Dramatic increases in user demand are occurring in parks at all levels.
The Eden Prairie Parks and Recreation Department staff responded to these changes by gathering and analyzing data from local sports organizations. Released in March 2021, the “Sports Trends” report provides Parks & Rec with a planning tool to address changes in demand.
Similar growth in demand is occurring at national parks. At the national level, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain have extended their use of reservation systems established during COVID into the 2021 season in anticipation of record visitation. A June 21, 2021, Associated Press (AP) reported that visitors to Arches and Zion in Utah have experienced long lines, parking lot closures, and increased contention between visitors and park rangers, most recently over the use of masks and social distancing.
When compared to other cities, Eden Prairie has a more robust park system than the average. According to the National Recreation and Park Association, the typical park and recreation agency offers one park for every 2,277 residents served, with 9.9 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents. With 44 parks and special use areas and 2,540 acres of parkland, Eden Prairie has 1.5 x more parks and 4 times the park acreage of the average city.
The 2020 annual report for the Eden Prairie Parks and Rec department, released in May, describes similar strengths in programming, access, and maintenance. According to Jay Lotthammer, Eden Prairie Director of Parks & Recreation department people embraced being able to go outside as opposed to being cooped up by COVID. He noted that at this time of the year park facilities are “pretty much maxed out.” He pointed to the online reservations system so “people can plan ahead with confidence.”
In Eden Prairie, park facilities are reservable by community residents or businesses. All reservation and permit requests must be submitted online. In the case of the Round Lake Park Pavilion, for example, the fee is $210.
Groups using park facilities are expected to have respect for each other’s space. For locked buildings, groups are checked in by Parks & Rec customer service leads, who meet them with the keys.
Parks and Rec plans for expansion, renovation
“In 2012, we renovated Round Lake Park with a splash pad, new equipment, and more spread-out seating,” said Lotthammer. “We’re redesigning the old park building with a more useable patio that faces towards the lake.”
A new facility is scheduled to open in 2022. Riley Lake Park will also be getting a makeover, with a new play structure and more seating pods.
When contention for park facilities occurs, lifeguards, front desk clerks, and customer service leads have been trained in de-escalation. Lotthammer and the trainer who works with Eden Prairie police officers are designing a condensed course in de-escalation customized for Parks & Rec staff.
Situations that go beyond their training might happen once a year. In those situations, Lotthammer encourages his staffers to call for early back-up from Eden Prairie’s officers, who are trained in de-escalation.
As Eden Prairie grows in diversity, new sports and activities will continue to emerge and grow. The chart below from the Sports Trends report summarizes these changes. Talks are underway to add another cricket pitch to meet the increasing demand described in this recent EPLN article.
As the community ages, Parks and Rec are responding with health and fitness activities for older adults. For example, in recent years Eden Prairie has built permanent pickleball courts at Pioneer, Franlo, and Staring Lake Parks.
“It’s amazing how well our city does work,” said Larry Link, who recently stepped down as the chair of the Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources Commission. “Parks and Rec has good leadership. They’re all strong in their own unique ways. They’ve continually adjusted to Eden Prairie’s changing social environment.”
Parks & Rec is currently writing their 2021 Comprehensive Strategic Plan, which will be finished towards the end of this year. If you have suggestions, you can contact Jay Lotthammer at 952-949-8440, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.