Park Board wants big donors for foundation

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is looking for a few high rollers to lead the new Minneapolis Parks Foundation, which it plans to launch May 1.

The goal is to find people of means — respected in the community and with a philanthropic bent — to serve on a board, pushing for major gifts for city parks.

The upshot could be more park facilities named after donors.

The foundation would be similar to how the University of Minnesota’s foundation recognizes its contributors, said Don Siggelkow, the Park Board’s assistant superintendent for development.

"We have a lot of named parks and facilities right now that recognize people’s contributions to the community that are not always financial," he said. "This would add a dimension — you could have a financial contribution as well."

The Park Board came under fire earlier this year when it tried to contract with a Dairy Queen to operate the Lake Harriet and Calhoun concession stands. It catalyzed a citizen’s group calling itself SCOOP — Stop Commercialization Of Our Parks.

Whether or not the naming rights issue hits a similar nerve remains to be seen.

"The foundation is a positive step, we hope," Siggelkow said. "We don’t see it as controversial."

The Cowles Conservatory in the Sculpture Garden would not exist except that the Cowles family donated the money to build it and put its name on it, Siggelkow said.

The Park Board’s Committee of the Whole discussed the foundation Oct. 9 and put it on the fast track. It informally decided that each of the nine park commissioners would appoint one person to an advisory committee to help establish the foundation.

According to a Park Board timeline, the advisory committee would hold its first retreat Nov. 9. Among its tasks would be to identify a potential slate of candidates for the first Minneapolis Parks Foundation board.

Bill Koegler, director of development for the West Virginia-based Oglebay Foundation, is a consultant on the project. He advised commissioners that if they had a particular business leader in mind for the board, they should try to get someone on that person’s staff on the advisory committee.

The foundation would differ from the already existing People for Parks organization, a non-profit group that raises money for park benches and tree plantings, Siggelkow said. The foundation would work on bigger-ticket items.

People for Parks may be able to provide the foundation its non-profit status. If not, the Park Board would apply for a separate non-profit foundation by Nov. 30.

Dutch Elm Disease is up The city will have lost 4,000 elm trees to Dutch Elm Disease from public and private land by year’s end, said Ralph Sievert, head of forestry for the Park Board.

That is up from 2,500 elms last year, he said. The Lynnhurst and Linden Hills neighborhoods have taken the hardest hit in the Southwest area, losing a combined 100 elm trees on public land alone.

Sievert attributed the increase in the disease to successive mild winters, which reduced the winter kill rate of the beetles that carry the fungus that causes Dutch Elm Disease.

He recommends keeping trees mulched and avoiding hitting them with a mower, which can stress the tree and make it more susceptible to disease. When a tree gets marked for removal, the sooner it comes down, the better, he said.

Leaving infected trees standing — or storing elm wood for firewood in the back yard — gives beetles a place to live and spread the disease, Sievert said.

The city had more than 200,000 elm trees in the late 1970s, he said. It now has roughly 70,000.

Parks HQ may be leased to caterer Two caterers have expressed interest in leasing space in the Park Board’s new riverfront headquarters building for their kitchens: Twin City Catering and Joe’s Catering, in response to a request for proposal.

The Park Board bought a 75,000-square-foot building at 2117 W. River Road North, and plans to pay for the mortgage in part through renting 25,000 square feet.

Twin City Catering offered $12.33 a square foot. It and other catering firms have also expressed interest in leasing space at the building for banquets.

Judd Rietkerk, assistant superintendent for planning, is expected to present more detailed floor plans to the board Oct. 23.

He told the board that other groups interested in leasing space include the International Wolf Center, the city of Minneapolis Public Works Department, Minneapolis Television Network and the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association.

Commissioner Ed Solomon expressed reservations about leasing space for a catering kitchen.

"We want good, clean office space," he said. "I don’t think citizens would feel good about buying that building and running a kitchen out there."

Commissioner Rochelle Berry Graves took a different approach. "I was hoping we could have some kind of restaurant out there, so people in the community could get a decent meal," she said.