November 5, 2009

New Organization with Big Plans

Scandia, 25 miles northeast of St. Paul, is a relatively new city—incorporated in January 2007—with an even newer Friends organization. Friends of Scandia Parks and Trails elected its first board of directors just this past January.

“I happened to be on the city’s park and recreation committee, and I realized how few resources the city had to improve parks and trails,” says Tom Triplett. “So we created this nonprofit Friends group to work with the city. Our mission is to help the city’s two large parks and a fair number of small ones.”

In its first year, much of the Friends’ groups work has been organizational, from incorporating to putting together, a board to developing a membership base. The group hasn’t looked for grants or other major contributions so far, but is relying on membership dues–$20 per household—and some small gifts beyond that.

Still, even operating on a shoestring, Friends of Scandia Parks and Trails has been able to contribute. “We found six picnic tables for our parks,” Triplett says. “We heard from one ofo our members that her condo association in Minneapolis had extra tables, so we got them here.”

The Friends organization has coordinated with the Scandia Parks and Recreation Department on clean-up in the city parks and works with other organizations, including local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, on parks-related activities.

The group has been working with other organizations to develop trails in one of the city’s two larger parks, but its main goal at the moment is to work with the Gateway Trail Association to extend the Gateway Trail through Scandia.

“We’re about to issue a major survey to all of our members, asking what their priorities are,” Says Triplett. “That will help guide us as to what we want to do.”

Options for the organization include further work in developing existing parks in the city, work on existing bike trails and possibly land acquisition, or at least easements.

Triplett says the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota has been very important to the Friends group. “We incorporated ourselves as a nonprofit, but we are relying on the council to be our fiscal agent,” he says. “For a new group like ours, it’s absolutely essential. Without that service, I’m not sure we’d be able to get as far as we have.”

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