Perham loves its parks, and 10-year master plan brings out lots of interest

The Perham Park Board recently finalized its Parks Master Plan after over a year of planning, surveying, inventories and more.

The Perham water tower is visible through the trees at Arvig Park.
Perham Focus file photo
Eric Spencer, Perham City Council member, has been the chair of the park board for 11 years.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

PERHAM — After a rigorous process of approval and a year of discussions and planning, the Perham Parks Master Plan has been finalized by the city park board . Through community surveys and an assessment of inventory and needs, a comprehensive document that lays out public space plans over the next few years was created. These include short-term, mid-term and long-term goals.

"The No. 1 reason (we wanted a long-range plan) is it kind of gives everybody an idea of the direction that the town wants the parks to move forward with or be able to look like in 10, 15 years," explained Eric Spencer, City Council member and park board chair. "The No. 2 reason we wanted to do it — one of the things we found when we apply for grants and money that are available, we had no long-range plan. That's one of the criteria that strengthens your application … It helps us move up the ladder on grants and things like that."

The park board's budget is $10,000, Spencer said. When they added the playground equipment to Arvig Park, that alone was about $35,000. In order to complete that addition, they had to set aside about two years' worth of their budget. When a project that small costs more than double their budget, that can make things hard to get done, Spencer said. With a plan, they'll be able to more easily secure funding to provide the community with needed and desired facilities.

The parks, indeed, seem to be quite important to the public, based on the large response the city received from their community surveys.

"We got feedback from the public — actually more feedback than (expected)," Spencer said. When professional landscape architect Jillian Reiner, who was selected to create the Perham Park Master Plan, saw the response, she was shocked.


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Professional landscape architect Jillian Reiner
Perham Focus file photo

Spencer continued, "She brought back the results. She was like, 'it's amazing how many people responded to this, because I've done the same thing in other (communities) like Bemidji, for example.' So they did the same thing, online survey, and got 85 responses. We had over 350 … (Parks) are always something that adds to the community. You see people out using them, and then we add to them and do different things. It keeps people coming back to the parks, and it's part of your quality of life. Anywhere you live — it doesn't matter if it's Perham or Minneapolis — it's part of your quality of life."

With a plan that addresses both needs and wants of the community, Spencer hopes that park improvements will continue to contribute to the quality of life for Perham community members.

This plan, created by Reiner with the assistance of the system planning team, identified five different system goals based on the 2022 community surveys: Accessibility, high quality and a variety of facilities, distribution, trail network and safety. The survey also identified three different priorities for future park, trail and open space improvements: expanding both walking and biking trail systems, updating existing parks and public access/improvements to a swimming beach.

This plan also identified several parks and open space objectives. They are as follows:

  1. Link all park systems with a bike path, trail or sidewalk system.
  2. Work with and create a joint board with the school district to increase the use of park spaces.
  3. Have a 7-10 acre park in all four city quadrants with multi-purpose facilities.
  4. Pedestrian access to parks near new housing construction.
  5. Maintain open space.
  6. Add recreational equipment throughout the existing parks.
  7. Find parks in the most convenient spaces for the community.
  8. Make sure parks take advantage of the natural environment, such as waterways.

The plan states that, in one to four years, the city aims to make sure facilities are high enough quality to keep up with the pace of demand. These short-term plans include focusing on shorter trail connections and upgrading/maintaining already existing amenities and restrooms.
In the long-term for the next 5-10 years, the city plans to focus on providing a variety of activities, increasing the trail system and creating a campground.

"The long-range plan, it gives us a road map of where we want to be in 15 years, 10 years," Spencer said. "It's not like, 'in five years, we're going to build this.' It's nothing quite like that. It's more: 'This is what people want.'"

Once the weather starts to warm up, more specific improvements and changes to the parks will be discussed by the board using the master plan as a guide.

In the meantime, if the public wishes to financially contribute toward the development of parks in the community, they can participate in the Adopt-A-Park program. For more information, either visit the city website or give them a call at 218-346-4455.

Elizabeth (she/her), 24, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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