We’re All for Parks (and Parks for All)

April 23, 2019 by Tom Evers

The Minneapolis park system was born from a plan drafted by renowned Landscape Architect Horace Cleveland. To this day, the original vision he established continues to inform how our city grows, who benefits, and how. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has continued to build on that original vision with new aspirations and expectations for how parks, trails, and public waterways serve the whole community.

Minneapolis Park Board staff and leadership have referenced the Comprehensive Plan, approved in 2007, to guide their decisions and investments. With the current Comprehensive Plan expiring in 2020, our public partner, the Minneapolis Park Board is launching a wide-ranging community process to prepare for the next decade. Called Parks for All, the process seeks to engage the community, Park Board staff, institutional partners, and elected commissioners to shape the future direction of the Minneapolis park system.  A companion to the City’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan, Parks for All will help envision the park system and city we want to become.

“Parks for All is as much a process as it is a product,” Carrie Ann Christensen told me. Christensen is a Minneapolis Park Board senior planner and shepherd of the forthcoming Comprehensive Plan. I caught up with Christensen last week, as Parks for All planning got into full swing with the first round of applications for Community Collaborators, an important aspect of the plan’s community engagement.

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation is the fiscal sponsor of the community collaborator program, an aspect of Parks for All which decentralizes and diversifies this sweeping planning process by involving businesses, institutions, nonprofits, informal groups, and cultural organizations as both the engaged and the conductor of engagement. Community collaborators will develop questions and themes to explore during comprehensive planning, collect input from important sectors of the city that might not traditionally participate, analyze data, and provide feedback on the plan draft. The deadline for the first round of community collaborators has been extended to May 10, 2019.

Look for Opportunities to Connect

Community collaborators is one of several engagement processes the Park Board is undertaking to build the Comprehensive Plan. “We see this as consensus-building process, a two-year journey to set Park Board priorities with community by inviting community to the table, but also by going out to find tables in community and sit with them,” Christensen said. For example, a paid Youth Design Team, recruited from across the city, will be involved at all levels of planning over the next two years, including participating on the Community Advisory Committee, as well as serving as ambassadors to community, all while using design thinking to understand needs and shape solutions.

There are many other ways to get involved:

  • Invite Park Board staff to attend a meeting or event with your neighborhood, organization, or community. Reach out to Carrie Christensen at cchristensen@minneapolisparks.org to share your ideas!
  • Come to community meetings and events about the Comprehensive Plan (meetings will be posted on the project website as they are scheduled)
  • Sign up for emailed project updates on the project website
  • Share your dreams in a Park Dream Box at your neighborhood rec center
  • Look for Park Board staff at your neighborhood park and community events – ice-cream socials, Open Streets, and more – this summer
  • Fill out the Dream Park Survey online

The need to shape and activate the places we share has never been more important. In the next ten years, American cities will be redefined by how they develop, maintain and program our civic commons –places we gather, the activities that bind us together and the celebrations that inform who we are becoming. If you love Minneapolis and our vital park system, please make time to join in imagining the next chapter.

Featured image courtesy MPRB. Look for a Park Dream Box at your neighborhood rec center!

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