From the County Manager Column from April 27, 2021

It’s the season for parks and libraries

Guest column by Johanna Berg, Deputy County Manager of Economic Growth and Community Investment

It’s that time of year – the blooms and buds are emerging and the temperatures are headed upward this week. Activities at our parks and libraries are ramping up in preparation of what is always a busy and active warm weather season in Ramsey County. This year is going to look a bit different as we continue to come out of the pandemic – different from both last year and the years before it.

It’s well known here that we have award-winning parks and libraries in Ramsey County - the breadth of our programs and facilities is truly impressive. During “National County Government Month,” interaction with our parks and libraries are just two of the very visible ways in which our communities remind us of the value provided by many programs and services offered by county government. I encourage employees to make use of these treasured spaces and to encourage family members, friends, neighbors and others to do the same. During COVID-19 especially, these are great places for mental and physical enrichment and to recharge. There’s a lot underway:

  • Express Visits at Ramsey County Library expanded this week at New Brighton, North St. Paul and White Bear Lake locations. Underway for the past few weeks at Roseville (the most visited public library in the state) and Shoreview, Express Visits provide a safe environment for traditional library services within our buildings following public health guidelines. Services include picking up and returning items, limited browsing and reference work, and walk-in computer access. Next week, the entire Ramsey County Library system will be offering Express Visits as Maplewood and Mounds View come online.
  • Our open spaces and trails have seen a remarkable amount of use during COVID-19 as people and families have sought activity and wellness. We were happy to learn that just a couple of weeks ago the popular Bruce Vento Trail was named one of the top 10 trails in Minnesota by the Rails to Trails Conservancy. Ever-popular activities and events at Tamarack Nature Center and newer programs like Story Trails (which combine parks and library activities) continue to evolve to meet the interests and needs of individuals and families while following COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.
  • With favorable weather, golf courses opened earlier than usual this year and have been bustling so far.
  • Preparations are well underway for the Library’s annual Summer Learning Program. The popular program for children and teens includes activities – all virtual again this year – along with tracking and incentives to encourage young minds to keep learning throughout summer break.
  • Reservations are open for the 2021 rental season of park shelters and pavilions so families and groups can again gather to celebrate birthdays, graduations and other milestones. Capacity levels have been reduced to meet public health guidelines so users can stay safe while celebrating and making memories.
  • Last summer, “Read. Make. Do.” and “MakerTeen” kits were introduced through libraries to provide hands-on activities that can be picked up at the library for youth to do at home to keep hands (and minds) active as an alternative to screen time. They have been so popular that the Library has recently introduced a version for adults focused on art projects.
  • Know anyone looking for a summer job? We’re hiring lifeguards and other seasonal parks roles. Hiring these positions is always a major focus this time of year as we prepare to open Battle Creek Waterworks water park and our guarded swimming beaches in early June.
  • Finally, in addition to getting involved by visiting our parks and libraries or participating in programs, your input can help shape the future of our parks and recreation system. Part of the ongoing engagement effort around our 21st Century Parks initiative is a 5-10-minute online survey that seeks community feedback on our vision for a “dynamic, community-centered system that provides opportunities for our ever-changing community to engage with inclusive and welcoming parks and recreation sites and programming.” You can take the survey here.   

Hats off to Library and Parks staff who have done a phenomenal job creatively balancing access and programming with the need to follow public health protocols to keep visitors and staff safe over the past year. Some of our library locations especially have experienced significant changes with the addition of Service Centers and Community Career Labs. We thank you for your flexibility and ongoing commitment to patrons and visitors!