Annie Young, an influential environmental activist and one of the city’s longest-serving park commissioners, passed away Jan. 22 at the age of 75.
The seven-term commissioner retired last December after 28 years on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, a post that allowed her over the years to reduce pesticide use, champion green initiatives and promote a cleaner City of Lakes in her signature unapologetic style.
Superintendent Jayne Miller said Young’s passing is a “huge loss to the Park Board and the City of Minneapolis.” The Park Board has lowered its flags to half-mast until Jan. 31 to honor her.
“Her commitment to our park system, to the environment and to programs and services for children and young people helped us to become the number one park system in the country that we are today. She will be deeply missed,” she said in a statement.
Young, who was a member of the Green Party, is one of the two longest-serving members of the park system. During her tenure, she promoted a pest management plan that led to a 95 percent reduction in chemical use in the parks. A big proponent of the Park Board’s return to the Mississippi River, Young fought to improve water quality and the restoration of the riverfront, work that eventually led to the creation of popular destinations like Mill Ruins Park and major projects like Water Works.
In the 1990s, Young helped spearhead the Green Institute when a transfer station was proposed in Phillips, her longtime neighborhood. The Phillips Eco Enterprise Center (now the Greenway Building), one of the first sustainably designed industrial buildings of its kind, featured geothermal heating and a large solar array, two green initiatives Young preached throughout the city years before many other public officials.
The City Council approved a resolution last year honoring Young for her service, proclaiming May 20, 2017, Annie Young Day in the City of Minneapolis.
President Brad Bourn said that the city owes Young a debt of gratitude for her innovative work.
“The name Annie Young is synonymous with the Minneapolis Park Board. Her legacy as the second longest serving commissioner in our history is made stronger by the fact that she was the earliest champion for so many of the environmental protection policies that are now commonplace in our parks,” he said in a statement.
At a city budget hearing last December, Young told members of the outgoing City Council and Park Board that she is proud that the two government agencies have learned to cooperate.
“After 28 years, I’m so proud of what we’ve done and where we’ve come from,” she said. “I’m hoping you can all continue working together and keeping this city the most beautiful city. I love it and I love you.”
Arrangements for a memorial service are pending.