Common Ground

Community Profile: Cris Nelson

We regularly highlight members of our community who are supporting Minneapolis parks through their involvement with the Parks Foundation. We are inspired by the people who care for and use our parks and we want to recognize the many individuals and organizations who make our system incredible through their generosity. Thank you!

This month, we hear from Cris Nelson, a generous sustaining donor to the Parks Foundation who currently lives in California.

Tell us about a favorite childhood memory of being in a park (it doesn’t have to be in Minneapolis).
As a child, my family and friends frequently visited the Lake Harriet Bird Sanctuary and Rose Gardens. I have very fond memories of climbing a favorite tree with my older brother Tim and younger sister Angel.

What park experiences do/would you like to share with out-of-town guests?
The Mississippi River is a beautiful feature of the Minneapolis Park System experience. There is an off-leash dog park at 54th St. South and West River Parkway. South East 1/2 mile is a sandstone alcove with years of artistic carvings. During the winter we would bring sleds loaded with firewood, food, guitars and drums. We would transform the river bluff into a winter campfire extravaganza! There are many trails leading from there, some of which lead to Fort Snelling.

Why do you support the Minneapolis Parks Foundation?
I abused the parks as a young man. It’s time to give back. Generations to come should be able to enjoy beautiful memories that the Minneapolis Park System has to offer. My donations are dedicated to those who’ve passed before me – Leonora Nelson, Lyle Chastain, and Officer Jerry Haaf.

Why are parks important to Minneapolis?
The parks are an important cultural aspect of Minneapolis – to be revered with great pride. They provide wonderful venues for family and community activities during all seasons of the year. They are one of the great assets of the Twin Cities and it shows by how they are kept so clean and well planned, system-wide.

Trails, beaches, or playgrounds?
The park trails boast beautiful settings for walking, bicycling, hiking, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. Lake Harriet, Bde Maka Ska and Lake of the Isles are tightly integrated with beaches and playgrounds all throughout their interconnecting trails. The winter yields some very nice clearings on the lakes for ice skating.

Some of my favorite trails are the Minnesota Valley State Trail, the Fort Snelling State Trail, the Stone Arch Bridge trails and Minnehaha Parkway Trail.

I learned to swim at the Lake Harriet Main Beach, across from the Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary, and Shady Oak Beach in Minnetonka. Much less traveled are the small beaches at Lake of the Isles and what may still be a “clothing optional” beach at Sweeney Lake in Golden Valley.

As a child I frequented the playgrounds at Pershing, Lynnhurst, Linden Hills, Minnehaha Falls, Theodore Wirth and Beard’s Plaisance parks.

Do you love parks as much as we do? If you would like to be featured in a future Community Profile, please contact me at


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