10 Years Strong, the Next Generation of Parks Event Series Still Sparks Conversation and Ideas

September 19, 2019 by Tom Evers

Earlier this summer, I was invited by the Knight Foundation to participate in a national forum centered on the public realm and the human connections generated through parks and public spaces. At the event, I learned alongside community activists, city planners, landscape architects, and park professionals about creative solutions to address the challenges cities nationwide face. One thing that struck me is how many experts who were highlighted at this event are alumni of our Next Generation of Parks event series. 

Hosting guest lecturers isn’t a new innovation. In fact, guest lectures are as much a part of Minneapolis’s DNA as our trails, beaches, and ball fields. The Minneapolis park system was inspired in part by a visiting lecturer, Horace Cleveland, in 1872. A nationally renowned landscape architect already, Cleveland arrived in Minneapolis at a time when Central Park was still a controversial innovation. He was invited to deliver a public lecture about the future of city parks and their role in creating community health and prosperity. His ideas would inspire business leaders, Charles Loring among them, to hire Cleveland to design a park system that defines Minneapolis today with its signature feature, the Grand Rounds.

This season marks ten years since the Minneapolis Parks Foundation first introduced the Next Generation of Parks event series. It’s very likely you’ve attended one of these free events, and hopefully left inspired. Over the past decade, we’ve learned about how cities are innovating – whether it’s the transition of the Thames in London or the creation of Templehof Field in Berlin. We learned from planners who use public space to heal cities and from landscape architects who are preparing our cities for the new climate reality. We’ve learned about the High Line in Manhattan, Millennium Park in Chicago, and Thorncliffe Community in Toronto. And we’ve explored how humans forge connections through vibrant, well-designed public parks. 

We host this series to spark a conversation and initiate action toward local solutions. We host the series to help ensure that Minneapolis remains an international leader in parks. We host this series because we believe the best ideas are generated when we can incorporate great thinking from elsewhere and adapt solutions for our local challenges. Perhaps mostly, we host the series because parks are powerful agents of change and the stories they create are inspiring.

In addition to the free public lecture that is at the center of our event series, we also create opportunities for a workshop or roundtable with local practitioners in the speaker’s area of expertise. And we make time to acquaint our guests with our renowned park system so they can learn from us, as well. I am humbled when I look at the breadth of ideas and innovations the Next Generation of Parks series has explored.

So please join me this season as we recognize a decade of events. Our first featured speaker of this season, Thursday, Oct. 10, is Mitchell J. Silver, the acclaimed Commissioner of New York City Parks and Recreation, president-elect of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and a former president of the American Planning Association. He is committed to developing a vision for New York that distributes park resources equitably and thoughtfully so that each neighborhood park represents the texture of its community. As the Minneapolis Park Board develops their next 10-year comprehensive plan, Silver’s experience can help us all shape goals and outcomes that benefit all Minneapolis residents. As always, the event is free and I encourage you to pre-register here.

Joining Mitch Silver as speakers this season will be Dr. Marla Spivak, a MacArthur Fellow and founder of the internationally recognized Spivak Honey Bee Lab at the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Craig L. Wilkins, an architect and planner who is innovating how community engagement can transform design. 

I hope to see you and hear your stories of past speakers that have inspired you.

Featured Image: Maurice Cox, then Detroit’s Director of Planning, spoke at Northrop Auditorium in 2016. Cox was recently appointed Commissioner of Planning and Development for Chicago.

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