This week, Minneapolitans – and Americans across the country – went to the polls and exercised one of our most sacred rights. Here in Minneapolis, 34 polling stations were located in recreation centers and other Minneapolis Parks facilities, underscoring once again how integral parks are to our civic life.
Like schools and museums, parks are an essential institution that make up the “civic commons” that Lynn Ross, our Sunrise speaker this year, talked about – spaces where we live public lives together as a community. Indeed, parks are so woven into the fabric of Minneapolis that it can be easy to overlook their significance.
At the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, we think a lot about making parks open and accessible to everyone. It’s a through-line in our work on RiverFirst – deepening our understanding of what makes a public space welcoming to diverse communities, multiple generations, and different needs.
In creating parks for the 21st century and beyond, we’re mindful that we’re setting a stage for this and future generations to live out their public life. What we do today will reverberate for decades, just as the efforts of 19th century park visionaries left us a tremendous legacy on which to build.
We’ve been working on implementing RiverFirst for a long time now – since its inception eight years ago. Behind the scenes are dedicated people diligently working to ensure that the impact and benefits of our work are equitable, that our future parks are truly welcoming to all, and that they meet the needs of a 21st century city. This work has spanned several elections and various elected leaders have played critical roles in achieving a bold vision for our city. Amidst this change, the Parks Foundation has remained consistent in our commitment to you, our community.
Progress may appear to be incremental, but each step takes us closer to our goal: Transforming the Upper Riverfront into a community asset connecting the neighborhoods of North and Northeast Minneapolis to the Mississippi River and connecting more people to each other.
And, eventually, incremental steps build up to leaps and bounds. In the coming months, we will witness rapid progression of activity within RiverFirst: Water Works and the Great Northern Greenway River Link will be under construction by early spring, the Park Board will begin final planning for the future Graco Park (formerly the Scherer site), and the community will coalesce around a plan for the Upper Harbor Terminal. With your help, we’ll have reached pivotal fundraising thresholds to achieve many of these goals. The change we’ve been striving for will become visible to all.
The Parks Foundation is committed to delivering on the promise of our public places so they serve everyone and we strive to imagine new public spaces that enrich our civic lives by bringing us together in meaningful ways. With your help over these coming months, we hope to demonstrate that these changes are well worth the wait.