One of my favorite aspects of my role as Executive Director of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation has been to help tell the story of Minneapolis through its parks. This incredible gem of a park system creates countless stories – from the diverse history of the land and the many forward-thinking people who shaped our park system into what we know and love today, to the countless individuals whose lives have been forever transformed by our parks in ways both big and small.
More than 140 years ago, the Minneapolis Park System originated from what could now be described as a 19th century TED Talk. Horace Cleveland – a nationally renowned author and landscape architect – traveled to Minnesota by train during a December snowstorm and ended up getting stranded in our beautiful, snow-covered city for a full week.
During his stay, he conceived a vision for a modern city park system interconnected by dedicated boulevards, preservation of the Mississippi river, and land set aside specifically for neighborhood parks scattered throughout the city. Cleveland gave his speech several times over the course of his snowbound week and inspired civic and business leaders to create what is known today as the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) – a unique civic structure established by Minneapolis voters to support the design, creation, and programming of all parks across the city.
While almost every other American city has a parks department situated within the typical city government structure and overseen by its mayor, the MPRB is organized differently. City voters get to elect a Board of Commissioners to the MPRB, who then hire the Minneapolis Parks Superintendent to lead a staff of passionate, highly qualified park professionals. These are stewards of our world-class neighborhood and regional park systems, charged with shaping our park system’s future.
In the spirit of Cleveland’s consequential speech, our Next Generation of Parks speaker on Thursday, December 14th at Mill City Commons – not far from where Cleveland first spoke – will feature today’s Minneapolis Park Superintendent, Al Bangoura. A visionary leader, Superintendent Bangoura is well-suited to lead a park system that can meet the challenges of the 21st century. While speakers for this series are typically prolific park designers and leaders from other cities who share their knowledge, this upcoming event will instead highlight the many reasons why Minneapolis is home to one of the greatest, most unique city park systems in the world, far surpassing what Cleveland originally imagined.
If you are reading this, you likely share my love for our parks and understand the significant impacts they have to our future. Imagined by 19th century urbanists, empowered by Minneapolis voters, and stewarded by countless individuals spanning generations, our one-of-a-kind park system is still unfolding and evolving, and it remains critically important to our well-being and our future. I invite you to join me for the last event of the year to hear a comprehensive, uplifting vision that will inspire us all to think about the next 140 years for Minneapolis parks.
And, PS, I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to join those countless individuals with a gift today, if you had not made a contribution yet this year. Thank you!