Common Ground

Every day during this year of change our Minneapolis parks have helped us navigate a new normal and reconnect us with nature and each other.

We’re grateful for our donors, who choose to give back to our parks through contributions to the Minneapolis Parks Foundation so we can invest in equitable access to parks and programs throughout the city. Our supporter base grew by 7% in 2021, helping us direct another $500,000 back to parks and programming this year alone, including through our newly introduced People for Parks Fund. Thank you!

With the completion of the Parks Foundation’s first capital campaign in January, we reached a milestone $26.6 million raised since our founding in 2003, and we turned our attention to where we can again make the greatest difference aligning philanthropic investment and community vision. I’m looking forward to sharing more about that in 2022, and until then please join me in looking back at some of this year’s highlights.

RiverFirst Signature Projects

More than a decade of planning and development, and six years of fundraising, culminated in the 2021 openings of two RiverFirst Signature ProjectsWater Works at Mill Ruins Park and the 26th Ave N Overlook.

Overlook at 26th Ave N

Parks Foundation Board Vice Chair Sarah Duniway and I were delighted to announce the completion of the Overlook at 26th Ave N on May 11, in partnership with Superintendent Al Bangoura, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board; Minneapolis Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison, Juxtaposition Arts’ Roger Cummings; and designers James Garrett (4RM+ULA) and Satoko Muratake (TENxTEN). The project represents a community vision for the space – the first on the “north bank” of the Mississippi River in nearly a generation – as well as an on-going commitment to continue to support opportunities for Northsiders to connect to nature and each other through access to the river.

Water Works Park and Pavilion

Two weeks later, Board Chair Dorothy Bridges and I were honored to again join Supt. Bangoura, along with Park Board of Commissioner’s President Jono Cowgill, in celebrating the opening of Water Works at Mill Ruins Park with a virtual ribbon cutting. We were joined in the commemoration by recorded messages of support from key RiverFirst supporters, including Campaign Chair Paul Reyelts, as well as General Mills and Bank of America, and elected officials including Mayor Jacob Frey and Councilmember Steve Fletcher. The city’s newest gathering space – dubbed the city’s “front porch” and “a minor urban miracle” by the Minneapolis StarTribune – is also its oldest. The deep and abiding connection Dakota and Ojibwe peoples have to this location is centered on site with Owamni by The Sioux Chef – the first of its kind restaurant that celebrates Indigenous food and food systems.

Park Investments & Community Initiatives

People for Parks Fund

With its first full year under its belt, the People for Parks Fund is already in full bloom. In June, we announced our inaugural community grants – $35,000 for six equity-aligned projects that connect people to each other and the natural world. From finding healing through birdwatching, to a community-service enhanced futsal tournament and sharing traditions old and new at intergenerational Somali games – these community-grown programs have enriched hundreds of lives throughout Minneapolis and the region.

[Read: Grantee stories on our blog]

Reimagining the Civic Commons

Reimagining the Civic Commons has emerged as a pivotal framework for building momentum for our work in community. As we expand our investments and programmatic support along and beyond the Upper Mississippi Riverfront, RCC’s national learning network of practitioners in nine other cities is an inspiration and sounding board as we strive to coalesce around this core idea: That reimagining Minneapolis parks can help counter the trends of increasing economic segregation, social isolation, and distrust.

[Read: RCC’s Medium channel]

Little Free Libraries

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation helped keep the more than 50 Little Free Libraries in Minneapolis Parks stocked. This year we received more than 3,700 books, including 438 children’s books from New York-based The Lisa Libraries and the remainder from the Kitchigami Regional Library.


Next Generation of Parks

It’s virtually impossible to overstate how delighted we are with Next Generation of Parks events in 2021: With more than 1500 registrants, it was by far the most popular season in the free series’ 12-year history. The season took off in February with Dudley Edmondson and Monica Bryand leading Winter Birding 101 (such a hit that we added Winter Birding 102 later that month) and continued in April with an exclusive preview of Owamni by The Sioux Chef from partners Sean Sherman and Dana Thompson. This fall brought us new insights into Race, Place, and Representation, from Kofi Boone and Tabitha Montgomery, with the Parks Foundation’s Director of Project Implementation, Paul Bauknight facilitating the discussion.

[Watch: Next Gen videos on Vimeo and YouTube]

Posters for Parks Show

Growing our support for the People for Parks Fund, the 6th annual Posters for Parks Show set its own records for the second straight year. People in 24 states purchased 837 posters, helping us reach more than $36,000 in sales. Artists receive 50% of each poster sale, and proceeds from the remaining 50% support the fund. We’re grateful to the 40 artists who participated this year and to the ongoing partnership of event coproducer LoveMplsParks and its proprietor Dan Woychick. In addition to the Poster Show, Dan donates a portion of his product sales to the Parks Foundation each year.

Walk & Talks

We expanded our digital and downloadable library of self-guided Walk & Talks in 2021, beginning with a tour of Water Works at Mill Ruins Park in May. In June and July respectively, we added fresh walks for Minnehaha Parkway and the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, both tours curated by local experts. The expanded programming reached a wider audience – with this portable way to explore our parks differently tapped more than 2000 times since May. These resources remain available to the public even as we continue to explore bringing in-person guided tours back in 2022.

Sunrise on the Mississippi

We returned to the Minneapolis riverfront for Sunrise on the Mississippi in September, welcoming over 200 in-person attendees safely back under the big(ger) tent, and dozens more online. From her office on the East Coast, featured speaker Toni Griffin opened the audience’s eyes to a new way of engaging community around public space projects and challenged us all to do the hard work of disrupting historic patterns of prejudice as we seek to create true common ground. Hearing the call, our generous sponsors and donors contributed more than $100,000 to help us work toward transformative parks. Thank you!

[Click here to watch Sunrise on YouTube if the above video doesn’t preview]

Collaboration & Partnerships

Our work exists within a larger ecosystem of community-based agencies – public and private – all sharing a common goal of making our city more equitable and healthful for this and future generations. We appreciate the collaboration and partnership of these organizations and more:

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

City of Minneapolis • Environmental Justice Coordinating Council • Friends of the Mississippi River • Friends of the Falls • Great Northern Festival • Great Northern Greenway Task Force • Green Minneapolis • Hennepin County • Juxtaposition Arts • League of Women Voters • LoveMplsParks • Loppet Foundation • Metropolitan Council • Minnesota Public Radio • Mississippi Park Connection • Mississippi Watershed Management Organization • Pillsbury United Communities • Seeds to Harvest • Slow Roll Twin Cities • The Sioux Chef • The Design Center of the University of Minnesota • Wilderness Inquiry

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