Let’s go for a walk.
As spring approaches (it’s on its way, right?), our parks will come alive again with spring blooms, awakening pollinators, migrating birds, and humans shedding their winter coats and reconnecting with the warmth of the sun. As winter finally gives way to spring, we’ll watch ball diamonds and open fields become activated with baseball, softball and ultimate Frisbee and walking paths will be filled with neighbors. In short, we are about to reconnect with each other in our parks.
This weekend I was on a walk with friends through Wirth Park when we happened to come across runners some of us knew. Seven men visiting in the woods on a trail we all share. It reminded me of how important our parks are in strengthening our community and making deeper human connections with each other. I suspect many of you had a similar experience recently of crossing paths with an acquaintance and stopping to chat after a long winter apart.
More than ever, I am reminded how much I miss being with people – whether it’s impromptu conversations on a park trail or community meetings and events that used to populate my calendar every week. The virtual world has accommodated discussions and allowed us to remain in communication, but as we address more complex land-use and park programming needs, I look forward to sharing food as part of a community meeting – cookies from Cookie Cart, sandwiches for Sammy’s on Broadway, or pizza (square cut or triangle) from any one of our great pizzerias in the city. I miss the bowl of apples and bananas at the back of the room and alongside lukewarm beverages and granola bars. I miss visiting with someone I hadn’t met before and finding commonality in a room charged with debate.
Parks remain our most important shared asset and we all have a stake in their future. The Minneapolis parks system serves a complex variety of needs and behind each park is a web of choices that frame how a park is used, programmed, and maintained. While no system is perfect, I prefer the Minneapolis structure over every other city in America. And as we re-adapt to shared space and time, we’re also balancing the intersecting desires of community around the future of our parks, and some of the choices and decisions will be difficult and require greater trust and empathy. Our success depends on sharing space again and seeing who our neighbors are that have different perspectives.
I look forward to seeing you out in the parks this year and in the civic spaces where parks are discussed. I urge you to follow the discussions around a park you love and, when you are comfortable and able, to come out in public to a meeting about a park’s future. Come out this weekend to one of the Earth Day clean-up efforts across the city. And I invite you to join me in May for our first 2022 Walk & Talk from Farview to the 26th Ave N Overlook and meet others who share your commitment to the parks. In the months to come, let’s meet in the parks and remember that we’ve been apart for far too long.