My Commitment to You

Three Rivers Park District is among the most highly respected park systems in the entire country. The leadership and foresight of our founders created a spectacular regional park system that contributes greatly to our quality of life today.

Our adopted Vision Plan recognizes the significant trends that will present both challenges and opportunities for both the near and distant future, and we are currently updating our strategic systems plan to recognize the changing demographics of those we serve. Achieving Three Rivers' vision will require a renewed commitment to the more than 11 million guests who use our system's 27,000 acres of park reserves, regional parks, regional trails and special use facilities.

As your Commissioner, I will continue to draw on my many years of practical experience to successfully meet the challenges faced by Three Rivers. My proven track record of strong leadership and responsible stewardship as Board Chair over the past six years will continue to help our great park and trail system be even better in the future.


Environmental Stewardshipwetland.jpg

We are truly fortunate to live in communities that honor and treasure the natural beauty of our lakes and creeks, forests and prairies - those amenities that define our Minnesota quality of life, and make us the envy of the nation. With increasing development, financial and political pressures, we all have an even greater responsibility to be good stewards of our environment, and to do everything we can to preserve those gifts for future generations - especially as federal leadership wanes.

 As your Commissioner, the responsible and balanced conservation of our natural resources will continue to be my highest priority, as it has throughout my life. I take great pride in my long proven record of open space preservation and protection of wetlands and woodlands. The programs I have championed over the years insure that our valued natural resources will be enjoyed for generations to come.

Under my leadership as Board Chair, Three Rivers is nationally recognized for our environmental protection and restoration programs, especially for our forestry, prairie and water quality work. As a few examples, we have planted more than two million trees over the years, restored Bryant Lake to its non-impaired status, led scientific research into a wide variety flora and fauna, and sponsored internships to encourage the next generation of environmental scientists. We also play an important role in environmental education with our nature centers, working farm, school STEM programs (science, technology, engineering and math), living history center, and many outreach partnerships with cities and nonprofits.


Regional Parks


In every season, our parks are a place to gather, recreate and have fun. From organized sports activities to unstructured playgrounds and trails, recreation opportunities in Three Rivers are essential to our quality of life. Maintaining these assets is increasingly challenging as our number of visitors continues to grow by double digits each year. Recreational interests and educational needs are also changing as the population we serve continues to grow, age and diversify. 

As your Commissioner, I will continue to advocate for the proper planning and maintenance of our parks to insure that they remain central gathering places for our communities to exercise, relax and recreate. At the same time, I will always respect our long-standing 80-20 policy, in which no more than 20 percent of our regional parks and preserves can ever be used for active purposes.

Under my leadership as Board Chair, Three Rivers has undertaken and successfully completed, on-budget and on-time, some of largest projects in our history. As one prime example, the long-needed Hyland Hills Ski Chalet was finally replaced, and a nationally recognized 5K cross-country facility developed with lighted and dependable snow. Year-round ski jumping is also offered through the partnership model we now use at Three Rivers. Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, we focus on our strengths: helping people develop life-long recreational skills, and providing excellent facilities that can be used for advanced training and competition through partnerships with nonprofits and other public agencies like school districts.hyland.png

I am particularly proud of our Park Partnerships with local communities that have allowed us to expand traditional Three Rivers offerings for first-tier residents. For example, trails and programs are being developed with the two cities that own Sochacki Park in Robbinsdale and Golden Valley, and Taft Park in Richfield now offers accessible kayaking & fishing, and a unique paddle station where visitors can rent watercraft. That local park will also be the first to host our new portable zip line and planetarium. A new partnership with MAC and Crystal will develop nature trails and programs in that community, and fitness courses are being developed in Brooklyn Center and Golden Valley parks. In partnership with various sponsors, we are also now offering a popular "signature race" series for a wide variety of winter and summer sports.

Looking forward, Three Rivers is finalizing plans for an exciting new regional park at Coon Rapids Dam. In partnership with Brooklyn Park, our unique Mississippi Gateway Regional Park will connect visitors with the dynamic environment of our nation’s preeminent river, and also serve as our environmental education & recreation outreach center, from which our exceptional staff will provide these programs to communities throughout the region we serve. 


Regional Trails

Hundreds of miles of Three Rivers regional trails offer biking, hiking, skiing and even equestrian opportunities throughout the west metro area. In fact,Family-bike-ride-1024x667.jpg we are responsible for about four of every ten miles of regional trails in the entire Twin Cities Metro Area. Trail use is by far the fastest growing amenity we offer, and now represents about 40 percent of our total visitors. Usage is also changing, with commuters to work, school and other destinations now accounting for about one-fourth of the use on some trails, and that creates demand for more year-around maintenance. 

As your Commissioner, I will continue to insure that the evolving demand for regional trail use is responsibly met. Three Rivers will prioritize proper planning and maintenance of our highly valued regional trail system, and will continue to coordinate with our local partners to improve linkages, especially for new and better north-south trail connections.

Under my leadership as Board Chair, our 15 mile Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail is now complete through Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, Richfield and Bloomington. This spectacular regional trail features beautiful boardwalks that celebrate the creek corridor, while providing an important link with our Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota River Bluffs, Cedar Lake and Nokomis-Minnesota River Regional Trails. Our new Nokomis-Minnesota River Regional Trail was also recently opened, and that connects our new Nine Mile Trail with Minneapolis Grand Rounds and the Minnesota River through Richfield and Bloomington.

9mile.pngTo meet growing demands and improve north-south connections, Three Rivers has initiated planning for two major west metro trails: one will link our French & Bryant Lake Regional Parks through the Minnetonka Community Center connection with our Lake Minnetonka Trail, and the other will extend our Dakota Rail Trail through downtown Wayzata and connect at the same central Minnetonka hub. We are also planning north-south trail corridors to connect our Baker and Carver Parks, and another to link our Nine Mile Trail with Hyland/Richardson and the Minnesota River along the CP rail corridor.

In addition to these major regional trail projects, I am particularly proud we have formed many new city partnerships to improve local trail connections. As one particularly unique example, we coordinated joint funding applications in Richfield (along 70th), Bloomington, Wayzata, Plymouth and Brooklyn Park to build "On-Ramp" trail connections from local trails to our regional network. Working cooperatively with our city partners, we have also made trail safety realignments, developed joint trailheads, and filled in missing links like the great ARTery connection through downtown Hopkins. We are also coordinating with regional transit planners to insure safe trail crossings at Blake, Wooddale and Beltline for the SWLRT line, and throughout the Bottineau LRT corridor.


Community Engagement

girl.pngBecause existing Three Rivers facilities were largely developed over the years in outlying areas, our extraordinary recreational and environmental education programs have not traditionally been as readily available for residents in first tier communities like Hopkins, Richfield, Robbinsdale and Brooklyn Center.

 As your Commissioner, one of my top priorities as Board Chair has been to greatly expand our outreach efforts to better serve first tier community residents by providing more off-site programs to reach children and seniors in their own communities. I am firmly committed to continuing this leadership to insure fairness for all those we

As one example of my commitment as Board Chair over the past six years, Three Rivers now delivers outdoor recreation and education activities with our Parks on the Go van to more than 200 community festivals, school events and health fairs every year. These outreach efforts are focused on serving the residents of first tier communities like Hopkins, Richfield and Robbinsdale. We even bring our mobile bike fleet into local community centers and schools to teach bike safety.

In one of our most successful new programs, city partnerships connect more children and seniors with nature through our Explorer Camps, which bring Three Rivers recreation and environmental programs into local city parks and senior centers. Rather than require visitors to come to our nature centers, we bring those same programs into our partner communities, and the Three Rivers Foundation provides funding to insure that the educational and recreational opportunities are available to all. As a couple of specific examples, our Senior Camps at the Hopkins Activity Center offer bird programs, geocaching, and urban wildlife experiences. Our Youth Camps at Edina’s Pamela Park introduce children to pollinators, birds, archery, animal signs, survival skills and outdoor games.


Educational Outreach

chicken.JPGFrom cradle to grave, we all have something to learn from the natural wonders that surround us. That's why education is so central to Three Rivers: our mission is to promote environmental stewardship through recreation and education in a natural resources-based park system.

As your Commissioner, I will continue to strengthen and expand partnerships with our schools. As a teacher and father of five, I am well aware of the great value that community programming offers for children, families and seniors. Drawing on this knowledge, I have successfully structured numerous mutually beneficial partnerships between school districts and communities over the years, and now have that same opportunity at Three Rivers.Senior_Hiking_Group.1.JPG

As a result of my leadership as Board Chair, we link our renowned Nature Centers with first tier schools, libraries and nonprofits to bring more outdoor experiences to those who might have traditionally had less access. As one great example, our Lowry Nature Center at Carver Park works with Hopkins School teachers to offer field trips, nature hikes, winter sports, and activities to explore insects, birds and pond life. We also partner with nonprofits to offer programs for those with special needs, such as wounded veterans, children on the autism spectrum, and at-risk youth.


Responsible Budgets


The future of our great park system is dependent on the forward-thinking investments we make today. With limited resources and limited options, Three Rivers faces practical and political challenges in maintaining quality services. Delivering good value for the tax dollar will be increasingly difficult as the gap continues to widen between service demands and the ongoing capacity to meet those expectations.

As your Commissioner, I will continue to bring my decades of experience in crafting sound budgets to meet the needs of our parks and trails and programs, while responsibly putting in place sustainable plans that guarantee sound operations well into the future. I am widely respected throughout the country for innovative financial strategies, and enjoy a solid reputation for getting things done in challenging economic times.

With my financial management background and leadership as Board Chair, Three Rivers has held property taxes flat for the last four years in a row. More importantly, we have done that with responsible management practices, not short-term gimmicks. For example, we now use long-range capital improvement programs (CIPs) to stabilize our debt commitments while preserving our future fiscal capacity to provide the facilities and services our millions of visitors have come to expect - and at a reasonable cost. Three Rivers has also adopted policies to responsibly manage reserve balances that protect against unforeseen circumstances, while not over-taxing those we serve.


Safe Parks for Everyone

Forests.jpgOur parks should be a safe place for our children and families to gather, learn and play. Proper maintenance and security are vital to the well being of our parks, and the safety of our loved ones.

As your Commissioner, I will continue to do everything possible to accurately assess risks in our parks, and to effectively mitigate those risks with forward-thinking, responsible actions. As Three Rivers Board Chair and as a former city manager, I have extensive experience with the management of public safety and environmental services.

Under my leadership as Board Chair, we have transitioned our traditional law enforcement activities through partnerships with local communities so that we are not duplicating services for the residents and taxpayers we both serve. This has allowed us to restructure our “serve and protect” activities with an emphasis on service. As a result of this re-emphasis, Three Rivers Park Service Officers (PSOs) provide valuable assistance to our 11 million annual visitors as they ensure compliance with necessary safety practices and regulations.


Three Rivers faces the same challenges as all public agencies, and I have a proven track record of strong leadership and responsible stewardship that will insure we can continue to provide the quality services we have all come to expect. As Board Chair, I am proud of what we have accomplished over the past six years, and remain committed to connecting people with nature through collaborative partnerships, long-term environmental stewardship and fiscally responsible management. 
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John Gunyou
Three Rivers Parks Board Chair