City Planners Focus on Maintaining and Updating Saint Paul’s Park System

Irvine Park offers a peaceful oasis near downtown Saint Paul.

When Horace Cleveland paid Saint Paul a visit in the 1870s and suggested a citywide park system, the noted landscape architect probably did not envision a tuj lub field in the city, archery ranges or areas designated as dog parks. After all, Cleveland’s ideas focused on preserving natural spaces along lakes Como and Phalen and the Mississippi River. Since that time, not only have city leaders heeded Cleveland’s vision, they continue to address the changing landscape of Saint Paulites’ park and recreation penchants.

The city’s parks system welcomes a heavy influx of visitors every year. “We see more than 4 million visitors to Como Regional Park each year and another 3 million to our recreation centers, so if we had to estimate for the rest of the park system, I’d say tens of millions, or more than 15 million visitors each year,” Brad Meyer, public service manager, says.

Saint Paul’s Parks and Recreation staff members address the needs of residents by tending to all 179 of the city’s parks and recreation centers. “Every park is different, and we are continually looking at changing demographics and emerging trends and bringing new amenities, like tuj lub [a traditional Hmong top-spinning game played on a grass field about the size of a tennis court] and an outdoor archery range to our system,” Meyer says.

Staying in tune with the needs of visitors and residents is paramount to the park system’s success. “Quality over quantity and access to green space within walking distance of their homes are two big ones that we’ve heard from folks,” Meyer says. Director Mike Hahm echoes this sentiment. As more people move into the city, it will be even more important to provide citizens with ample green space “to rub their toes in the grass and take their dogs to exercise,” he says.

As new residents move into the area, Hahm notes that immigrants, for example, bring different recreation traditions to the table, including gathering in larger groups and spontaneous gatherings, and the city takes notes of those practices. “Providing services, activities and amenities that people want is another programming priority,” as is responding to changing demographics and underserved populations with innovative and creative decision-making, Meyer says.

“As far as how needs are evolving, residents want us to be efficient with our resources and flexible to changing community needs,” Meyer says. “An example: Twenty years ago, our most popular youth sports and activities were baseball and football, and now it has evolved into soccer as being our most popular sport. We used to see a ton of drop-in after-school use without a lot of demand for programming, but now we found that we need to offer a variety of engaging programming and activities to encourage participation and attendance.”

Providing new and updated venues for recreational activities and cultural exchanges includes several ongoing projects, but Hahm stresses the importance of not only staying current with changing trends, but maintaining the park system (including the bike/walk trail network— Capital City Bikeway and Grand Round, for example), making strategic investments and serving as good stewards of the city’s open spaces, which would certainly please Mr. Cleveland.

A-E-I-0-U: Here is a sampling of some Saint Paul parks and a breakdown of what they have to offer

Arlington Arkwright Park
•    400 Arlington Ave. E.
•    Open sunrise to sunset
•    20.47 acres
•    Baseball field
•    Soccer field
•    Basketball court
•    2 tennis courts
•    Skate park (2015)
•    Dog park
•    Picnic area
•    Rentals available for special events

Edgcumbe Park and Recreation Center
•    320 Griggs St. S.
•    651.695.3711
•    9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
•    7.08 acres
•    Craft room
•    Game room
•    Gymnasium
•    Fitness center
•    Kitchen
•    Multipurpose/meeting room
•    2 Racquetball/walleyball courts
•    Warming room
•    Baseball field
•    Hockey rink
•    Playground
•    Skating rink
•    Soccer field
•    2 softball fields
•    4 tennis courts
•    Rentals available for special events

Indian Mounds Regional Park
•    10 Mounds Blvd.
•    651.632.5111
•    Sunrise-11 p.m.
•    104.4 acres
•    Native American burial mounds
•    Scenic views of downtown and the Mississippi River
•     Indian Mounds Park tree trek
•    Grills
•    Benches
•    Biking/hiking trail
•    Picnic area
•    Playground
•    Public art
•    Restrooms
•    Picnic shelters
•    Softball field
•    Rentals available for special events

Oxford Park and Community Center
•    270 Lexington Parkway N.
•    651.642.0650
•    Building hours: 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays
•    Craft room
•    Computer lab
•    Dance studio
•    Fitness center
•    4 gymnasiums
•    Multipurpose room
•    Teaching kitchen
•    Walking track
•    Great River water park
•    Baseball field (synthetic turf)
•    Football field (synthetic turf)
•    Lacrosse field (synthetic turf)
•    Picnic area
•    Playground
•    Soccer field (synthetic turf)
•    Softball field (synthetic turf)
•    Rentals available for special events

Upper Landing
•    180 Shepard Road
•    651.292.7010
•    Sunrise to sunset
•    3.32 acres
•    Hiking/biking trails
•    Chestnut plaza
•    Nice Ride rentals
•    Scenic views
•    Fountain
•    Public art
•    Rentals available for special events