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Civic investments in parks will be felt for generations

Our parks, like most facets of thriving American communities, depend on a healthy and active democracy.  As election day approaches, it’s easy to think of voting as the singular, important act of democracy.  But in reality, elections are the cyclical culmination of a multifaceted civic engagement process.  And continued advocacy and engagement help to ensure that elections have long-term positive outcomes.

Last week, we saw what healthy compromise in politics looks like, when 60 Minnesota State Senators joined 100 colleagues in the House to approve a $1.9 billion bonding bill that provides critical and much-needed capital funding for projects across Minnesota – everything from roads to airport improvements to university buildings, to waste water treatment to parks.  A biennial exercise of the state government, bonding bills sustain the infrastructure that we all depend on as Minnesotans. 

And as part of that bill, millions of dollars in new investments were committed to parks and the environment.  For Minneapolis, $3 million will help to connect a missing link within the Grand Rounds and connect Ole Olson Park to the Great Northern Greenway Overlook and North Minneapolis.  Also in North Minneapolis, North Commons Park received funding to transform a century-old park into a regional youth sports destination that will provide Minneapolis youth with a long-desired home-court facility. Additionally, regional park funds that serve the entire metro area were included and matched by the Met Council. 

The impact of these civic investments will be felt for generations and bring essential improvements into our city park system.  The tireless work of community leaders, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board staff and commissioners, supported by Minneapolis legislators, reiterated and underscored the importance of parks and public land for our neighborhoods.  Through this bonding bill, Minnesota once again affirmed that parks are a critical part of the public infrastructure.

Donors to the Minneapolis Parks Foundation played an important role in securing these public funds.  Legislators pay attention to projects that leverage additional funding from the private sector as an indicator that the investments are valued broadly by the community.  Because of our RiverFirst Campaign, we were able to demonstrate that community support needed to secure state funding.

Parks supporters – including the Parks Foundation – visit the State Capital in 2019 to make the case for funding.

Transformative investments in our parks require deep engagement by and with community and it requires elected leaders working together on behalf of the greater good.  It’s easy to take for granted the bonding bill’s successful passage.  But in an era when partisan battles on important issues can derail areas of mutual agreement, it’s worth noting the occasion when something brings together split government and provides benefits for communities across Minnesota.

We look forward to working alongside our partners at the Minneapolis Park Board to ensure these projects are completed and celebrated and will continue to keep our donors and partners informed of future public funding debates.  But for this moment, take pride in knowing that in Minnesota, democracy is robust and strong. 

In less than two weeks, November 3 will mark the end of the 2020 voting season.  In the next few days, let’s be a model for voter turnout in Minneapolis so that we can remain a strong voice for future investments in our city parks and the communities around them.  Please – get out and vote.  Democracy depends on it.

Featured image: 26th Avenue Overlook, October 2020. Bond funding will support connecting the Overlook to Ole Olson Park, just out of the picture to the left.

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