Hello, my name is Tony Yarusso, and this spring I was appointed to the Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commission for District E, filling the seat vacated by Tom Gamec.

I am a long-time resident of Shoreview, and was introduced to camping as an infant. As a teenager I was active in Boy Scouts, and earned my Eagle Scout award in 2002 with a service project that involved working with the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation's Minnesota/Dakotas chapter to put on the region's first camp for kids with inflammatory bowel disease. Today I serve on the board for a consortium of Lutheran Bible Camps and enjoy hiking, camping, cycling, canoeing, and fishing. My "real job" is in IT, so I can also provide insight on some technical aspects that come up with how to best share information about our resources with citizens in an era dominated by the Internet and electronic communication.

The district I represent on the commission consists of the portion of Ramsey County north of the St. Paul city limits and west of Rice Street plus North Oaks, and the portion of Anoka County north of 85th Avenue and west of Sunset Road (the Blaine/Lino Lakes and Ham Lake/Columbus border) (see map). For those of you who may not be familiar with the Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commission, it is an advisory body of the Metropolitan Council, and more information on the commission and the regional parks system are available on http://www.metrocouncil.org/parks/index.htm .

I see this position as a way to guide planning for the Metro area in a way that protects and maintains the quality of our existing parks and trails system while promoting greater opportunities for connectivity between resources, innovative improvements to current spaces (like those recently done at Tamarack Nature Center), and encouraging the next generation to get involved with enjoying and promoting the region's resources. Given the state's current funding position, there is a particularly strong emphasis on providing links between existing parks and ensuring continuity along trail corridors, as those are often projects that provide the greatest value in return for relatively small expenditures. For this district, that means things like working with MnDOT to ensure that bridge replacement projects where Highway 96 crosses I-35W and I-35E include adding width to carry the Highway 96 Regional Trail across them safely (also connecting to Long Lake Regional Park on the west), completing links between the Central Anoka County Trail and Rum River Trail, being involved in improvements at Coon Rapids Dam, and completing segments of the Rice Creek Trails.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you have, or that you receive about regional resources from citizens. I hope to use this site to aid in sharing MPOSC activities with the public.