MRPA Magazine - Spring 2023

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MINNESOTA RECREATION & PARKS VOLUME 18 | ISSUE 2 • SPRING 2023 On the Home TURF MANAGING & MAINTAINING TURF IN MINNESOTA COMMUNITIES ALSO INSIDE: • The Untraditional Path Onward • Inclusive Playgrounds • Landscape Structures & Flagship Recreation North Star Partner Feature



Minnesota Recreation and Park Association

200 Charles Street NE, Fridley, MN 55432

Tel: 763.571.1305

An affiliate of National Recreation and Park Association

Editorial Staff

Michelle J. Snider

Bethani Gerhard

Editorial Board

Scott Berggren, Crystal

Jennifer Fink, New Brighton

Lori Hokenson, New Brighton

Mary Jo Knudson, Owatonna

Cheryl Kormann, New Ulm

Patrick Menton, Winona

Advertising Sales & Design

Todd Pernsteiner

Pernsteiner Creative Group


MRPA Board of Directors 2023

President: Jerome Krieger, Blaine

President-Elect: Michelle Okada, Woodbury

Past President: Ross Demant, Wright County

Secretary: Annie Olson, Minneapolis

Treasurer: Sonya Rippe, Plymouth

RSC Chair: Scott Heitkamp, Burnsville

East Metro: Andrew Pimental, Eagan

East Metro: Becky Sola, Shoreview

East Metro: Dan Schultz, Rosemount

Northeast Region: Amber Moon Peterson, Nisswa

Northwest Region: Lynn Neumann, Hutchinson

Southern Region: Joey Schugel, St. Peter

West Metro: Mike Ramirez, Brooklyn Park

West Metro: Jenna Smith, Bloomington

West Metro: Jason T. West, St. Louis Park

This magazine is the official quarterly publication of Minnesota Recreation and Park Association and is provided complimentary to members as part of their MRPA membership. The editorial board encourages the submission of articles and photos for publication by agency members. Articles of approximately 500-700 words or less may be submitted, but may be edited for length and clarity. Contact Michelle Snider, MRPA, at 763.571.1305 x100 if interested in submitting an article for a future issue.

Articles and Advertising Deadlines

Summer 2023 issue May 22, 2023

Fall 2023 issue August 27, 2023

Winter 2024 issue December 15, 2023

Spring 2024 Issue March 24, 2024

MRPA reserves the right to approve all submitted advertising in MINNESOTA Recreation and Parks magazine. All requests for advertising should be made to Todd Pernsteiner, Account Manager, at 952.841.1111 or


MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks | SPRING 2023 3
From the President 4 Keeping Up 6-7 MRPA in Action 8-9 MRPF Corner 10 Meet a Keynote Speaker 11 MRPA Flashback 12 The Untraditional Path Onward 14-16 Play for All - Inclusive Playgrounds Burnsville 17 Hutchinson 18 Little Canada 19 Crystal 20-21 LSI & Flagship Recreation North Star Partner Feature 24-25 Managing & Maintaining Turf New Ulm 30-32 Plymouth 36-39 University of Minnesota 40-42 MRPA Corporate Members 43 Advertiser Index 43
today! UPCOMING EVENTS Visit for more details and to register. Athletic Management Institute Emerging Recreation Leaders Institute (ERLI) Facility Management Institute Fall 2023 Location and Dates TBD MRPA MN-USSSA TournamentsVarious dates and locations throughout the summer Visit for more information. 30th Annual MN-USSSA Hall of Fame Golf Benefit July 27, 2023 Theodore Wirth Golf Course Minneapolis Scan QR code to register: Minnesota Twins Park and Rec Days June 14 & 22 July 26 August 16 & 30 SMRPA Golf Tournament August 18, 2023 Brooktree Golf Course Owatonna MRPA Annual Conference 2023 September 26-29, 2023 Plymouth Community Center Plymouth On the cover: Johnson Park, New Ulm Photo: Don Borstad
this issue with your maintenance
Department heads: please share


We’re All Part of the MRPA Family

I want to start by letting you all know how honored I am to be your president for 2023. I am so proud to be a part of this great organization that has been in existence since 1937. As I stated at the Annual General Meeting in January, I look at our organization as one large family. In your life you have multiple levels of family. It could be your immediate family, your work family and your MRPA family.

Even though our family is spread throughout the state, we all need to support each other in our profession. We have encountered some major changes in the last few years, and we have found a way to become a more tight-knit group. We have figured out how to schedule

a meeting and optimize the greatest attendance possible. We have leaned on each other for innovative ideas and support in making tough decisions. The main thing is that we have done it together. As we start to execute the programs, projects, and unique events that we have been working on all winter, think of the families and lives that we touch each day.

All of you do amazing work and should be proud to say you are a parks and recreation professional. Focus on the positive things in our profession. I tell my staff if we can get a couple of “wins” each day, it is a good day. A “win” could be a compliment from anyone on your programs, customer service, facilities, or anything else in your department. It could be the excitement of a child or senior coming to your facility or class. Anything that puts a smile on your face or makes you feel good is a “win.” I want to wish all of you the best of luck this spring with the start of your upcoming projects, programs, facilities, staff orientations and unique events. It is always great to see all your hard work start to take shape once things get going. If you need anything from me, do not be afraid to reach out. From my family to yours, happy spring!

Thanks, Jerome

4 MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks |

Speak Volumes.

To all the movers, shakers, and difference makers — JLG Architects takes your story beyond the building to empower the people who reflect your passionate journey. We’re talking about dynamic design that speaks volumes about your mission, your culture, and your community. See how Parks & Rec staff and JLG are embracing uncommon design for the greater good at

Project completed in collaboration with LPA as Architect of Record.

Sandy Breuer Retires After Nearly 41 Years in Parks and Recreation

Sandy Breuer retired as the parks director for Washington County in February 2023. Her interest in recreation began in college when she went to Mankato State University to major in physical education and ended up in a parks and recreation class taught by Dr. Joy Joyner. She states, “This class was a turning point for me, it changed my career path which led to my bachelor’s degree in parks, recreation and leisure service and a minor in dance education.”

“While in college I took a lifeguarding class and then worked at the campus pool,” Breuer adds. “I did two internships; one with the Mankato YWCA and the other with the New Hope YMCA. Both internships focused on fitness. This is where I got my love for working out and making it a priority in my life.

Upon graduation, Breuer accepted her first full-time position in Texas, where she worked for the Port Arthur YMCA. After a year and a half, she accepted a position at the Downtown Minneapolis YWCA where she worked for nearly five years. She made the switch to municipal recreation after the birth of her first child, landing with the Apple Valley Parks and Recreation Department where she worked for 11 years. Breuer went on to work for the cities of Shoreview, Eagan, and New Brighton, and ended her career with Washington County. She states, “I tell people I just could not decide which side of the river I wanted to work on!”

Breuer states her many moves were each designed to give her a variety of new experiences and gain positions that helped her become a director. “I look at most of the parks and recreation directors I worked for and admired those who mostly served one community for most

of their career,” she states. “I really enjoyed working for a number of agencies and getting to know each community and the different professionals I have worked with and hired.”

Breuer has been extremely involved with MRPA since becoming a professional member in 1989. Some of her highlights include two terms on the MRPA Board, chairing, co-chairing or serving on the aquatics section, facilities section, awards committee, and conference committee.

Looking back, Breuer says her most notable contribution to MRPA was working with Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) to allow Minnesota community centers to get reimbursements for fitness members, like the larger chain fitness clubs. This resulted in additional revenue for MRPA.

Breuer received many MRPA Awards of Excellence for the agencies she worked for, as well as two meritorious service awards and a presidential citation award.

She received the Dorothea Nelson Award in 2000 and the Clifton E. French Distinguished Service Award in 2020. She states, “I have volunteered for many special events with MRPA. One of my absolute favorites has been working the USSSA Hall of Fame banquet for over 20 years”. She has also been a member of the Minnesota Recreation and Park Foundation throughout her career.

Most recently, she was inducted into the Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services Hall of Fame. She says, “GO MAVERICKS!” Those who have worked for, or with her know purple is her favorite color, which is also one of the university’s school colors.

Since retiring, Breuer has continued her daily workouts and has enjoyed volunteering more at her church and for Feed My Starving Children. She took a family spring break trip to Florida and is happily doing anything outdoors and chauffeuring around her 15-year-old daughter and her friends. Congratulations to Sandy Breuer on all her years of service to MRPA and the parks and recreation profession.

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Sandy’s family (left to right): Alaina Vogt, Cassidy Breuer, Kollin & Melanie Michels, Sandy & Scott Breuer, James Wagner & Molly O’Day

Tom Schmitz Retires After 45 Years in Parks and Recreation

Tom Schmitz, park and recreation department director for the City of New Ulm, retired in April after 45 years in parks and recreation. The New Ulm City Council thanked Tom Schmitz at his last council meeting for his 18 years of service to New Ulm. He states, “I am extremely thankful and grateful to have been a part of the wonderful City of New Ulm staff. Additionally, I’ve been very fortunate to have been a part of numerous other excellent parks, trails, and recreation staff teams over my 45 year career in the profession.”

Schmitz started in Saint Peter as a summer lifeguard and grounds crew foreman. “After completing my degree from Mankato State University in recreation, parks and leisure services, I worked as a park supervisor for Salt Lake County for two years,” he says. “After that, I worked as a ranger for the National Park Service in Colorado for one year, and three years as a district scout executive for Twin Valley Boy Scout Council.” Schmitz and his wife, Kim Hemphill-Schmitz, were married the summer of 1986 at Nicollet County’s Seven Mile Creek Park and have two sons, Dylan in Brainerd and Kelton in Winter Park, Colorado.

He was an assistant park manager for two Minnesota state parks for 14 years until he was hired as the park and recreation department director for the City of New Ulm in 2005. As director, he has led the largest per capita, park and recreation system in Minnesota. Schmitz initiated two rounds of local sales tax-fundwed major initiatives. He led the $14,800,000 first authorization of New Ulm’s local 0.5-percent sales tax for seven major projects, including the 2016 November general election passage with 70-percent of local voters choosing yes. Schmitz also led the largest public capital development investment in the history of New Ulm with $20 million-plus from 20172021.

After working for 10 years to help to establish the Greater Minnesota Parks and Trails Commission, Schmitz was

appointed in 2013 by Governor Mark Dayton to serve on the Minnesota Commission until 2020. He assisted the department to receive the Minnesota Governors Fit City, Tree City USA and Bicycle Friendly Community certifications, as well as eight MRPA Awards of Excellence for projects and programs.

Schmitz has also volunteered for many organizations such as: Junior Pioneers of New Ulm Area, Izaak Walton League, New Ulm Club, Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee, New Ulm’s Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and multiple boy scout troops.

“I feel the most important part of my career has been mentoring students and young adults to pursue their dreams, professionally and personally,” says Schmitz. “A rewarding life and career can be obtained in the park and recreation field while benefiting the public, family, friends and self. Healthy and sustainable communities need employers, employers need employees, and employees need good quality of life.”

Schmitz served on the MRPA Board Directors from 2018 through 2020, including as Board President in 2019. He also served on the annual conference committee in 2015 and 2018. He has held many committee chair positions throughout the years for the Southern Minnesota Recreation and Park Association, including president in 2010. He was also the Clifton E. French Distinguished Service Award recipient for 2021. This award is the highest distinction presented to a person who has provided long and outstanding service to MRPA and the parks and recreation profession. Schmitz says he was extremely grateful, honored and humbled to receive this prestigious award, named after the first superintendent of the biggest and best park district in all of Minnesota. He adds, “I view this award as a team award. I’ve been a part of many amazing park and recreation teams over the past 45 years.”

Congratulations to Tom Schmitz on his retirement and for all his years of service to MRPA and the parks and recreation profession.

MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks | SPRING 2023 7 KEEPING UP
Tom Schmitz with his wife Kim and their two sons Dylan and Kelton

Meet Chelsea Swenhaugen

Chelsea Swenhaugen has great memories of participating in playground programs with her two best friends, and attending field trips with her cousins through Prior Lake Parks and Recreation. During college, she was a counselor for playground programs with both Prior Lake and Burnsville parks and recreation departments before completing her internship with Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Swenhaugen was a business major in college, but after her first accounting class she realized she needed something more creative. “My roommate was a RPLS student and suggested I try it out,” she says. “I remember taking a class with Joy Joyner at MSU,Mankato and loved it. We had a group project where you coordinate a program for your classmates and our theme was host auditions for the Price Is Right. Joy told us it was one of the most fun projects she had seen in a while. You know when Joy gives you a compliment, you did something right!”

She adds, “After college, I spent the next few years soaking up experience in part-time roles and learning how other cities operate. I was the facility program coordinator with the City of Edina at Braemar Ice Arena for about a year before I accepted a position with the City of Plymouth. It was such a fun experience to begin my career at Braemar. It served as a second home to me growing up since I was a competitive figure skater and spent about 20 to 30 hours a week at the rink during the summers. Both my aunt and grandma were my coaches so I would go to Braemar early in the morning and

leave when they were done coaching in the afternoon.”

In 2017, Swenhaugen covered for a colleagues’ maternity leave at Plymouth Parks and Recreation and moved into a part-time position. Later that same year she landed her first fulltime position with Becker Parks and Recreation. “I wore many hats, almost more than my little head could fit,” she explains. “This experience taught me so much, I was involved in nearly every aspect of the community center operations, as well as childcare programs, fitness classes, aquatics and more.”

After about three years, she accepted the recreation coordinator position for the City of Inver Grove Heights. “Every parks and recreation professional has a story and mine brought me all over the Twin Cities where I got to experience a little bit of everything this field has to offer, meet incredible people, and add to the rich history of these parks and recreation departments,” she states.

Swenhaugen became involved in Minnesota Recreation and Park Foundation’s silent auction and raffle fundraising committee in 2017. Then in 2018 she was on MRPA’s Young Professional & Student Network (YPSN) professional resource center. She secured seasoned professionals to execute one-on-one mock interviews, resume and cover letter review, share their experience with young professionals and implemented this event at the 2018 MRPA Annual Conference. From 2019 to the present time, Swenhaugen joined the MRPA Awards Committee. “In 2022, I was one of two co-chairs for the

committee and received the award of merit along with my wonderful co-chair Elizabeth Owens,” she adds.

Swenhaugen was the 2020 MRPA Annual Conference program committee co-chair. “We began prepping for an out-of-town conference that was scheduled to be held in October at Cragun’s Resort,” she states. “Then the world changed. We were forced to re-evaluate our plan for the conference and ultimately scrap the entire thing and start over fresh. With the help of my fellow co-chairs, our committee recoordinated all the educational sessions, keynotes, and off-site institutes. The new format was completely virtual and allowed guests to tune-in and engage with their favorite speakers live or utilize the “on-demand” sessions which were prerecorded and remained on the website after the conference had completed. This was the first virtual MRPA conference and in fact, we were one of the first states to implement this format.”

Swenhaugen was the 2022 MRPA Annual Conference co-chair. “This conference was such a blast and a lot of that was due to having the most amazing committee and co-chair, Nick Jacobs,” she states. “One thing that made this year’s conference so memorable for me was being UBER pregnant at the conference and being only one-week shy of meeting my baby boy. I was one of three on the committee who became a first-time parent and it was such a special feeling to be able to share that with two amazing colleagues and friends.”

Swenhaugen adds, “My advice to anyone in this field is to surround yourself with other professionals who make you laugh. Our work can be tough sometimes, having good humor and finding joy with others is, in my mind, the best way to be successful.”

8 MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks | MRPA IN ACTION
Minnesota USSSA Slow Pitch Softball Hall of Fame Benefit ThursdaY, July 27 Shotgun start: 10 a.m. Theodore Wirth Golf Course 1301 Theodore Wirth Parkway Minneapolis Proceeds benefit the Minnesota USSSA Slow Pitch Softball Hall of Fame. Register and pay at or scan QR code.

Certified Playground Safety Inspector Courses and Exams Held

Over 20 participants were in attendance for the Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) program, which was held March 15 - 17 at Cedarholm Golf Course in Roseville. A second CPSI program was held April 1214 at the Maple Grove Community Center with over 60 participants in attendance. MRPA thanks both the City of Roseville and the City of Maple Grove for hosting. And thank you to Flagship Recreation, MRPA’s North Star Partner, for sponsoring the April 13 lunch at Maple Grove. MRPA will possibly hold another in-person CPSI course and exam this fall.

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FOUNDATION CORNER Foundation Celebrates 50 Years

Hello everyone! I am glad to be back sharing history about the Foundation that has been curated for us by retired member, Bob Kojetin. The Minnesota Recreation and Parks Foundation (MRPF) was founded in 1973 as a 501c3, with the aim of raising funds through donations and bequests to support research, training, education, scholarship opportunities, and one-time special projects for the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association. MRPF launched the Fellows program in 1974 and asked 40 people to donate $500 over five years, which helped us raise an initial $20,000 for the Foundation.

Over the years, the Foundation has continued to grow and thrive, thanks to the support of our donors, volunteers, and members. But we can’t keep doing the work without you! As a member of the Foundation, you also join the ranks of Hubert H. Humphrey, who was named the first honorary member of the Foundation in 1977.

This year, we are proud to announce the recipients of our four scholarship awards:

• Michelle Margo, Professional Scholarship sponsored by Kraus Anderson

• Ashley Dean-MacIntosh, Barry Bernstein Diversity Scholarship

• Erin Benz, Fran Callahan Student Scholarship

• Elise Lilja, Fran Callahan Student Scholarship

These scholarship winners represent the future of our profession, and we are thrilled to support them as they continue to learn, grow, and make a positive impact in the world. In addition to our scholarship program, we are excited to launch a line of 50th anniversary gear soon, so that you can show off your MRPF pride. Stay tuned for more information on how you can get your hands on t-shirts, hats, and other commemorative items to celebrate this special milestone with us.

MRPF New Initiative Grants

I would also like to encourage those who are passionate about supporting our mission to consider making donations through directed estate giving. By including the MRPF in your estate plan, you can leave a lasting legacy that will benefit future generations of professionals in the recreation and parks field. Your gift will help us continue to provide scholarships, research opportunities, and support for special projects that will make a positive impact on our community.

As we celebrate our 50 th anniversary, we remain committed to supporting the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association and our community, and we look forward to many more years of success and growth. Thank you for your continued support and dedication to our mission.

Each session MRPF awards up to $4,000 to members’ organizations that are working to develop new and innovative programs. These grants spur innovation in the park and recreation field at the local, regional, and state level. In upcoming issues, we will highlight past grant recipients. Annual grant deadlines fall at the end of March and early November. For more information contact Lisa Abernathy at 952-924-2539 or, or visit

Teen Mindfulness – City of Brooklyn Center

Year Started: 2017

Grant Award: $1,500

In the summer of 2016, the Brooklyn Bridge Alliance for Youth conducted a youth survey (ages 10 – 19) that provided valuable information around how the effects of responsibilities facing youth impact their life. The findings revealed that of those who stated that responsibilities affected their life, it negatively impacted their ability to do homework, sleep well, stay focused and many struggled with mental health. Additionally, youth stated they frequently lose motivation as a result of failure, discouragement, loss of hope or vision, trauma and family issues. The Teen Mindfulness program in Brooklyn Center was created to help teens find new ways to manage stress and find better health with topics such as movement and the brain, mindful nutrition, art therapy and medication. Having data to know what challenges are facing youth today helps recreation professionals to better target programming to meet the emerging needs. The Minnesota Recreation and Park Foundation’s New Initiative Grant allowed for the funding to contract with experts to make the program match the needs of youth and do a thorough job of program evaluation.

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The 2023 MRPA Annual Conference will feature powerful keynote speakers. We will highlight them in the spring and summer issues.

Hoan Do: Ninja warrior. Chip ambassador. MRPA speaker.

Hoan Do is an award-winning inspirational speaker, author of Succeeding in the Real World, and city finalist in NBC’s hit show, American Ninja Warrior


From an early age, Hoan understood the sacrifices his parents had made in their escape to the United States during the Vietnam War. Feeling indebted to his parents for their courageous pursuit of a better life, Hoan vowed to ensure that one day, he would be able to take care of his parents. Hoan’s hard work took him to Malibu, California, where he attended Pepperdine University.


With the tremendous pressure Hoan placed on himself, in addition to the stresses of demanding classes and important life decisions, Hoan found himself overwhelmed. His self-esteem reached an all-time low. He even contemplated suicide. Refusing to give up on life, Hoan used this experience as a turning point to learn the practical skills that were necessary to succeed in school and in life.

Overcoming adversities in life has allowed Hoan to connect with others in a powerful way. Hoan travels the world sharing messages of hope and inspiration. Hoan’s practical strategies have impacted over a quarter of a million people.

Hoan has been featured on Good Morning America, Yahoo Finance, and the Chicago Tribune Seattle Magazine recognized Hoan as one of the top 25 influential people in Seattle. His engaging style and connect with his audiences earned him the Verizon Wireless Motivator Award.

Learn more about Hoan at

MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks | SPRING 2023 11
2023 MRPA Annual Conference & Exhibit Hall September 26-29 • Plymouth Community Center
Photo: NBC/ Photo:
in early July Watch the your email for more details.
hall registration and sponsorship information now available at MRPA-Annual-Conference or scan QR Code.
In 2020, Hoan Do was one of 30 people from around the country selected to appear on Lay’s potato chip bags, as part of the company’s 3 rd annual Smiles for Miles of Aisles program.


Flashback: 1987 Keeping Up

The Keeping Up newsletter was redesigned in January 1987 until the first Minnesota Recreation and Parks magazine was launched in January 2006.



12 MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks |
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The Untraditional Path Onward

The parks and recreation career path many people take is considered traditional. I have followed the traditional steps: getting a degree in the field, and working for parks and recreation departments. Many people have followed this path. People who take a nontraditional career path in this field are just as successful.

Right now there are many employment opportunities and traditional job seekers are hard to find. It’s essential for those hiring and those looking for the next career step to recognize that the non-traditional path can be a great fit for some. Hiring people with untraditional backgrounds has become more common to help fill employment needs and inspire us for our next career move.

There are currently 68 colleges/universities with at least one recreation degree program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related professions. For the 2019-2020 academic year 6,761 bachelor’s degrees were awarded in parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies in the United States (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2023).

As professionals hiring in this environment, we know the jobs are out there. Yet,

professionals needed to fill them are not always so quickly hired. In February 2023, the leisure and hospitality industry added 105,000 jobs, nearly one-third of all jobs added, and the local government sector increased by 37,000 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2023). This current hiring climate empowers those looking to hire new staff and those looking for new jobs to examine what a recreation profession can be and expand thinking beyond traditional career paths. This past winter, I was on a tour of O’Shaughnessy Distilling Co. in Minneapolis. Our tour guide was excellent so I had to ask about her background. Her experience as an acting major in college and work as an interpretive guide at Denali National Park had me intrigued. A recreation professional was not the first thing I thought I would encounter while taking a tour and flight tasting.

This encounter sparked me to think about how we, as recreation professionals, have many transferable skills. We can sometimes get stuck on the candidate being the traditional parks and recreation major with an internship in a parks and recreation department. Thinking the only path is a

traditional one, will not always fit the right candidate into the right job. The field has many opportunities for non-traditional backgrounds to flourish and make their own path.

To explore this topic further, I reached out to tour guide, Megan Johnson, tours and tastings manager with O’Shaughnessy Distilling Co., and Kori Shingles, senior specialist - diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) with JE Dunn Construction. Interestingly, they both hold undergraduate degrees in fields that are not in my top 10 expected degrees for a recreation professional. Kori holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a graduate degree in business administration, with a concentration in sports administration, from Central Michigan University. Megan holds a bachelor’s of arts in acting and directing from Bethel University. For a moment her freshman year, she panicked and worried about how bills would be paid and changed majors to English education for a semester. She quickly realized that the traditional teaching setting was not her passion. The moment of panic is something many of us with parks and recreation degrees can identify with, as well as our parents.

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Both Megan and Kori have forged unique paths that were not traditional paths. I identified three themes after talking with them: authentic relationship building, intentional skillbuilding, and looking to the horizon.

Authentic RelationshipBuilding

Throughout their education and professional experiences, Kori and Megan utilized their relationship development to identify their passions and place in the field. Megan, originally from Kentucky, landed in Minnesota at the suggestion of her godmother, who happened to know a theater professor originally from Kentucky who was now teaching in Minnesota. Further along in her career, Megan’s professional relationships with other living history interpreters and actors landed her an audition with the Minnesota Renaissance Festival that led to years of storytelling at the festival. It was also through her relationships and popularity at the Renaissance Festival that Megan recorded two storytelling CDs.

While Kori was working in the campus recreation world, having been a manager of sport clubs at the University of Minnesota

before moving on to facility management, she developed relationships with other recreation professionals. While working in facilities on different construction projects, Kori had the opportunity to network with construction professionals, gaining a deeper understanding of that field. When considering a change in employment to help create a better work-life balance, she drew from her experience, relationships, and passion to consider how she could thrive in the private sector. The experience she had through recreation positions, and the relationships she built helped her take the next step, a position with JE Dunn Construction. Kori continues relationshipbuilding where one of the main focuses of her job is to create authentic relationships with women and minority-owned small

businesses. The power of relationshipbuilding can be bendficial when done authentically, as evidenced in the experiences of both Megan and Kori.

Intentional SkillBuilding

Megan and Kori took on intentional skillbuilding while on their career paths. As highlighted previously, Kori worked to ensure her experiences covered various topics in the recreation field. In addition to her work experiences, Kori took on additional training. Kori completed MRPA’s Facility Management Academy and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity training. She completed the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace certificate from the University of South Florida. She is a certified facilitator for True Colors and holds a Teaching and Learning Styles certificate. As we know, trainings get done on top of work duties, which is easier said than done.

Megan completed training to become a certified interpretive guide through the National Association for Interpretation. This training helped her to form her views on the intersection of education and entertainment. Not only was this training used for her work at Denali National Park, but she found this training influential in guiding her storytelling

MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks | SPRING 2023 15
Kori Shingles Megan Johnson
This current hiring climate empowers those looking to hire new staff and those looking for new jobs to examine what a recreation profession can be and expand thinking beyond traditional career paths.

work and is using it now at the distillery. This training was instrumental when recording two CDs of Irish Folktales. Using the knowledge and skills gained to honor the tone, timbre, and values of original folktales while acknowledging and representing the groups whose viewpoints were left out of the original telling of the tales. As a result of this training, her work became more popular, leading to career steps such as being invited to share her storytelling with schools and renaissance fairs. In her position with the distillery, Megan has used this training to help other tour guides connect people worldwide with the story and history of whiskey being made in Minnesota. In 2021 O’Shaughnessy Distilling Co. had visits from 42 states, two territories, and 14 countries. The training and experiences Megan applies intentionally to her work, has helped guide staff to tie universal concepts to the tour experience worldwide. It takes planning and a desire to further one’s skills by completing additional training. These trainings can be a valuable step to help propel your work to new levels.

Looking to the Horizon

Megan and Kori have continued to create their untraditional paths. They do this by knowing their values and looking at what is out there that fits their path. Traditionally, we only had to get so many years of experience before being told the next steps. While staying in a role that fits you is perfectly fine, change also has value. Both Megan and Kori used their education, skills, and passions to decide what steps to take next. Kori found a passion for the DEI work while working for the City of St. Louis Park and wanted to expand this impact. She consults with cities, countries, and schools using her True Colors facilitation certificate. Her path continues to move forward. Megan has found ways to incorporate her passion for storytelling, acting, and interpretation into her career. Her work at O’Shaughnessy Distilling Co. has just begun since the company is seeing explosive growth.

The traditional career path will always exist and work for some, but not all. One example is Dorothea Nelson, the namesake of the MRPA professional award who was a music major and became the director of recreation for the City of St. Louis Park (Dorothea Nelson, 1951). Our work to grow relationships in this field, seek new training, and look to the horizon is essential as we hire or try to get hired. Those who follow their unique path into this field can improve our profession. We now have the opportunity not to be bound by tradition, but to be inspired to forge our own unique path.


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Our work to grow relationships in this field, seek new training, and look to the horizon is essential as we hire or try to get hired.
Sustainable recreation solutions Learn more about our comprehensive trail work, connecting communities across the state.

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Inclusive Playgrounds in Minnesota

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Red Oak Park Inclusive Playground and Bankshot™ Court, Burnsville

The majority of the Burnsville Parks system was built in the 80s and 90s. Over the years, the City has added a number of new and unique facilities. However, as of 2020, the City did not have a fully inclusive playground. Recognizing this service gap, staff began the planning process to intentionally add an inclusive playground.

In February of 2019 the Burnsville Lions Club voted to partner with the City on this project with a donation of $140,000. That decision allowed staff to officially begin the planning process. A project committee comprised of members of the Burnsville Lions Club, ISD 191 staff who had experience working with people with disabilities, Burnsville parents of children with disabilities, and members of the community.

The playground design and installation met the project goals with chosen equipment meeting the need to provide a variety of play experiences that meet the physical, sensory, communication, social-emotional and cognitive needs of people with a variety of skills and abilities. In general, this project will be evaluated and deemed a success based on an eye test associated with numbers of users and the diversity of the playground and Bankshot user population.

In fall 2020, the Red Oak Park inclusive playground became the first inclusive playground in the Burnsville park system and the Bankshot court became the second such facility in the state and first in the metro area. Bankshot is game that has been described as the “mini-golf” of basketball. The playground was designed to be a place where all are welcome, providing opportunities for everyone to play, socialize and learn.

The Red Oak Inclusive Playground and Bankshot system was an extremely successful project for the community and Burnsville Parks and Recreation. The project advanced the City’s slogan “You Belong Here” creating an environment that was intentionally inclusive and welcoming to all.

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Three Minnesota cities were recently awarded MRPA Awards of Excellence for parks and facilities projects. The City of Little Canada and the City of Hutchinson received their awards for their project completed in 2019. The City of Burnsville received their award for their project completed 2020. These cities have inclusive playgrounds designed to be a place where people of all abilities and backgrounds are welcome.

Elks Inclusive Playground, Hutchinson

The Elks Inclusive Playground project was a collaboration between the City of Hutchinson and the local Hutchinson Elks Lodge #2427. The notion of adding an inclusive playground to Elks Park was an idea of Elks Lodge members, who approached the parks, recreation and community education department in 2015. The Hutchinson Elks Lodge presented the Hutchinson City Council with a $38,906 donation as an initial down payment on the first phase of the inclusive playground. In February 2017, enough funds were raised to have the second phase of the Zip Krooz playground equipment installed. Having these two larger playground equipment pieces added to Elks Park really expanded the original playground site. During the summer of 2018, the remainder $73,000 was given to the City of Hutchinson for the final third phase. The inclusive playground was designed to be a place for the community to recreate, play and socialize. It has been a wonderful addition to Hutchinson.

The inclusive playground project was completely finished in May of 2019. All the funds donated from the Elks Lodge were used to help pay for the purchase the playground equipment. The funds also paid for the installation as well as adding an additional sidewalk. The City of Hutchinson paid for the materials for this project, and provided labor and equipment to excavate the playground site.

The Hutchinson Parks, Recreation and Community Education Department feels very fortunate to have an active Elks Lodge within their community. They see their sponsored park as a priority in their mission to improve the community and keep things at the highest level of quality.



Spooner Park All-Inclusive Playground, Little Canada

In the summer of 2019, the City of Little Canada removed an existing, outdated playground that did not meet accessibility standards or updated fall protection standards. The playground was the first all-inclusive playground for children of all abilities in Little Canada. The planning process started as a simple playground equipment replacement in 2016 for new equipment to be installed in 2017.

Through a community-wide engagement process, which included the youth of the community, a common theme that emerged that everyone agreed on was to replace the existing playground with a new all-inclusive playground for children and families of all abilities to be able to utilize and enjoy. Additionally, ADA accessibility for all was a top priority. The project evolved to include the playground and surrounding area to be updated with current accessibility standards and was completed and opened to the public in the summer of 2019.

To make the playground even more special to the community, the City of Little Canada had a first-ever community build event. With the size and features of the playground, a two-day build was anticipated. The response from the

community was so fantastic that the playground was able to be built in just one day.

Shortly after the community build was complete, the new playground held a grand-opening event that was well attended by all in the community. This playground upgrade is a great addition to the community of Little Canada and shows the importance of community engagement, listening, and creating spaces that are welcoming for individuals of all abilities.

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Becker Park Inclusive Playground, Crystal

Becker Park was redeveloped in 2019 to be a gathering place for residents and visitors of the community to enjoy. The park was designed to be welcoming and open to individuals of all ages, ethnicities, cultures, and abilities. The park includes an inclusive play area, splash pad, gender-neutral and accessible restrooms, a large picnic area with accessible tables and a performance area. The highlight of the park is the inclusive play area. The play area has 100-percent rubberized surfacing and prioritizes healthy living and physical activity - with play equipment and features that accommodate diverse abilities. The play area’s central location near public transportation (including future light rail) and trail options make it easily accessible.

Planning Process

Planning for Becker Park began in 2016 when a light rail discussion for the area began. While the community wanted changes to the park, there was a robust discussion on what that should look like. Some wanted the ‘historic’ softball fields to remain, while others saw a potential to better reflect the community’s current needs. Discussion continued through 2016, and in 2017 a planning consultant was hired to create a park system master plan for all parks in the city. Site design started early in 2018 with information and guidance from the park system master plan. As the design was refined, consultants and city staff held several public meetings in the park. The concepts became better defined, and the project went out for bid in December 2018.

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Support for Playground

During the park planning process, we heard a lot of positive comments and support for adding an inclusive play area. One comment stated, “I was excited to see all the great plans for an inclusive playground. We have lived in Crystal for many years. I would love to be able to take my son to a playground, in the city where he lives, that has equipment he can play on.” Julie O. April 26, 2018. The enthusiasm for the project spread throughout the community, with financial support helping make the play area a vibrant and welcoming space for families in the Crystal area. Twenty-seven separate donors, in addition to grants, contributed to funding the inclusive play area. Numerous local businesses and citizens contributed, which included 14 donations of $500 or more and eight donations of $1,000 or more. These donors are recognized on a donor sign located adjacent to the play area.

Fun For All

In conclusion, Becker Park Playground is an excellent destination for families with children of all ages and abilities. With a wide range of play structures, swings, and other amenities, there is something for everyone. The inclusive playground has been an excellent addition to our parks system and ensures that all children have an equal opportunity to play and have fun.

MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks | SPRING 2023 23



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Playground Design Trends:

How today’s playgrounds are changing and what it means for how kids play

26 MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks |

Parents who haven’t been to a playground for decades can be astonished by what they see when they take their little ones to the local playground for the first time.

They may be struck by the sheer size of the equipment, with soaring towers that dwarf the equipment they played on as kids. Bright, bold colors can grab their attention even before they park their car. And less-linear and Ninja Warrior-like activity spaces can make the predictable and “manufactured” equipment that they mostly knew as kids seem dull in comparison.

But today’s playgrounds aren’t just designed to be bigger, brighter, bolder play spaces. A lot of thought, planning and science goes into creating them. And this is giving communities something to cheer about – play spaces that are better designed for different age groups and abilities, more encouraging of new ways of playing, and more sustainable. Here are some of the trends driving the evolution of today’s playgrounds.

A greater focus on how kids see playgrounds

Colors and shapes can make playgrounds visually appealing and unique. But a strategic use of these design elements can influence how and where kids play.

Color is the first thing that kids and adults alike see, and it can impact their moods and

decisions. Just look at the fast-food industry. It’s known for its use of red and yellow, colors that stimulate hunger and evoke feelings of comfort.

Similar thinking goes into the design of playgrounds, only it’s to help direct play versus trigger cheeseburger cravings.

For example, kids up to the age of five are attracted to bright, saturated colors, which is why the colors are heavily used in kindergarten classrooms and on toys. On the playground, equipment that’s meant for smaller bodies can use these colors to attract kids in this age group. Meanwhile, kids who are older than five are typically attracted to less saturated and more muted colors. You’ll find elementaryaged kids and even middle schoolers attracted to playgrounds that use a more natural color palette.

Shapes also influence where kids go on a playground.

One of the most stand-out things about today’s playgrounds is just how tall they are. More and more, playgrounds are featuring towers and slides that climb as high as 20 or even 30 feet.

These tall structures can be seen from a distance and can get kids excited about play before they’re even on the playground. And as they approach these large structures, they start to examine them and think about how adventurous they want to be to reach the top. Younger kids, for instance, may want to

take easier ways to the top, like an inside belt climber. But older kids who are more physically developed may take a more challenging route by climbing up cargo nets along the outside of the towers.

A shift to user-defined play

Kids can be fiercely independent. So, it only makes sense that playgrounds let kids play how they want to play.

There’s still great value in helping direct kids around playgrounds with clearly defined paths of play. It can look something like this: A kid climbs up some stairs and is presented with two fun options. Go right, and they can swing across the monkey bars. Go left, and they can cross a bridge and get to a slide and fire pole. Today’s playgrounds even use several paths to give kids of different ages and abilities a range of options for getting up, down and around the equipment.

But playground spaces are evolving to support non-prescriptive or abstract play – where kids get to oversee their own play. These spaces use open and non-linear designs to encourage kids to move around and play however they want.

Fewer confined spaces, for example, allow kids to skip the slide or fire pole and instead just jump or climb down from a structure. Open structures also encourage more kinds of play.

MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks | SPRING 2023 27

Because kids aren’t limited to a linear and confined path, there are more opportunities for game play on and off the play structure. Plus, simple features like seek-and-finds incorporated into the playground design can encourage kids to learn while making up their own games.

More communal spaces

More than ever before, today’s playgrounds are being designed to meet the needs of more kids and more communities.

A good example is in the area of inclusivity. Today, playgrounds are being more intentionally designed for people with a wide range of disabilities. And sometimes, small and subtle design changes can make big differences.

For instance, color can be used in several ways to support kids with vision disabilities. Contrasting colors can help kids with depthperception difficulties better identify different playground structures, giving them greater confidence to play on those structures. Color cues can help kids who have low-vision know how far they need to stretch to climb steps. And thoughtful design choices – like avoiding the use of red and green together – can help those who are colorblind better perceive different components.

Today, residents and community governments also want their parks and playgrounds to be more eco-friendly. Playground designs are evolving to address this in multiple ways.

For starters, they’re being designed to address environmental impacts. Some park environments, for instance, are created with integrated stormwater management to help manage water runoff.

Designers are even finding ways to weave playgrounds into the local environment. Sometimes, they design playgrounds around trees and other natural elements to preserve them. Designers are even integrating play structures right into the existing topography. This allows kids to have fun on components like hillside slides and climbers, while also enjoying the hills that naturally occur around them.

Playground manufacturers are also putting a greater focus on making their product lines

more sustainable. They’re using materials like engineered bamboo, which is a sustainable resource and can add a warm aesthetic to a playground and creating playground furnishings from recycled materials.

Fun for all

There’s no telling what playgrounds will look like when today’s kids visit them as adults. But if designers, landscape architects and planners continue to focus on the needs of all kids, one thing is for sure – the play that’s happening on those playgrounds will only continue to be more diverse, accessible and beneficial for all.

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The 2023 MRPA Annual Conference will feature a maintenance educational track and maintenance rodeo.

MRPA is dedicated to developing all professionals in the field of parks and recreation and is providing a reduced rate of $50 for our maintenance teams to come for a one-day offering to help reduce barriers of burden from organizations. This low entry rate provides lunch, all educational seminars, and off-site institutes transportation.

Register your maintenance team members at beginning in early July - watch your email for details.


In an effort to grow and develop our team members who are integral to cultivating parks loved by residents and help events really reach the masses, the 2023 MPRA Conference Committee has developed a maintenance focused track. This track will include off site institutes, educational seminars, and experiential learning opportunities.

Wednesday of the conference will include a site visit to LSI and a variety of educational seminars including:

• splash pad maintenance

• irrigation troubleshooting

• court design, construction, and maintenance

• synthetic turf maintenance guidelines

Thursday will include a trip to Three Rivers Nursery and prairie lands, as well as indoor and outdoor playground inspections




In addition to the numerous additions of specific educational seminars, Conference Thursday will feature the first-ever MRPA Maintenance Rodeo. Attendees can register for one or more events and compete against others across the state for prizes and clout!

Rodeo events will include:







2023 MRPA Annual Conference & Exhibit Hall September 26-29 • Plymouth Community Center
30 MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks |
your maintenance team at
800-677-5153 Visit us at or just scan the QR code!
32 MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks |
Photo: Foresee Studios JOHNSON PaRK, NEW ULM

On the Home TURF


MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks | SPRING 2023 33

Turf Maintenance on a Professional Baseball Field

34 MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks |
By Cheryl Kormann, Assistant Director and Ryan Weier, Facilities Maintenance Supervisor, City of New Ulm Park and Recreation Department Photo: Foresee Studios

Schools and athletic facilities are moving toward artificial turf for their playing surfaces for many reasons. However, there are cities and districts that continue using naturally grown turf for a variety of reasons. Spring weather in Minnesota poses a real challenge with its ever-changing and extreme conditions. Naturally grown turf is still popular and can last a long time, but it takes a lot of work to maintain beautiful turf in parks and playing surfaces. What does it take to maintain excellent turf and playing surfaces? It takes lots of dedicated staff to perform this labor of love! Proper equipment, fertilizer and pesticides, seed and water are also must haves.

Historic Johnson Park is a premier baseball field located within the City of New Ulm, built in 1938. It is used for approximately six months and is dedicated to baseball games, high school level and above. In a normal year, there are roughly 85 games played on this field. The park is 5.2 acres in overall maintenance area. The city spends roughly $75,000 in annual maintenance costs on this field. There is one full-time maintenance staff person, along with three to five additional seasonal, part-time staff to provide maintenance on this natural grass playing surface.

The grass is a blend of bluegrass, ryegrass and fescues and has an automatic irrigation system to provide regular watering. Regular mowing two to three times per week allows a consistent 1 ½” competition cut throughout the facility. The infield, outfield and foul territories are mowed at the same height and a dedicated mowing schedule provides consistent level of play from game to game. Mowing patterns are altered on the schedule to cross and multidirectional mow

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and roll to maintain a consistent stand and density of turf throughout the field of play. A turf maintenance program and consistent irrigation will provide deep root growth and minimal thatch layer, allowing for mowing at the 1 ½” height throughout the summer without heat stress issues.

The city has partnered with a fertilization and pesticide supply company to provide application schedules and rates to foster desirable turf growth and treat unwanted organic growth. This program may be adjusted to coincide with high traffic game

events or tournaments and anticipated breaks in game scheduling. This program is adjusted to address different areas of the field to target turf challenges due to various soils, shade, compaction, and soil content.

Core aeration is done a minimum of two times per year, in addition to knife aerating all turf areas every two to three weeks. A top dresser is used to apply mason sand to the infield turf areas of the field immediately after the knife aerations to reduce compaction.

A hydraulic roller is pulled behind lawn

MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks | SPRING 2023 35
The start of every great space is a tiny dream. Nurtured with encouragement, fed with resources, and given space to unfold, the seed becomes a place to play, to gather, to learn, to laugh. Let’s talk about your dream.
Photo: Don Borstad

mowing equipment in ideal conditions to improve efficiency. This leaves playing surfaces very smooth with consistent playability. Infield turf is edged monthly. Prior to edging, a high-pressure water hose or a power broom is used to remove aglime material from turf edges. The entire foul territory turf edges and warning track is edged two times per year. The infield edge is mechanically rolled with a ride—on roller once per year, which maintains the crisp aesthetic look of the turf edges and all but eliminates “bad hops” during competition. Strategic seeding is also utilized. In high traffic areas, multiple light over-seeding applications throughout the year are used, and dense over-seeding after summer season concludes in mid-August until mid-October. A separate, designated seed mixture is applied in turf areas significantly shaded by grandstands or other features. Sod replacement is only used in an emergency or if time does not allow over-seeding or reseeding worn areas.

DuraEdge products are engineered clay products that provide a durable, repairable clay base for the mound and home plate areas. A layer of shale topdressing is installed over the clay to protect players and give the clay a protective layer to retain moisture. Pitching mounds are rebuilt every two years to

maintain proper professional specifications. Infield aglime is purchased from Bryan Rock - Red Ball Diamond Aggregate, which is the best natural, non-engineered aglime material. This product is locally distributed out of Shakopee. A light coating of shale topdressing is applied occasionally during the season to help with top layer playability and wear.

Data collection is used to address compaction, moisture and sub-soil reactions and to assist with adjusting products and procedures in developing and maintaining uniform and consistent playing surfaces throughout the field. This data also can be used to reduce maintenance costs by only applying the required amount of water through irrigation and other fertilizers or pesticides.

It takes a great deal of dedication and a multitude of details to create and maintain a high-quality playing surface. Historic Johnson Park’s nostalgic feel, high quality playing surface and spectator experience is what makes teams and fans want to come and leave with a great, small town baseball experience. It is a well-known jewel throughout Minnesota.

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Photos: Don Borstad
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TURF TIPS Successful turfgrass germination in the municipal setting

Throw a little dirt and seed at it on the opening day of the State Fair and you are good to go, right? Let me introduce you to the three-legged stool of turfgrass establishment in the municipal setting: soil preparation, planting the seed, and watering. The final touch of any great project outdoors lies with the restoration of the landscape. Armed with a little knowledge and a willingness to venture to uncharted territories, you will be mowing your turf for the first time before the first batch of cheese curds makes its way into the deep fryer.

Proper soil preparation is key to establishing a respectful stand of turf. The soil must be firm enough to support mowing equipment

while baby turfgrasses need to be able to root freely into a non-compacted root zone. I am not going to tell you what to use to for compaction relief, that’s up to you. I am telling you not to seed into soil that has been packed down tight for 3 months straight with skid loaders and backhoes while the playground was being built, it will not go well. Understand that when you work soils to provide compaction relief, you are bringing weed seeds to the surface, and they will need to be dealt with either before or after seeding. This phenomenon is especially devastating during spring and summer seedings.

Great seed to soil contact. It’s the cornerstone of the turf establishment process. Seeding

turfgrass is like planting corn, it will reliably germinate if it is incorporated into the soil profile. Grass seed thrown on top of the soil surface by hand or through a broadcast spreader will not reach its maximum germination rate. There are numerous methods, tools, and attachments that will help you incorporate the seed into the top 1/8” of soil which will increase your odds of reaching the germination rates as listed on the label. Applying starter fertilizer after the seed is planted is a great idea. Don’t forget the extra insurance of covering your project with straw blankets or by applying hydromulch. Not only will this help with erosion control, if it miraculously rains after you seed, the ground will stay wetter for longer if it is covered.

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Park maintenance staff have limited time available to babysit these projects and every extra precaution taken is one step closer to success.

Grass seed suppliers hate this final, simple trick to establishing turf. This final, nonnegotiable step in establishing turfgrass is watering. Did I mention this step is nonnegotiable? This is the step where most projects fail. This is the end game. In a perfect scenario, your seed bed would stay consistently moist from the moment you plant to a week after germination. Our job

is to find a balance between this ideal state and abandoning the project. Set a goal of watering your grass seed projects once a day until you have mowed it the first time.

After your first mow, you can now think about backing off the water. Do not rely on rain to take care of this step for you. After the financial and labor investment of proper soil preparation and planting your seed, choosing not to water at this point is just as bad as skipping one of the first two steps. If it rains, rejoice in the fact that your water truck is not going out today. How you get the water to the

site does not matter, there are many ways to make this happen. I have used a utility pump dropped into a truck mounted water tank powered by a gas generator to water remote grass seed projects before. Establishing turfgrass is a three-legged stool, and without water your project will not reach its maximum potential and could outright fail.

Let’s talk timing. To put it bluntly, spring and summer are horrible times to plant grass seed. It can be done, with the understanding that weed pressure will be off the charts and watering requirements will be much greater

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than if planted in the fall. The definition of fall seeding is a mystery which eludes many of us. Spring is a great time to plan your fall seeding projects. July is when we buy the grass seed, fertilizer, check our equipment and tools, and begin soil preparation. By preparing the soil in July, you give weed seeds a chance to germinate and the opportunity to eliminate them presents itself. When August comes around, it’s time to plant. Aim for August 15th. The earlier in August your plant, you gain a longer establishment period before winter arrives. Every extra growing day will make your turf look that much better in the spring. Any seeding that takes place past the second week of September is at the mercy of the weather and germination times of the seed you are using. Dormant seeding in late fall or early winter is the next best opportunity. The goal is for the seed to lie dormant under the snow until next year. The same principals of establishment apply, including watering next spring.

Successful turfgrass germination in the municipal setting is often limited by a lack of knowledge, harboring the wrong mindset, and by delegating the work off to mother nature. The weather is unpredictable, and with that comes unpredictable results. With the right attitude and a commitment to these three principals of growing grass, you too can find success in establishing turf.

MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks | SPRING 2023 43
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Studying winter stress injury of GRASSES IN MINNESOTA

One of the great stressors for turfgrass managers in cold climates is dealing with winter injury. The grasses we use in Minnesota can all experience some type of winter damage. Kentucky bluegrass is the most prominent species found on lawns and parks in the Upper Midwest, and it handles most winter stresses very well. Rarely does it die due to low temperatures, and it can handle long stretches of time under ice (though as some readers probably have noticed under a melting ice rink in the spring, there are limits!). Kentucky bluegrass can be damaged from snow mold disease. Fine fescues, a group of grasses known for their ability to perform under low-input management (less fertilizer, water, and pesticides) are also able to handle most winter stresses, though ice cover can be a problem for

some of these grasses, and snow mold can cause significant damage if disease pressure is high. Perennial ryegrass, a species that is well-regarded for its quick germination, rapid establishment, and high levels of wear and traffic tolerance, can be damaged by every winter stress we have: low temperatures, ice cover, snow mold, desiccation…and any other winter stress one could dream up. Tall fescue, a grass growing in popularity due to its ability to stay green during drought periods, is also challenged by extended periods of ice and, like all the other grasses, gets quite a bit of snow mold when conditions are favorable for the pathogen.

At the University of Minnesota, our turfgrass science research program has been working to figure out how managers can reduce the risk of losing some of these grasses during the winter. To date, there has been very little focus on this problem nationally. In 2021, we led a multi-institutional effort to obtain funding to study this problem and received an $8 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative. The project, “WinterTurf: A holistic approach to understanding the mechanisms and

mitigating the effects of winter stress on turfgrasses in northern climates” aims to figure out what might be going on under ice and snow that ends up causing turf to die. Is it high levels of carbon dioxide? Is it a combination of gas levels and soil temperatures? Maybe the amount of light a plant receives before ice forms matters? These questions are difficult to answer, so we’ve worked with colleagues at the university to design and deploy environmental sensors (Figure 1) on about 70 golf greens throughout the world that are collecting data every 15 minutes on environmental parameters that we think could be important: soil temperature, air temperature, carbon dioxide concentration, oxygen concentration, soil moisture, and amount of light. We then are having golf course superintendents monitor these greens and let us know how much snow is present each week, and how the green looks going into and coming out of winter. Then, we’ll combine all this data into one big data set and computer scientists and agricultural modelers will see if any patterns emerge. Our hope is that the data will let us know what we can do to develop new grasses or management recommendations that reduce winter injury risk.

44 MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks |
Figure 1: Environmental sensing node getting installed on a golf green. These units are powered by a solar panel and generate data throughout the winter. Data is uploaded to a database through a cellular connection. (photo: Ryan Schwab) Figure 2: Turfgrass managers in Norway experience significant levels of winter damage. (photo: Lily Watkins)
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While we are waiting for all this data to come in, researchers on our team have been purposely covering research plots in ice to see which plots might survive. This project, which is referred to as “ICEBREAKER” is funded through a collaboration we have with colleagues in Norway, where turfgrass winter injury is quite common (Figure 2). During the summer of 2021, we seeded 6 different grasses: creeping bentgrass, annual bluegrass, two fine fescues (Chewings fescue and slender creeping red fescue), and velvet bentgrass. The grasses then were managed using standard practices for

a golf green through the growing season (Figure 3). Then, in early to mid-December, team members started making ice on the plots (Figure 4). The ice ended up getting to about 4 inches thick and remained on the turf for about 90 days. Right after the ice melted, we started taking data to see which plots experienced damage. We found that the annual bluegrass was completely killed (Figure 5), and Chewings fescue was severely damaged, though there was living plant material remaining in the plot. This project was repeated starting this past summer, so soon we will see if our earlier results are

confirmed. As our efforts expand in this area, we hope to screen dozens of varieties of turfgrasses for ice cover tolerance so that managers can find the best possible turfgrasses for their site.

If you want to learn more about the WinterTurf project, please visit https:// where you can sign up for our monthly WinterTurf email newsletter. For other information about our program and several online resources, you can visit

Reach key municipal park & recreation buyers!

MINNESOTA magazine is mailed to MRPA members and affiliates quarterly. It features industry-relevant content which is read and kept as a point of reference. It’s a popular resource read by municipal employees throughout the state.

The magazine provides an opportunity to market directly to the people who need your products and services.

Advertising Deadlines & Special Sections*

Summer 2023 issue

Ad deadline: June 10, 2023

2023 MRPA Annual Conference ; Special events (equity, unique events)

Fall 2023 issue

Ad deadline: September 15, 2023

Awards of Excellence; Industry trends; Agency operations; Buyer’s Guide

Winter 2024 issue

Ad deadline: January 5, 2024

Professional Awards; Climate Change & Going Green;

VIEW THE 2023 ADVERTISING RATE CARD AT WWW.MNRPA.ORG/PUBLICATIONS MINNESOTA RECREATION & PARKS VOLUME 2022 ALSO Rinks ontinuingEducation Second Chance Playgrounds Themed Playgrounds Destination Playgrounds Creating SHAPING THE WAY FAMILIES PLAY PLAYGROUND MINNESOTA RECREATION & PARKS VOLUME MRPA CONFERENCE GUIDE MississippiRegional Record Regional Sourcing Strategies BreathingNewLife IntoGathering Spaces TransformedCommunity Recreation MINNESOTA RECREATION & PARKS mnrpaor INSIDE: Dog theCreativeUses Resource 2023Commercial Guide ORGANIZATIONSRECOGNIZINGMINNESOTAAGENCIESANDFOROUTSTANDING2021ACHIEVEMENTS 2022
Emergency Planning View past magazine issues at: *Content subject to change. Contact Todd Pernsteiner for more information at (952) 841-1111 or
advertisingand event available!packagesalso Inquirefor more details. 46 MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks |
Figure 3: The grass plots looked very healthy going into the winter. (photo: Gary Deters) Figure 4: In December, water was applied to make a thick layer of ice over the plots. Environmental sensors were installed on plots to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide levels under the ice (photo: Gary Deters)
RESERVE YOUR AD SPACE! Contact Todd Pernsteiner at or (952) 841-1111.
Figure 5: Of the six species we tested, annual bluegrass performed the poorest. (photo: Gary Deters)

MRPA Corporate Members

Anderson Race Management NEW

B32 Engineering Group

Bituminous Roadways Inc.

Bolton & Menk, Inc.

Colorado State University - NEW

Human Dimensions of Natural Resources communications-for-conservation

Commercial Recreation Specialists, Inc.

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LHB, Inc.

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MINNCOR Industries

Minnesota Wisconsin Playground Inc.

Musco Sports Lighting

Northland Recreation, LLC

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RJ Thomas Manufacturing / Pilot Rock

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Safety First Playground

Surfacing LLC

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Sports Lighting Authority

SRF Consulting Group Inc.

St. Croix Recreation


Synthetic Turf Solutions NEW

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47 MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks | ADVERTISER INDEX Bolton & Menk 38 Colorado State University 17 Commercial Recreation Specialists 45 Fireflies Play Environments 13 Greenfields Outdoor Fitness 42 Gyms for Dogs 20-21 ISG 39 JLG 5 JSD 43 Landscape Structures BC LHB 35 Minnesota Wisconsin Playground 9 Northland Recreation 41 Pilot Rock 38 Plaisted Companies 41 Premier Polysteel 43 RJM Construction 16 Safety First Playground Surfacing IFC Sport Court North 24-25 St. Croix Recreation 37 Synthetic Turf Solutions MN 36 TKDA 16 Webber Recreation 31 WSB 12 Ziegler CAT 29
(As of April 1, 2023) MINNESOTA Recreation & Parks | SPRING 2023 47 BE SEEN – RESERVE YOUR AD SPACE! CONTACT TODD PERNSTEINER AT TODD@PERNSTEINER.COM OR (952) 841-1111. = MRPA North Star Partner

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