For many of us, the return to summer is especially powerful this year as we begin to reconnect with each other in-person. While most of us remain cautious of how we begin to interact with others, it’s clear that parks remain an important component in our civic life – perhaps more important than ever before.
Last month, we celebrated the opening of two new public spaces – Water Works and the 26th Avenue Overlook. But because of health and safety concerns, the events were not public, in-person celebrations, rather many of you joined us virtually to celebrate the openings. Since we couldn’t provide tours in person, we wanted to create a way for people to get out onto the sites with information about how they came to be, what elements are within them, and how they will be programmed over the coming months and years.
To meet this desire, we adapted our popular Walk and Talk tours into a virtual format so anyone with a smartphone or a computer and printer (or a library card!) can experience our parks with the input of staff and other experts and enthusiasts. Earlier this month we published a Walk and Talk for Water Works in conjunction with the opening to help people explore the design elements that make the park spectacular. And now, included in the Parks Foundation’s June newsletter is a link to the Minnehaha Creek Walk and Talk – developed with input from Sarah Evenson, a landscape architect. Sarah worked on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s 2020 Minnehaha Parkway Regional Trail master plan.
Studies have shown that a person will be significantly more likely to revisit a park or public space if they have a curated experience (i.e. someone personally connects with them in the park, or someone makes an extra effort to welcome them into the space). While we all understand theoretically that parks are open to everyone, sometimes it’s helpful to be explicit in letting people know, “This place is for you; it is yours.” A Walk and Talk is meant to create that sense of welcoming and provide that extra incentive to walk through a park for the first time.
While I look forward to hosting our Walk and Talks in person again – and we may still host in-person tours yet this year – I want everyone to have an opportunity to discover these spaces with our help and learn some of the stories of the places that are loved within our parks.
Please get out there – and if you want, share with us photos and stories of your experience or questions that arose. There are stories embedded within our parks that, when revealed, have the power to connect us more deeply to those around us. I hope you find that to be true. I hope to see you in the parks.