Thanks to you, 2023 was a great year for get-togethers and growing support for our parks. Here are some 2023 Highlights & Reflections we’re excited to share!
Minneapolis residents have countless reasons to be proud of their parks–and parks supporters like you deserve a good deal of the credit. Since the Minneapolis parks got their start more than 140 years ago, strong community support has been one of the reasons we’re hailed as one of the best park systems in the nation, with miles of shoreline, trails, and iconic treasures, and great programs that bring us together on common ground.
Thanks to the early vision of our parks founders, 98 percent of residents now live within walking distance of a neighborhood park–far above the 55 percent national average seen in most cities and towns. But the benefits of our parks system are not geographically equal or equitable, a challenge the Minneapolis Parks Foundation is committed to solving alongside the Park Board in their efforts to provide equity across the system. Since our start more than 20 years ago, the Parks Foundation has raised more than $42 million to support, expand, celebrate, and activate Minneapolis parks, with attention on improving equity in the system. Here’s a look at how your support in 2023 helped us to do more for parks, and the communities that depend on them.
Coming Together Again
After nearly three years of virtual and hybrid events, parks supporters took advantage of every chance to get together in real life in 2023, setting new engagement records for many of our public-facing programs. More than 250 parks lovers took part in our Sunrise on the Mississippi and Sunset in the Parks events, while 155 people laced up their walking shoes and joined us for two in-person Walk & Talk events at Minnehaha Falls and the Central Riverfront. MPF’s Posters for Parks event in October topped them all, with more than 885 participants who took home more than 970 limited edition original posters created by 44 local artists.
The Parks Foundation’s popular Next Generation of Parks events also returned to form in 2023, with fascinating presentations from thought leaders exploring the intersection of public design, social justice, and community health. In March, renowned landscape architect Mikyoung Kim shared how parks and play can restore our post-pandemic world; in May, Latino Outdoors founder José González explored how nature can heal severed communities; and in December, MPRB Superintendent Al Bangoura reflected on the state of our parks as the Minneapolis parks system celebrated its 140th anniversary.
Reimagining North Commons Park
As the lead philanthropic partner to the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation has been called to lead Reimagining North Commons, a capital campaign to make the community vision for North Commons Park a reality. Preparing for an official launch in early 2024, this public/private capital campaign aims to make North Commons a thriving hub for youth development and will be the largest investment ever made in a Minneapolis neighborhood park. Be sure to check out the innovative concept plan just approved by MPRB’s board of commissioners for a next generation park designed to serve one of the largest, youngest, and most diverse neighborhoods in the state, with 12,000 kids who live within a one-mile radius.
Reconnecting North Minneapolis to the Mississippi River
With the completion of the first two signature parks of the RiverFirst Initiative–Water Works and the Great Northern Greenway Overlook–the Minneapolis Parks Foundation is now building public awareness about North Minneapolis’s new connections to the Mississippi River. This year, MPF secured several grants to activate the overlook, introducing youth-designed art installations by Juxtaposition Arts to the space. With the Parks Foundation’s support, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board also secured an historic easement along the riverfront that will make it possible to connect North Minneapolis through a new 1,000-foot trail link. When it’s complete in late 2024, the trail will connect the Great Northern Greenway Overlook to the downtown riverfront and the 51-mile Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, which runs through most of Minneapolis as a continuous dedicated bike trail and walking path.
Telling the Stories of Our Parks and Public Places
More than 825 unique viewers checked out MPF’s virtual Walk & Talk resources, using StoryMaps or digital tours to learn more about the Dakhóta language at Water Works Park and about riverfront innovators like Fuji-Ya’s Reiko Weston. One such story map – Plants of Owamniyuomni: A Dakota Language Audio Tour – produced by the Parks Foundation in collaboration with MPRB and funded by the Saint Anthony Fall Heritage Board was just recognized by geographic software maker Esri as a “Favorite Story” of 2023.
Supporting Community-Driven Ideas for the Parks
Launched just three years ago with the Parks Foundation’s merger with People for Parks, the People for Parks Fund is fast becoming a powerful new tool for connecting diverse communities to the parks. This year the competitive microgrant program drew applications from around the city, awarding more than $57,000 in funding for 11 different programs. Made possible by private contributions to the Parks Foundation, and proceeds from the annual Posters for Parks sale, your support made it possible to:
- Help underrepresented youth and families set sail on Bde Maka Ska, in a series of free learn to sail events hosted by the Minneapolis sailing center.
- Offer fishing clinics in English and Spanish through Baztec Fishing, activating new anglers throughout the parks
- Inspire healthy habits and great new recipes at the new Active Chefs summer program at Sumner Field, supporting Urban Strategies’ Green Garden Bakery
- Provide free pickleball gear and lessons at Folwell Park, continuing the growth of one of the park system’s fastest growing games
- Teach more than 75 BIPOC adults how to kayak through the Mississippi Park Connection
- Support free summer swim lessons for kids at Webber and Harrison parks, and fantastic nature programs throughout the school year at North Mississippi Regional Park.
- Bring new benches to Minnehaha Creek, a gift to the users of these popular walking and biking trails, made possible by the Mary Ann and Harold Feldman bequest
- Connect the Spanish-speaking community through the parks at Huellas Latinas’ hike and learn events.
- Highlight the music of BIPOC composers at the annual Southwest High School Pops Concert at Lake Harriet Band shell this spring
- Get the 2024 biking season off to a great start with Mobile Bike Mechanics, a free bike mechanic and apprentice program that will provide free bike tune-ups and map skills lessons citywide.
Bringing philanthropy and parks together
How can we harness the power of philanthropy to build an even better park system? It’s a question we’ve been exploring in new ways this year, as we celebrated our 20th anniversary and launched a new strategic plan to guide our priorities. In 2023, we counted more than 15,000 Minneapolis Parks Foundation supporters, including 198 brand new donors! We also helped donors make their mark on eight park benches and 38 pavers purchased at the Lake Harriet Bandshell. With an average annual gift of $350, donors like you are helping the Minneapolis Parks Foundation expand our capacity, strengthen partnerships throughout the community, and elevate what’s possible throughout our park system. Thank you!
More to come!
As we look ahead, 2024 promises to be an even bigger year for the parks, with new projects to share, major construction starts, and new parks lovers to meet. Be sure to follow the Minneapolis Parks Foundation on FaceBook, Instagram and LinkedIn to be the first to know about fascinating events (including a Next Generation of Parks screening of Blackwaters, an exceptional documentary film about Black outdoorsmen in May), new developments and great get-togethers, all to benefit our Minneapolis’s extraordinary park system.