Mike Petrasek

Mike Petrasek: Legacy of Parks and Recreation

Thanks to Cherokee Service for their support.

This is part of an ongoing series talking to the chairs of West St. Paul committees and commissions.

West St. Paul has a series of parks and preserved green spaces that enhance our community. It’s where we play and get outside to enjoy nature. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee oversees these spaces and the recreation that happens there.

Mike Petrasek has served on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee since 1994. He’s been the chair of the committee for the past 18 years and the City Council just reappointed him for another two-year term.

“You always have to consider the good of the city as a whole.”

Mike Petrasek

Of course in the midst of coronavirus, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meetings are canceled, as are all Parks and Recreation events. Though parks are still open for socially distanced enjoyment, they are encouraging people to stay off the playgrounds.

Mike Petrasek: Community Voice

Petrasek has lived in West St. Paul since the mid-1970s. He’s retired from ISD 197 where he worked in human resources for more than two decades. He still works part time for the district and the Minnesota Twins (on game days you’ll find him in the Delta 360 Club or the Bat & Barrel assisting Twins fans). Petrasek’s wife, Terri, is a familiar face as the administrative assistant at Garlough Environmental Magnet School. Mike and Terri have two kids and five grandkids.

On Friday nights you can hear Petrasek as the announcer at Sibley High School football games, something he’s done for 22 years.

Talking With Mike Petrasek

We talked with Petrasek about serving on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.

How are you doing with the social distancing and coronavirus measures?

Personally my wife and I have been hanging around home a lot more. With the weather being nicer I’ve been getting outside and walking a lot more, along with a lot of other folks. Really only been leaving home to do shopping.

Parks and Recreation are hit pretty hard by these measures—what advice do you have for families wanting to be outside?

I think people should enjoy the parks while practicing social distancing and should stay off the playground equipment. The more diligent we are now about following all the CDC suggestions the sooner we can get back to normal. 

You’ve served on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee for a while—what drew you to this role and why have you stuck around for so long?

I was drawn to the Parks and Recreation Committee by a need to give back to the community and wanting to be involved in local politics. 

At one point I thought I would use my involvement in the Parks and Recreation Committee as a stepping stone to possibly running for a higher office—haven’t pulled the trigger on that yet. (And no plans to run this year.)

I guess I’ve stuck around so long because I feel I’m still contributing and there always seems to be that one more thing I’d like to see through.

What’s it like serving on a committee like this? It can’t all be minutia and details like what color to paint a shed, right?

We are an advisory committee for the City Council. We gather and filter information to help the City Council make informed decisions regarding city parks. 

I enjoy having my input heard and gathering information and listening to pros and cons of various projects. You always have to consider the good of the city as a whole.

I do feel the City Council values our input and it does help them. It can be frustrating at times when funding is limited or the Council moves in a direction other than what the Parks and Recreation Committee advised. 

What’s changed in West St. Paul’s parks over the years? How are things getting better and where do we need to improve?

There’s the Harmon Park transformation, building the frisbee golf course, reinstating basketball backboards, how to use the property the art park is going to be on, maintaining current equipment and buildings, etc.

We are constantly evaluating our city parks. We have recently started a process were we a picking a park or two a month and going through them as to what equipment may need to be replaced or other amenities we would like to see added to the parks. 

When I look at parks, I try to make sure there is something in parks for all age levels. We’re not all able to climb on playground equipment and play ball—some of us just like to be outside and enjoy nature and are simply looking for a bench or a picnic table.

When it comes to making improvements, the biggest challenge is how popular projects will be to everyone in West St Paul. We are often approached by citizens and different organizations about the projects—pickle ball, RC cars, skateboarding, etc. We have to consider if there is a real interest in any one idea or if this is one or two citizens expressing a wish they have. Projects often get stalled out when it comes to finding funding. The city has very little discretionary money. 

How can people get involved if they want to support West St. Paul’s parks? 

There are always opportunities to be involved with West St. Paul parks:

  • We are looking for organizations to adopt parks. That involves going through the park and picking up garbage twice or three times a year. 
  • We have recently had Boy Scouts do their Eagle projects in our parks, that is another opportunity. 
  • The Parks and Recreation Committee is responsible for the Halloween Celebration and Easter Egg Hunt each year and there are volunteer opportunities there as well.

What do you love about West St. Paul?

Although West St. Paul is a fairly big city, it has a small town feel. I love the mix of big national chain stores and restaurants as well a local stores and bars and restaurants. I have always felt safe in West St. Paul, and it’s been a great place to grow up in and raise a family.

Thanks to Mike Petrasek for his longtime service in improving our parks and for sharing his thoughts with us.

This concludes our series talking with the chairs of West St. Paul committees and commissions. Previously, we talked with Environmental Committee Chair Kristy Otte, Planning Commission Chair Morgan Kavanaugh and Mark Tessmer, former chair of the Charter Commission (OK, he was the chair when we talked, but then a week later he stepped down as chair.)

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