Common Ground

We’re Only Just Beginning

Three weeks ago, we celebrated the opening of a natural playground at North Mississippi Regional Park and just this past Monday, the long-awaited Water Works Pavilion, and Owamni by The Sioux Chef restaurant, opened to the public, culminating the first phase of the RiverFirst Campaign.

Both projects represent aspects of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation and how we are delivering on our mission. With generous support from our donors, we raised more than $18 million to ensure that new park amenities reconnect us to the river and celebrate the people who populate its watershed, and through the People for Parks Fund, we are able to support locally-driven initiatives across the system.

We are only just beginning. While we celebrate this moment, I want to reflect on the many different ways in which the Minneapolis Parks Foundation delivers our mission. 

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation staff and Board remain committed to the broad vision outlined in the RiverFirst Initiative and we are working closely with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and other community partners to ensure that the remaining parks and trails outlined in that plan are successfully completed – including connecting the West River Parkway to the Great Northern Greenway Overlook in North Minneapolis and extending Water Works seamlessly to the river, St. Anthony Falls and the Upper Lock and Dam, as well as working to fulfill the grand vision connecting the whole river to neighborhoods in North and Northeast Minneapolis.

We are exploring other bold park improvements that will transform lives through our parks, including a community-driven effort centered on North Commons Park, one of the most storied parks in the system.

Beyond multi-year, transformative initiatives, we’re making investments annually to help activate our parks.  This spring, through the newly established People to Parks Fund, we made seven grants to groups and initiatives that activate our parks. For example, a 2021 People for Parks Fund grant supported a youth Futsol tournament as part of the City of Lakes Summer Games occurring in North Commons Park this month and into August while another grant supported youth swimming lessons.  We hope to grow the People for Parks Fund to support additional innovative, community generated ideas each year. You will be invited to support the People for Parks Fund through the annual Posters for Parks event this October.

In addition to making small targeted grants and leading transformative capital campaigns, we’ve developed new ways to invite people into the parks and experience them anew. Our Walk & Talk Event Series was self-guided again this year so that anyone can take a tour in a park, discover a new corner of our city, or learn about the history of the places we love. By popular demand, we are hosting one in-person Walk & Talk in August, traveling from Farview Park to the new River Overlook. I hope you will join me.

Our longest running program, the Next Generation of Parks Event Series, generates thoughtful discussions about innovative city parks, new programming models, and solutions for protecting the urban natural environment. We’ll be hosting a Next Generation of Parks event on September 30 featuring Kofi Boone. This lecture will explore emerging understanding of the intersection of race, architecture, and public spaces. Always free and open to the public I hope you’ll accept our invitation to participate.

And finally, as the local convener for the Reimagining the Civic Commons learning network, we are part of a national network of park practitioners in 10 cities where we identify emerging trends and solutions and share from our own experience. The value of civic assets such as parks, trails, libraries, and community centers has never been greater. Reimagining the Civic Commons provides data, expertise, and encouragement to do things differently to improve the health of our cities, increase trust, and create social change through shared community assets.

The Minneapolis park system remains incomparable and a national model for how a park system can be integrated into city life. While this past year has challenged us in ways we never imagined, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation is more committed than ever before to bring people together for our parks so Minneapolis remains a generative, joyful city. I am delighted to see more people join us in this effort each week, and I look forward to seeing you in our parks soon.

Featured Image: Ribbon Cutting at North Mississippi Regional Park, June 30, 2021, courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

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