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Park Improvement Fund

Park Improvement Fund

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Our Environment and Parks Committee (E&P) makes recommendations on the use of funds earned through a cell phone tower lease agreement.

Fill out this form to apply for funding, and keep reading to see requirements for applicants.

Criteria for Park Improvement Funds requests

  1. The project is either a physical improvement or programming.

  2. First priority: Projects in Merriam Park park and Desnoyer Park park, as specified in the Cell Tower Agreement. Second priority is given to other existing parks in Union Park.

Guidelines used by committee to evaluate proposals

  1. Proposal has clear need or a history of being a priority.

  2. Project will benefit a significant number of people in the area served by the park where it takes place

  3. Proposal has been reviewed to ensure that St. Paul Parks and Rec is not already providing, planning to provide or required to provide the improvement or programming.

  4. Community/individuals proposing the project have identified measures of project success, such as “Number of people
served,” “Community satisfaction with project based on opinions sampled by survey,” etc.

  5. Evidence of community support for and commitment to the proposal has been demonstrated, such as feedback from community engagement, requests from community members, etc.

  6. Improvement or program is sustainable over time, for example with a plan for ongoing maintenance or development of ongoing funding.

  7. Take best advantage of the cell tower funds by seeking and using matching funds. Investigate the availability of grant money and other funds relating to parks. Advise the Union Park Board on the feasibility of applying for specific grants and obtaining other funding.

Annual timeline for project proposals


  • E&P reviews and prioritizes proposals


  • E&P passes a motion for projects to be implemented in the calendar year


  • UPDC board reviews E&P recommendations and makes final recommendations to the City


  • Approved projects go through the City approval process


  • Excess funds (if any) are made available for other parks or programs; Motions to approve additional projects are passed in E&P


  • UPDC board reviews E&P recommendations for additional projects and makes final recommendations to the City


  • Appeal process for projects approved by E&P but rejected by the City


  • Excess funds (if any) are made available for other parks


  • Motions to approve additional projects are passed by E&P


  • Motions to approve additional projects are passed by the UPDC board


  • City completes project implementation for the year


  • Approved funds for projects not yet implemented are encumbered for those projects

The Agreement:

Just over ten years ago, a T-Mobile cellular telephone transmission tower was installed in Merriam Park park. The City of Saint Paul and the Union Park District Council have an agreement (dating back to January 31, 2005) that eighty percent of the yearly base rent from the tower lease be dedicated to improvements and programming in Union Park’s parks. Merriam Park park and Desnoyer Park park receive priority, and after projects in those parks are funded, any remaining funds are available for other parks in Union Park.

The annual dedicated amount, currently $17,000, is deposited into the City’s Special Fund Budget. Under the agreement between the City and UPDC, our E&P Committee advises the UPDC Board of Directors on its recommendation for the best use of funds, and the UPDC Board then advises the City Parks and Recreation Department on a final recommendation for the funds each year.

Community Input On Current Or Potential Projects:

UPDC staff, Board, and the Parks and Recreation Committee all gather input from the community to identify potential projects for the funds:

  1. In 2008, a report was developed to provide a community vision and master plan for Merriam Park. Input was solicited through mailers, online surveys, and in-person engagement through workshops, and the annual ice cream social, and other events.

  2. E&P Committee members conduct outreach each year at our annual Ice Cream, Peanut Butter and Jam event in Merriam Park to collect resident feedback on park plans and potential projects.

  3. UPDC conducted extensive outreach during our District Planning process, and we have created a Parks section in our draft plan that reflects community priorities for park improvements and green spaces throughout Union Park.

  4. The Desnoyer Park Improvement Association solicits input from Desnoyer Park residents on improvements to their neighborhood park, and has representation on the Parks and Recreation Committee and UPDC board.

  5. E&P seeks input from City Parks staff on potential projects. They are knowledgeable about park utilization and needs and desires of park users, as well as about the feasibility of projects.

  6. E&P also entertains proposals from community members

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