Just last week, my daughter’s 12U softball team stopped practice to gaze in amazement as a bald eagle flew within a few yards above us, traveling from Lake Hiawatha into the neighborhood. That moment encapsulated so much of what makes our city parks extraordinary.
In addition to the majesty of such a powerful creature in the wild was the experience shared by these young ladies who were outside on a beautiful summer evening, mitts in hand, having fun as a team on land they shared. Many of them were strangers when we started the season, but now have become friends. And on this particular night, they learned that they shared their neighborhood with a beautiful bald eagle.
I know I am not alone in having a moment of Zen within our parks recently. Every evening, our parks and trails are active with walkers, runners, and bikers. Social media is full of posts exclaiming the beauty of our city and nearly every ball field is active with practice or games. It is likely that every reader of this post can recall a moment in the past week when they savored the sunset, glanced across a mirror-calm lake, or broke for a drink of water during a bike ride; perhaps you paused to admire the Mississippi River from the Stone Arch Bridge and reflect that our city is extraordinary.
Experiencing the natural world around us doesn’t have to be about the monumental and momentous – everyday moments like these are what connect us, heal us, and make us whole. This season, in addition to savoring all that summer has to offer, the Parks Foundation is focusing on events and initiatives that make it easier for people to connect to nature and each other.
Earlier this month, we co-hosted Get Outdoors Day, a free event at Powderhorn Park that introduces kids and families to activities like fishing, climbing, camping, archery, and so much more. It’s become an annual tradition that for many youth and their families is the gateway to a lifetime of outdoor and adventure activities.
Similarly, this summer we’re introducing a new series called Walk & Talks, which tapped into an unmet need to discover Minneapolis parks anew. Designed as small-group, curated tours of big ideas and small details, these four events filled-up quickly. We’re already beginning to think of ways to build on this idea in the future.
Also this summer, and for the third consecutive year, the Parks Foundation has hired Juxtaposition Arts apprentices to help us and our planning partners see our city through new eyes. In the next three months, these high-schoolers, many of whom have been working with us since 2016, will themselves be curating a series of trips through North Minneapolis and the Upper Mississippi by bike, foot, and canoe. By guiding excursions with future leaders, they help us cultivate fresh perspectives for how our parks can be integrated into our daily lives.
Another partnership we renewed again is with Slow Roll – Tuesday evening bike tours of North Minneapolis. These community-led events start and end at new locations every week, traversing streets, trails, paths, and places many haven’t seen from the seat of a bike before, or maybe have never seen at all. There’s never a week that goes by without an encouraging word from the community as we roll by. I encourage you to join Slow Roll any week, but especially on July 10, as we tour the Great Northern Greenway, the new protected east-west trail that gave our River Link RiverFirst project its name. Find out more on Slow Roll’s Facebook page.
Finally, we couldn’t let a summer go by without RiverFirst site tours, by bike or by boat. If you’re considering a gift to support the RiverFirst Campaign and would like to learn more about the landscape and river, there is no better way. Please contact me (TEvers@MplsParksFoundation.org) or Jennifer Downham (JDownham@MplsParksFoundation.org) to learn more.
This is the season to savor our legacy of parks.