleball – but obviously not ALL parks can have ALL amenities. Again, this is the role of the Parks Commission to review and recommend, and for the Council to implement as part of our ten year Comprehensive Plan.
Funding – All new amenities should be funded (and legally can be) by new development fees. Renovations and improvements to existing parks should be paid for out of property taxes. The amount of the budget would be small….less than 1% per year would be all we need to maintain a “Parks repair and improvement” fund. This fund would allow us to upgrade parks, such as we have done with McNeil Park, Rivers Bend Park, and our new Disc Golf Park. It would also allow us to continue to support a Hockey Rink at Central park. A hockey rink is expensive, but the residents cannot make a full scale hockey rink in their back yards, and if the demand is there, our city should be able to supply it. We are currently looking at the cost of upgrading the warming house to include heaters, and we would need staff to man it during “official” hours.
In short, if we partner with development we can build world class parks, and maintaining those parks is one of the cheapest line items in the budget, and it’s something the residents can feel the value of every day!