Common Ground

Minneapolis Parks Foundation > Common Ground > News > 2022 Highlights and Reflections

Unlike plunging into the Covid pandemic in 2020, which happened literally overnight for many of us, emerging from this life- and world-changing experience in 2022 happened both more slowly and perhaps less universally. In the intervening two years, Minneapolis parks and indeed parks around the United States and the world, have been spaces for the most ordinary and extraordinary of events.

Parks are common ground, or should be. And here at the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, our efforts focus ever more an ensuring that’s an authentic experience for everyone in our community. Our supporter base grew by 9%, helping us direct another nearly $500,000 into the park system last year. We’re grateful for the donors who support this work and who’s contributions have helped us reach $28.8 million raised for transformative projects and programs since we were founded 20 years ago.

Our mission is to transform lives through parks and public space by aligning philanthropic support and community vision. And while we can’t entirely predict what 2023 will bring, we anticipate sharing exciting new ways and campaigns through which this will come to life this year and beyond. Until then, please join us in reflecting on these highlights that your support, partnership, and contributions helped make possible in 2022. Thank you!

Capital Investments & Initiatives

Newly opened in 2021, both the Overlook at 26th Ave N and its more splashy sibling Water Works at Mill Ruins Park downriver, enjoyed a growing number of visitors in 2022. As the destination for a Parks Foundation Walk & Talk, as well as community Slow Rolls, the Overlook is steadily building its audience. Meanwhile, Water Works won an American Institute of Architects/MN Honor Award this month (to go with the James Beard Best New Restaurant Award for Owamni, under its roof) and is the subject of a forthcoming digital storytelling series about the multi-cultural and intersecting stories this sacred space has itself hosted.

North Commons
During the pandemic, North Commons emerged as a priority project for both the North Minneapolis community and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Created in 1907, North Commons has been the heart of the community ever since. And in 1971, it became one of the first parks to include a recreation building. It’s this facility and the adjacent water park that are the focus of a redevelopment effort now underway. In 2022, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation signed an MOU to support planning and community engagement for the North Commons project. The Minneapolis Parks Foundation initiated a campaign feasibility study in 2021, and in 2022 began raising funds through a $250,000 Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation challenge grant to seed the campaign’s formal start this spring.

Generous Support
Throughout the year, several donors made generous contributions to support needed investments throughout the park system. The Parks Foundation helped a donor honor their parent by directing an anonymous $75,000 gift to the new playground at Northeast Park, increasing accessible equipment from 25% to 100% and enabling the addition of special musical play elements. A community member celebrated their love of Lake Harriet by asking that a $50,000 contribution support the band shell’s restoration and while other donors supported our mission through planned gifts and estate planning. More than 800 unique donors (individuals, households, organizations, etc.) supported the Parks Foundation in 2022. Every contribution is appreciated. Our endowments continue to grow, IRA roll-overs average about $1,000, and monthly sustainers range from $5 to $130. Thank you, all!

Citywide Community Investments & Initiatives

People for Parks Fund
This year, the People for Parks Fund distributed more than $48,000 in grants to support nine projects led by seven organizations, including the Armatage Neighborhood AssociationCultural Wellness CenterFriends of the Boundary Waters Canoe AreaFriends of Lake NokomisMinneapolis Park and Recreation BoardMinneapolis Sailing Center, and Urban Bird Collective. Programs and projects took place in nearly every corner of the city and serve a range of parks users, including children, adults, trail users, birdwatchers, swimmers, and more. Visit our blog to learn more and read grantee stories.

Reimagining the Civic Commons
In 2022, the Parks Foundation began working with community partners to use Reimagining the Civic Commons to help conceive of North Commons as a catalyst for social and economic change in North Minneapolis, values that are as vital to a successful outcome as a well-designed building. In 2022, the Parks Foundation co-hosted an interagency planning session in June that brought together community members and planners, helping to kick off essential interagency partnerships that will improve the experience for parks users and business and residential neighbors. And throughout the year, Community Collaborators, like Lovely’s Sewing & Arts Collaborative, elevated community voices as part of the planning process. More than two years in the making, RCC’s Studio 6 was the first in-person gathering of the 12-city learning network since the COVID-19 pandemic and George Floyd’s murder and the uprising that followed. Hosted here in Minneapolis, more than 150 planners, funders, and community members from around the country took in some of the city’s oldest and most venerated parks (Farview and Minnehaha), as well as its newest (Overlook at 26th Ave N and Water Works). In between, they gathered to share insights around placekeeping, climate resilience, funding strategies, and community-centered design.

Little Free Libraries
The Minneapolis Parks Foundation delivered more than 1,750 books to nearly 50 Little Free Libraries in Minneapolis parks in 2022. Ameriprise held an employee book drive in May, contributing 300 new children’s and adult books to our summer restock effort. Kitchigami Regional Library System in Cass County also contributed gently used tomes from their “retiring” stock, a tradition first started in 2020.


Next Generation of Parks
The Next Generation of Parks Event Series got off to a bright and bold start in 2022, featuring Ambreen Tariq for a two-part talk-then-walk Next Generation of Parks event in partnership with The Great Northern Festival, on Saturday, February 5. Ambreen is founder of @BrownPeopleCamping, as well as an adventurer, activist, and author of the semi-autobiographical children’s book, Fatima’s Great Outdoors. Her virtual “Winter Hiking 101” talk (watch the recording here) began with a reading of Fatima’s story and explored the intersection of America’s outdoor heritage, race, and making nature accessible. The in-person walk at North Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park was our first face-to-face Next Gen in nearly two years – bringing together one of the most diverse audiences to share a chilly-in-temperature but warm-in-spirit walk in nature.  

Posters for Parks
Hundreds of parks and poster-art lovers descended on Royal Foundry Craft Spirits on Saturday, October 22, to celebrate the creative community’s take on what inspires them in the fabulous Minneapolis Park system. Bikes, birds, and bouquets were on bright display in the works from 41 local designers. In its seven-year history, the Posters for Parks Show – produced in partnership with LoveMplsParks – has grown from an evening event to a week-long showcase. And this year the number of posters finding new homes topped 1,000 helping us raise more than $45,000 – another record – for Minneapolis’s arts and parks community.

Sunrise on the Mississippi
Nearly 250 people gathered under the big tent on Thursday, September 8, for our annual breakfast benefit, Sunrise on the Mississippi. Minneapolis Parks Superintendent Al Bangoura shared his vision for Minneapolis parks, saying, “Because parks offer something for everyone – like nothing else in our society – it’s not enough to be good enough, we have to be amazing.” Donors responded in kind: Giving the first standing ovation in eight years of Sunrise and contributing more than $130,000 to help us support transformative parks projects and programs. Thank you!

Walk & Talk Series
In 2022, the Parks Foundation added three new tours to our Walk & Talk Event Series. Farview Park to the 26th Ave N Overlook, Hall’s Island Restoration, and Lake Nokomis drew 43 in-person participants and were also tapped over 600 times as download-and-go self-guided tours. All three can still be found on our website, where you can also access earlier self-guided tours like Water Works at Mill Ruins Park, Winchell Trail, and Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Altogether, the Parks Foundation has compiled eight unique experiences – many featuring the knowledge of experienced guides – that traverse our beautiful and fascinating park system.

Collaboration & Partnership

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. These among them:

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Armatage Neighborhood Association • City of Minneapolis • Cookie Cart • Cultural Wellness Center • Environmental Justice Coordinating Council • Friends of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area • Friends of the Falls • Friends of Lake Nokomis • Friends of the Mississippi River • Friends of the Peace Garden • Great Northern Festival • Great Northern Greenway Task Force • Green Minneapolis • Hennepin County • Juxtaposition Arts • League of Women Voters • Linden Hills Bocce Club • LoveMplsParks • Loppet Foundation • Metropolitan Council • Mia • Minneapolis Bike Parks • Minneapolis Sailing Center • Mill City Museum • Minnesota Public Radio • Mississippi Park Connection • Mississippi Watershed Management Organization • Pillsbury United Communities • Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park Legacy Council • Slow Roll Twin Cities • The Sioux Chef • The Design Center of the University of Minnesota • Urban Bird Collective • Voices of the Roses • Wilderness Inquiry

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