This August, 1,000 parks and nonprofit professionals from around the nation and world converged on Minneapolis and Saint Paul for Greater & Greener, a five-day international conference focused on city park systems and the innovations that make them thrive. With warm, sunny weather providing a perfect backdrop to our parks, visitors saw first-hand why Minneapolis remains the top ranked city park system for five years running. Every person I spoke to expressed awe and admiration for our legacy of parks and the ongoing commitment from Minneapolis park staff, leadership, and the broader community.
The highest praise was for the 20-Year Neighborhood Park Plan – the monumental $300 million equity funding agreement between the City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board with funding directed toward communities with concentrations of youth, poverty, density, and diversity. In comparison to other cities, Minneapolis is setting the gold standard for cities nationwide with innovation, programming, and equity.
For those of us who live here, we know parks contribute to our quality of life, but may take for granted the myriad of ways we excel in comparison to other cities. Experiencing our parks, programs and people through the perspective of visiting park professionals increased my gratitude for what we have while making me even more committed to ensuring we don’t slow our commitment to bring forward new ideas.
During election years, it’s easy to emphasize problems in order to make a point. It is more difficult to understand what is working well and suggest refinements to make it work even better. In particular, it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate the stable leadership of Superintendent Jayne Miller and her team as they continue to deliver on the promise from past generations. In every facet of the Minneapolis Park Board, staff showed off the best of Minneapolis and demonstrated how our parks transform the city and have a positive impact every day of the year.
As we look ahead, it is the commitment of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation to celebrate and understand more deeply the achievements of our public partners, including the Park Board and the City, that sustain our world-class park system. At the same time, the Parks Foundation will work diligently with our partners to understand where we can improve so that everyone continues to benefit. We still have work to accomplish to maintain the gold standard nationally, but as the Greater & Greener conference indicated – we have many reasons to celebrate.