With 2019 promising to be a year of impact and achievement, we’re taking a look back at the milestones in 2018 that helped us get here. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we’ve raised more than $20 million since 2005 for transformative parks, an accomplishment accelerated in 2018, one of the most successful fundraising years in our history. Our supporter base has also grown – by almost 20% in 2018 – which means we’re connecting even more people to the power of parks to transform human life. All of this is made possible by the involvement of our donors. Thank you!


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RiverFirst Campaign

  • Individuals, foundations, and corporations have made more than $16.4 million in gifts and commitments toward our $17.9M goal. Thank you!
  • In November, we announced Bank of America’s $1 million catalytic contribution to the RiverFirst Campaign, which positioned us to meet our fundraising goal needed to break ground on Water Works Mezzanine and the Great Northern Greenway River Link – two signature projects within the RiverFirst Initiative.
  • In the last year, campaign committee members and Parks Foundation staff have hosted more than 95 visits and gatherings, including house parties, community meetings, guided riverfront walking and biking tours, and Water Taxi boat tours. Combined with public presentations, including to the inaugural Manova Summit, this has connected nearly 700 supporters and potential supporters to the Mississippi River and the campaign.
  • Philanthropic funding is leveraging additional public investment on the riverfront, including a successful effort to secure $15M for Upper Harbor Terminal and $10M for regional park improvements, including Water Works.

Signature Projects
Water Works

  • In September, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board revealed the final refined design for Water Works, launching the last phase before construction begins in spring 2019.
  • The refined plan concentrates the pavilion in the Bassett mill remnants and maintains river views, play areas, and dining space with a modified 2-story design; pedestrian access, traffic calming and naturalized play spaces come to life through smart landscaping, tree-sheltered city steps, creative traffic flow, and buried power lines.
  • Site preparation gained momentum in fall 2018 with temporary excavation of the area known as the “South Plaza,” along with on-going exploratory archeology and repair inside the Bassett mill structure.
  • Storytelling continues to be an important creative element and will be supported with a $450,000 city arts grant. Over time, visitors will add their own stories through art, play, performance, food, and social media.

Great Northern Greenway River Link

  • A design team led by Twin Cities-based TEN x TEN Landscape Architecture and 4RM+ULA Architecture was selected to finalize the design for the Great Northern Greenway overlook at 26th Avenue North, connecting neighborhoods to the Mississippi River for the first time in generations.
  • Design work and community engagement is underway, in advance of planned construction beginning in 2019.
  • The Parks Foundation continued its partnership with Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA), bringing more than 50 youth to the parks design and planning process, through bike tours with SlowRoll Minneapolis, canoe trips on the Upper Riverfront with Wilderness Inquiry, and engagement with Asian Media Access and Farview Park YouthLine.
  • JXTA youth apprentice, Dara Crawford, presented at a sold-out Sunrise on the Mississippi about her work connecting her peers to the river.

Parks Investments

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  • NE Recreation Center Grand OpeningSupported in part by a $100,000 gift from the Lupient Family, the newest recreation center in Minneapolis parks opened in March to fill a great need as a community gathering space.
  • Art Lending Library – In recognition of the role parks play in bringing vital resources to the community, the Parks Foundation supported the Minneapolis Art Lending Library and featured one of their lending events in the spring.
  • Little Free Libraries – The Parks Foundation re-filled all 53 free lending libraries we helped install in Minneapolis parks in 2017. More than 5,500 books were donated by our supporters and stocked by the Parks Foundation in 2018.
  • Cedar South Beach Improvements – Made possible by a generous leadership gift from a Parks Foundation supporter, the Minneapolis Park Board expanded improvements at Cedar Lake’s South Beach to include a three-season restroom and wash station, which opened in summer 2018.
  • Swim Programming and Jim Lupient Water Park Improvements – The Lupient Family continues its tradition of support for swim programming throughout of the Minneapolis Park System, including lifeguard recruitment and training, swim lessons and scholarships, culturally-appropriate swimwear, and group pool entrance scholarships for youth-focused community partners. In addition, this year, the Lupient Family is underwriting design exploration for a new bathhouse to replace the 50+ year-old structure currently at Jim Lupient Water Park.


Spotlight On: Walk & Talks
Introduced in 2018, these curated small-group explorations of little-known Minneapolis Parks places and practices were an immediate hit. Participants in the sold-out events walked a combined 150+ miles, covering everything from RiverFirst and the Winchell trail, to Minnehaha and Shingle creeks.

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“I feel more curious about nature and the whole park system after our walk Wednesday. I believe the park system is a very precious resource for everyone’s health on all levels.”

– Walk & Talk participant and Parks Foundation donor

Sunrise on the Mississippi
Bigger than ever, our annual fundraiser has become a “you have to be there” event every fall. This year’s 310 attendees heard Lynn Ross talk about the need for a robust civic commons – those public spaces (including parks) that encourage us as a broader community to opt-in to shared experiences, building trust during a time of increasing discord. Attendees also gave generously, helping us raise a record $100,000 from the event.

Next Generation of Parks Event Series
In 2018, the Parks Foundation hosted two of our most popular events since the program began in 2010: artist, healer, and placemaker Lily Yeh (March) and The Nature Fix author Florence Williams (November). We also showcased to acclaim our own Minneapolis Parks Fellow, Bruce Chamberlain (March), and Sabina Ali (May), a dynamic community organizer from Toronto.

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Community Events

  • The Parks Foundation co-hosted three community events in 2018, including Earth Day Clean-Up (May), Get Outdoors Day (June), and the PopUp Dinner (August).
  • We also participated in numerous community events, including the Community Connections Conference (February), Slow Roll bike rides (June-September), and Open Streets Northeast (August) and Broadway (September).

Collaboration and Partnerships

By our nature, the Parks Foundation is a collaborative organization, working together with numerous partners towards our goal of transforming lives through parks. We’re grateful for the partnership we shared with these organizations in 2018:

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

City of Minneapolis • Friends of the Mississippi River • Green Minneapolis • Juxtaposition Arts • Loppet Foundation • Minneapolis College of Art & Design • Minneapolis Institute of Arts Minneapolis Slow Roll • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources • Minnesota Public Radio • Mississippi Park Connection • Mississippi Watershed Management Organization • National Park Service • Pillsbury United Communities • United States Forest Service • University of Minnesota Department of Landscape Architecture • Walker Art Center • Wilderness Inquiry

YOUR DONATION helps ensure the parks in our city remain accessible, equitable and serving everyone.