Mayor’s office diverts funds to East Side rec centers

East Side rec centers will see some added staffing this summer, thanks to a diversion of city funds.

St. Paul City Council approved a move to transfer $266,312 to bolster Parks and Recreation staffing in needed areas, including on the East Side.
The money is being re-routed from another part of the parks budget.
The move will allow East Side rec centers to have about 3,900 more hours of on-site staffing.

The funding is intended to specifically bolster youth development, through programs such as the Youth in Transition program, and will mean there will be more staff hours at East Side rec centers including the new Arlington Hills Community Center, as well as Wilder, Dayton’s Bluff, and Duluth & Case rec centers. Staff will also be added in the North End and at the Rice Street Teen Zone in Frogtown.

Brad Meyer, spokesperson for Parks and Rec, said the move to add staffing comes partly as a response to youth-related violence that took place on the East Side last summer.
So Parks and Rec will hire two lead community youth workers, two rec leaders, and a handful of part-time staff for the express purpose of reaching out to youth and teens. The East Side team of parks workers will be based out of the new Arlington Hills Recreation Center, but will move throughout rec centers on the East Side, Meyer said.
“Our whole hope is trying to engage kids,” Meyer said, “get (kids) in the buildings; get them busy with different programs, and find things that they want to do.”

Meyer noted that in order for the youth outreach programs to work, they need more than buildings such as the new Arlington Hills Community Center.
“We don’t need buildings to have quality programs, we need people,” he said.

According to a document about the added staffing plan, the youth development work at rec centers varies from typical rec center programming.
“The concept focuses on co-creating programs with youth in ways that are meaningful to them,” the document reads. “It finds ways for youth to connect to things that are important to them and provides opportunities for the youth to be involved as content creators and program leaders. Typical recreation programs are done ‘to’ youth, while using a youth development approach creates space to do things ‘with’ youth.”

Meyer said the parks department is hoping the funding for the added staff will be ongiong, “but we understand that resources are tight.”

City Council member Amy Brendmoen, who represents Ward 5, said the move was easy to get behind, as it plays into a larger city-wide effort to crack down on youth violence. “We all know that it’s those staff hours that make all the difference,” she said.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.


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