Recently, Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Executive Director Renee Mattson and System Plan Coordinator Joe Czapiewski toured the Duluth Traverse, a 100-mile mountain bike trail system spanning the length of the City of Duluth. The city has applied for regional designation for the trail, recently receiving a “high” ranking for their application as a Special Recreation Feature facility.
Applying for designation as a regionally significant park or trail is a thorough process designed to not only vet parks and trails against rigorous criteria, but to also help elevate facilities to reach their full potential. Regionally designated parks in Greater Minnesota are eligible for Parks and Trails Legacy amendment funding.
Greater Minnesota cities and counties begin by self-evaluating their facility against criteria established in the Commission’s Strategic Plan. Duluth used tutorials in the Commission’s website “application toolbox” that can help with this process. When they were comfortable that the Traverse was a potential match, they completed an application through the GMRPTC’s online application portal. The application was then ranked against the criteria by an independent Evaluation Team (ETeam), a group of five individuals selected by the Commission for their expertise in recreation development and evaluation.
For Duluth, the application review resulted in a “high” ranking on a high/medium/low scale. That means that the Traverse compares well against the criteria and should complete a qualified Master Plan. The Commission provides an online Master Planning portal, a step by step guide for completing all the information required for a unit Master Plan. Once that plan is completed and submitted in the portal, a higher level of evaluation kicks into gear.
Master Plans ensure that the applicant understands and takes advantage of the opportunities available to it while meeting the needs of the region. Commission staff reviewed the Master Plan and provided Duluth with feedback on how it could be improved. Once complete, the ETeam will conduct a comprehensive scoring evaluation of the plan, resulting in a score on a 500 point scale.
With that information in hand, the GMRPTC District Planning Committee for District 1 has a chance to review and comment on the plan, while staff conduct an on-site review of the facility. The on-site review gives staff a chance to understand the plan in the local context and to talk to the applicant about the great things their facility will accomplish. Sometimes, like with the Traverse, it results in a little “hands-on” exploration by foot, ATV, or fat bike.
All this information is then presented to the Commission for consideration as a regionally significant facility. It’s important to note that it is the future concept for the facility, not necessarily its current state, that is evaluated and designated. The Commission has designated a range of facilities, from ones that are completed and possibly in need of rejuvenation, to ones that haven’t yet turned the first shovel full of dirt. The final scoring and consideration of the Duluth Traverse will likely take place early in 2018.
For more information about regional designation, please contact System Plan Coordinator Joe Czapiewski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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