With spring arriving, Edina residents are flocking to our city’s parks to enjoy the outdoors. Our Parks & Recreation Department maintains more than 40 parks and 1,500 acres of open space that support the well-being of residents of all ages. The city’s range of amenities – from trails to courts to ice rinks to playgrounds – enhances the quality of life that makes Edina such a wonderful place to work, live and play.

Recognizing the benefits parks and recreation bring to our community, the city developed a $64.6 million investment plan to provide a variety of new services and improvements at Braemar Park and Arena and the Fred Richards Park. To support this investment, the city is proposing a local option half-percent sales tax that Edina voters will consider Nov. 8.

The city is working to help residents make an informed vote about this significant public investment.

As part of this effort, the city recently launched a website about the project (edinaatplay.org), which will serve as the primary source for residents to learn more about the projects, their cost, voting and more.

Here are some specifics about the projects:

Fred Richards Park, affectionately known as “The Fred,” is a closed 43-acre executive golf course ready to be transformed into a multi-faceted city park. Plans include new trails, an eight-court pickleball complex, native vegetation restoration, a community playground area and clubhouse improvements to provide food and beverage opportunities.

At Braemar Park, Edina’s largest recreational area, the plan includes new walking trails, mountain biking trails, a new playground, pickleball and platform tennis courts, upgrades to the Courtney Fields baseball complex and natural resource habitat restoration. Further, the plan addresses critical infrastructure repairs and updates at Braemar Arena, including ADA improvements, new HVAC systems, upgraded restrooms and locker rooms and improvements to rink surfaces.

Last year, the State Legislature authorized the city to propose a sales tax for consideration by our residents to support these investments totaling $39.3 million.

During the current legislative session, lawmakers are considering our most recent proposal to include the remainder of the investment plan ($25.3 million) to expand Braemar Arena. Plans include a fourth sheet of indoor ice, a safer drop-off and pick-up area, a larger lobby and more parking. If approved by lawmakers, Edina residents will decide whether the sales tax option would cover this portion of the plan.

The City Council concluded that a sales tax was the best funding mechanism because it spreads the cost among residents and non-residents who use our public spaces.

According to research by the University of Minnesota Extension Center, about 60 percent of the sales tax would be paid by nonresidents, which would generate about $39 million for the investment plan.

If voters approve the referendum, the sales tax would be applied for a 17-year period.

The cost per Edina resident would be about $2.62 per month, according to the University of Minnesota’s analysis.

Edina residents have played an important role in shaping the city’s priorities and plans for Fred Richards and Braemar Parks, and they will have the final say on whether to move forward on Nov. 8.

I encourage everyone to learn more by visiting edinaatplay.org.

James B. Hovland is the mayor of Edina.

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