2019 Year in Review

This has been a breakthrough year for the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. Since 2005, we’ve raised more than $22.3 million in support of the Minneapolis Park Foundation and in 2019 alone, we delivered more than $4.7 million for new parks and programs in the Minneapolis Parks System. As we close out the year (and decade), I want to pause and reflect on some of the good work your donations have helped accomplish this year.


RiverFirst Signature Projects
Water Works

  • In August, we celebrated a much-anticipated groundbreaking with many of our donors and partners including Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent Al Bangoura and Commissioner Jono Cowgill, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, and representatives from the Bank of America and General Mills foundations. 
  • We will continue to provide construction updates throughout next year leading up to the fall 2020 opening of the park and through the opening of the new Sioux Chef restaurant in spring 2021.

[Related Content: Water Works Construction: November Update]

Community members gather to break ground on Water Works.

Great Northern Greenway Overlook

  • In June, the Park Board and Parks Foundation celebrated the community informed design for the Overlook at 26th Avenue North. An on-site news conference featured Minnesota State Rep. Fue Lee, Minneapolis Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison, Minneapolis Park Board Superintendent Al Bangoura, and Juxtaposition Arts Chief Cultural Producer & Co-founder Roger Cummings.
  • Elements of the Overlook concept are informed by engagement and design ideas developed by Environmental Design Studio youth apprentices at Juxtaposition Arts, a partnership brought to the project by the Parks Foundation over the last four years.
(L to R) Councilmember Ellison, Tom Evers, Superintendent Bangoura, Roger Cummings at the Overlook announcement.

RiverFirst Capital Campaign

  • We’ve raised $17.5 million toward our $18.1 million goal, thanks to the generosity of hundreds of individuals, foundations, and corporate supporters. Thank you!
  • Richard M Schulze Family Foundation’s challenge grant resulted in $500,000 in new contributions many from first time donors who stepped up to help us meet the challenge.  Thank you and welcome to all those making a first-time gift to the Parks Foundation.

Parks Investments & Community Support

Spotlight On: Swimming for Life
The Lupient Family’s support through the Parks Foundation for Minneapolis Parks swim programming and facilities entered its fourth year. More than 3,800 young people benefitted from scholarships for swim lessons and lifeguard training, pool admittance fee scholarships, and culturally appropriate swimwear, while two new water features at the Jim Lupient Waterpark in Northeast entertained thousands more little ones and their adults.

“Because of the resources provided …
I went from [a pool attendant] who didn’t
know how to swim to a lifeguard instructor.”
– Mohamed Mohamed

Mohamed Mohamed teaching a swimming lesson.

[Related Content: Community Profile: Mohamed Mohamed is Swimming for Life]

Free Lending Libraries in Minneapolis Parks
The Parks Foundation continued our support for 55 Little Free Libraries in 52 Minneapolis parks. This year, we donated more than 2,000 culturally relevant books in multiple languages, including 490 new water-themed storybooks in English and Spanish, which was supported by a grant from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization.

Slow Roll Twin Cities
The Parks Foundation sponsored Slow Roll Twin Cities again this year. A community-led organization co-founded by members of the Major Taylor Bicycling Group, Slow Roll TC “aims to challenge negative perceptions of the city and foster economic revitalization through social bike rides.”


Sunrise on the Mississippi
Nearly 300 attendees greeted the day with us at Sunrise on the Mississippi, our signature annual fundraising breakfast. This year we featured a local keynote speaker – MPR’s Chief Meteorologist Paul Huttner – who made the connection between parks and climate relief.

Paul Huttner spoke at Sunrise on the Mississippi.

[Related Content: 6 Ways Parks Mitigate Climate Change Impacts]

Next Generation of Parks Events Series
Entering its 10th anniversary season, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation event series continues to highlight the intersection of parks and public space with the critical issues of our time, including: Equitable community investment and green gentrification (Robert Hammond, March 2019), prescribing parks for better health (Dr. Robert Zarr, May 2019), and redesigning parks for connection and cultural relevancy (Mitchell J. Silver, October 2019). Nearly 800 people attended these free public events, while our related roundtables and working sessions allowed professionals and advocates to dig deeper into the issues. Watch videos from these and other events on our Videos page.

MPR’s Brandt Williams facilitated audience conversation with Mitchell J. Silver at October’s Next Generation of Parks event.

Walk & Talk Events Series
Our popular curated events returned for a second season and explored new places and pastimes in Minneapolis parks. From the Central Riverfront to Loring Park and the Sculpture Garden, Parks Foundation friends and supporters traversed several miles and made new connections through these small-group, information-rich gatherings.

PopUp Dinner
Since 2013, the Parks Foundation has been the beneficiary of the annual PopUp Dinner, a dress-all-in-white picnic-in-a-park with a devoted following.  For the third year in a row the event was hosted at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden – an iconic park within the Minneapolis park system.

Community Events
In addition to our signature events, the Parks Foundation co-hosted the Earth Day Clean-up (April) and Get Outdoors Day (June) this year. We also participated in several community events, including the Community Connections Conference (February) and Wilderness Inquiry’s Partner Paddle (June).

Get Outdoors Day introduces kids and their adults to parks and activities everyone can enjoy.

National Conversations

As our work delves deeper into civic and social issues that intersect with parks, the Parks Foundation has taken a bigger role in national conversations. Key learnings from these events inform our work here in Minneapolis.

  • We led a coalition of Minneapolis/St. Paul civic leaders to a one day visit of the 11th Street Bridge Project in Washington D.C., a model for equitable public space development.
  • This year, we were invited to become a part of The High Line Network, a national convening led by the eponymous park around large-scale infrastructure reuse projects and how to address gentrification and displacement.
  • We participated in the Knight Public Spaces Forum, which brought together parks professionals and nonprofit and foundation leaders to learn from one another and share solutions for the complex set of challenges cities face as we develop the next generation of parks.

Collaboration & Partnerships

We’re grateful for the partnerships with the many nonprofit organizations working to improve our parks, address climate change through public lands and work to engage the community in design and program conversations. There are too many to list in total, but here are few that have been instrumental in our work this year.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

City of Minneapolis • Friends of the Mississippi River • Green Minneapolis Juxtaposition Arts • Loppet Foundation • Minnesota Public Radio
Mississippi Park Connection • MWMO • Pillsbury United Communities
Slow Roll Twin Cities • UMN Department of Landscape Architecture
Walker Art Center • Wilderness Inquiry

No look back would be complete without recognizing that these accomplishments are made possible by the support of our donors. Your generosity has made the Parks Foundation the primary philanthropic partner for this world-class system that gives so much to us all in return. Together, we can help fulfill the promise of parks for generations to come. Thank you!

Featured image: Get Outdoors Day at Powderhorn Park

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