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Cell Tower Funds


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

The cell tower agreement

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

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

Community input on current potential projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

  6. E&P also entertains proposals from community members.

Projects currently prioritized by the Committee 

The Environment and Parks Committee currently has a long list of potential projects, based on all of the outreach set forth above. Here are a few of the projects being considered: 

  1. Improve the Prior Avenue entrance of Merriam Park: Replace the chain-link fence and deteriorated sign with updated fencing and signage, and create a path where there is currently a dirt trail, to form a welcoming gateway to this signature park. This project has been prioritized in the Merriam Park master plan.

  2. Improve the picnic facilities on the hilly area of Merriam Park: Add grills and picnic tables to the substandard amenities currently there, and include more bench seating in shady spots near the picnic area. This project reflects resident input that more community gathering places are necessary near the playground.

  3. Improvements to the Desnoyer Park skating rink: Add a timer to the rink light switch and provide a hose wheel to facilitate efficient rink flooding.  This project is a priority of the Desnoyer Park Improvement Association.

  4. Pop-up Adventure Playground events: Building off of the success of our Pop-Up Playground in Merriam Park last September, these events could be brought to other parks within Union Park.

  5. Annual community building events in Desnoyer and Merriam Parks: Each year, a small portion of the funds is used to support these annual events.

Interested in getting involved? 

Residents who are interested in helping decide how the Cell Tower Funds should be expended are welcome to attend our monthly Parks and Recreation Committee meetings. People who attend three consecutive meetings are eligible to vote as Committee members. If you have an idea for a project for the 2017 Cell Tower Fund cycle, please review the below criteria, guidelines and timeline and contact our Executive Director, at or 651-645-6887 to discuss your proposal.

Criteria for Cell Tower Funds (CTF) requests

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

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

Guidelines used by committee to evaluate proposals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Individuals or groups interested in pursuing use of Cell Tower Funds for implementing improvements or programming in the parks of Union Park should be able to answer detailed questions surrounding their proposals. Please submit the proposal in writing and plan to appear before the committee to elaborate on your idea supporting your proposal.

Annual timeline for project proposals




E&P reviews and prioritizes proposals


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


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


Approved projects go through the City approval process


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


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


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


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


Motions to approve additional projects are passed by E&P


Motions to approve additional projects are passed by the UPDC board


City completes project implementation for the year


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