2017 Year in Review

January 19, 2018 by Tom Evers

As we kick off another exciting year, we’re taking a look back at our accomplishments in 2017. With your support, and through collaboration with our partners, we’re focused on transforming human life by aligning philanthropic investment with community vision. Since 2003, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation has raised more than $17.8 million for transformative parks. Below is a snapshot of how you helped us make a difference in 2017.

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RiverFirst Initiative

One hundred and forty years ago, Minneapolis parks founders envisioned the city’s waterfronts as a natural oasis from the industrialized world. Today, we’re finally fulfilling that vision through RiverFirst. When complete, this generational parks-creation effort will add 23 acres of parkland and eight miles of trails where it’s needed most, in North and Northeast Minneapolis.

RiverFirst Campaign

  • We’ve raised $13.4 million in gifts and commitments toward our $17.9M goal. Thank you!
  • We increased the campaign goal by 20% to fulfill the campaign’s potential and ensure historic mill remnants at Water Works will be revealed, restored, and celebrated for generations to come.
  • We connected 350+ campaign prospects and supporters to the Mississippi River and RiverFirst Signature Projects, through more than 35 guided tours and gatherings.

Signature Projects

Water Works

Great Northern Greenway River Link

  • We continued to build on our powerful partnership with Juxtaposition Arts’ Environmental Design Studio, inviting youth to envision and design future parks on the Upper Riverfront. Our community partners included Project Sweetie Pie, Asian Media Access, and Urban Strategies.
  • We engaged 50+ Minneapolis youth with the Mississippi River by bike and kayak, many for the first time.
  • We supported SlowRoll Minneapolis, a weekly community-led effort to bike North Minneapolis. The Parks Foundation co-hosted four rides, introducing some 75 community members to RiverFirst projects and bringing light to the critical connections (and dis-connections) between the river and North Minneapolis.

2017 Parks Investments

Spotlight on Little Free Libraries

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation anchored a coalition of Minneapolis non-profits, including Minnesota Public Radio and The Minneapolis Foundation, to install 55 new Little Free Libraries in Minneapolis Parks. We celebrated this accomplishment with “Book It to the Parks,” a day-long read-a-thon at all Minneapolis recreation centers, June 21, 2017.

  • We installed free lending libraries in 48 of the 49 Minneapolis recreation centers (one already had a library) – some on wheels!
  • 100% of Minneapolis recreation centers now have a free lending library.
  • More than 5,000 books for children and adults were donated through the Parks Foundation.
  • We included books written in 5 different languages, including Dakota, Hmong, Somali, and Spanish.
  • More than $4,000 in labor and materials was donated to install the free lending libraries.

More Parks Investments

  • Through the Parks Foundation, an anonymous donor directed a $250,000 gift to Cedar South Beach improvements and new permanent restroom.
  • Through the Parks Foundation, the Lupient Family directed a $45,000 gift for swim lessons and lifeguard training in Minneapolis parks.

2017 Events

Next Generation of Parks Event Series

Our ever-inspiring and always-free event series continued in 2017 with energizing talk featuring world-class parks, visionary planners, and purveyors of play from around the country and the globe, including Mark Johnson, co-founder, Civitas; Janet Lansbury, author and child development expert, and; Gia Biagi, Principal of Urbanism for Studio Gang.

Sunrise on the Mississippi

Our annual fundraiser continued to grow, as 292 attendees braved the fall chill to gather at Bohemian Flats Park and celebrate how parks connect us to each other and the natural world. Our largest event ever was headlined by author and adventurer, James Edward Mills, who challenged us to address the “adventure gap” keeping people of color from experiencing the personal and social benefits of the outdoors.

Community Events

The Parks Foundation co-hosted three community events in 2017, including the annual Earth Day Clean-Up, Get Outdoors Day, and the PopUP Dinner.

Putting Parks in Perspective

Seeing the world through the eyes of parks users and supporters helps sustain our focus on creating common ground. Here are two compelling stories.

Humans of Minneapolis

Visit Humans of Minneapolis for more portraits from Stephanie Glaros’ powerful 2017 series.

Iliah with Amaris, Nasir, & Ariela at Bryant Square Park
“I take my kids travelling a lot. It’s not common that you can just drive down any street and find a decent park on the corner that has playground equipment and is clean. I think that’s one of the most amazing things about living here, being able to use the park system. We’re so lucky to have it, because it really is a gift.”

Donor Profiles Blog Series

Visit Community Profiles for more stories from our supporters.

Rickie Ressler
“We don’t often think about how a park system, a background infrastructure, enhances our lives and experiences. Yet it is one of those threads that weaves through the fabric of our life experiences. A thread that not only brings beauty and pleasure to our lives but in fact, strengthens the bonds of community and families.”

Collaboration and Partnerships

We are grateful for the role that collaboration plays in helping achieve our strategic goals in 2017. We’d like to thank the following agencies for their partnership:

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

City of Minneapolis • Friends of the Mississippi River • Juxtaposition Arts
Minneapolis Institute of Arts • Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership
Minneapolis SlowRoll • Minnesota Public Radio
Mississippi Watershed Management Organization
University of Minnesota, Department of Landscape Architecture • Walker Art Center

Last, but by no means least, we want to express our gratitude for our donors and volunteers. The considerable advances the Parks Foundation made in 2017 were only possible because of your generous support. Thank you!

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