Parks Notebook

Park Board Comprehensive Plan unveiled
On July 16, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board released a draft of its 2007–2020 Comprehensive Plan. The 50-page document represents the Board’s vision for the future of the park system.

It’s the result of two years of assessment, research and community outreach, which included asking 172,000 city residents for their input. Survey findings showed that most people were concerned about youth participation, fitness, safety, cleanliness and protecting the natural
environment.

The Comprehensive Plan includes four vision themes, which will guide future development, operations and maintenance of the parks:

• Urban forests, natural areas, and waters that endure and captivate;

• Recreation that inspires personal growth, healthy lifestyles and a sense of community;

• Dynamic parks that shape the city’s character and meet diverse community needs; and

• Safe places to play, celebrate, contemplate and
recreate.

There are multiple goals listed under each theme, with strategies for completion, but the plan doesn’t include specific tactics for any of the board’s 182 properties.

On July 19, the board held an open house at Loring Park, giving residents the chance to review and question the document.

Parks Superintendent Jon Gurban compared the Comprehensive Plan to a kindergartener. “By the time they graduate, we’ll be refreshing that,” he laughed, adding “we’re going to take care of you.”

Some residents who attended the meeting expressed concern about the meaning behind certain phrases in the plan. Arlene Fried, co-founder of Minneapolis Park Watch, a watchdog group, wondered about the board’s pledge to “build amenities in current or projected growth areas.”

“[Amenities] would be a trigger word for me,” she said. “When I see that, I get more nervous.”

Harvey Ettinger, a representative from the East Isles Residents Association, also worried that amenities could translate to large developments. “I hope they will clarify that by the end of the process.”

The plan is in its third phase, which involves gathering comment cards and e-mails from residents. The board will hold a public planning committee meeting on Aug. 15 and approve the final draft in October. The last two stages — prioritization and implementation — will start in 2008.

“The bottom line is where’s the money?” asked Gurban, throwing out his arms. “You’re as good as your
resources.”

Park Board reviews superintendent’s workplan
Part of Gurban’s three-year contract renewal includes following a workplan designed by the commissioners. At the July 11 board meeting, the commissioners reviewed a draft of the plan, which consists of ideas submitted by board members and ranked in order of priority.

Adherence to the Park Board mission tops the 12-item list, followed by completing the Comprehensive Plan, which is available for public comment at minneapolisparks.org until Aug. 3.

Among other things, Gurban will be expected to improve communications with the board, develop a sustainability plan and determine how to complete projects, such as the Riverfront parkway, Grand Rounds and the East Phillips Community Center.

Several commissioners worried that the list was too long and needed to be more thought-out.

“I think some of these things are a little unrealistic,” said Commissioner Bob Fine, who represents the Southwest area. “Is this what we want our superintendent really to do?”

Commissioner Carol A. Kummer, who represents the Powderhorn/Lake Nokomis area, wondered whether the workplan would carry over into the next year and how it would be addressed at Gurban’s annual review.

“A workplan is a workplan,” replied Annie Young, a citywide commissioner. “I don’t think ‘workplan’ means you have to complete everything in a year.”

She added that the board should approve that workplan soon, so Gurban can get started.

Commissioner Fine made a motion to open the plan up to the committee as a whole and narrow it down to items that they feel are achievable in one year. The motion failed.

Commissioner Tom Nordyke made a motion to change first words of the title of the list from “Board Priorities” to “Board Direction Toward a 2007–08 Workplan;” combine items eight and nine, which are both about environmental responsibility; and submit the list to the superintendent. Gurban will review the plan, makes changes as he sees fit and give it back to the board for final approval. The motion passed by a vote of 5–3 with 1 member absent.

What’s up with our trees?
The Minneapolis Tree Advisory Commission presented its annual report to the Park Board on July 11. According to the presenter, former Commission Co-chair Peggy Booth, there are almost 1 million trees in Minneapolis, providing $750 million in benefits, such as energy savings and increased property values. The city has room for 16,000 more trees and hopes to grow two trees for every one lost. Sixty percent of Minneapolis’ existing trees need additional maintenance.

Last year, the city lost 3,350 trees to Dutch elm disease. “We are looking at a worse year than 2006,” said Booth. “We can’t afford to lose any more.”

Only 10 percent of the trees in the city are elms, but they’re two to three times bigger than other shade providers, producing greater benefits.

Booth mentioned a letter written to the Star Tribune in which a reader suggested removing tree stumps to decrease Dutch elm disease. This wouldn’t necessarily help, Booth explained, because stumps dry out quickly and don’t become habitats for the beetles and fungus that cause the disease. Stump removal for safety reasons and to make room for new trees, however, is important. The city currently has a backlog of 5,500 stumps waiting to be pulled.

Dutch elm disease isn’t the only threat to Minneapolis’ trees. The commission plans to provide educational information to the public about the emerald ash borer, a beetle that kills ash trees by eating their inner bark. They’ve set up “trap trees” around the city to detect the presence of borers.

Some of the commission’s goals for the coming year include creating a tree inventory, developing new arboreal standards, funding better aerial images and getting in the Park Board’s Comprehensive Plan.

The board recently released a statement urging residents to water their trees, as the Twin Cities has been experiencing a moderate drought since April. The board recommends leaving a garden hose on a tree at a slow rate for two hours, preferably at night. For more information, visit minneapolisparks.org.

Contact Mary O’Regan at moregan@mnpubs.com or 436-5088.

Parks Notebook

Park Board Comprehensive Plan up for review

From July 16 until Aug. 3, Minneapolis residents will have the chance to give feedback on a draft of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s Comprehensive Plan. The document — available at www.minneapolisparks.org — “sets a vision for the future of the Minneapolis park system,” according to a recently released statement. It’s based on feedback from 172,300 questionnaires that were mailed to residents in the fall of 2006 about the community’s park needs. Members of the public can submit their comments online or attend any of three open houses.

Here’s the schedule for the open houses:

• July 17, 7–8:30 p.m. at the Powderhorn Park Recreation Center, 3400 15th Ave. S.

• July 19, 12:30–2 p.m., Loring Park Community Center, 1382 Willow St.

• July 24, 7–8:30 p.m., Folwell Park Recreation Center, 1615 Dowling Ave. N.

Lake of the Isles restoration update

The Park Board has decided not to install covered picnic areas on the south shore of Lake of the Isles as part of its restoration project. The shelters were hotly debated among residents in the area concerned about preserving the historic landscape around the lake.

This summer, workers will be constructing new lake access points, landscaping and installing uncovered picnic tables. The last part of the plan includes reconstructing pathways around the lake, planting new trees and shrubs, restoring shorelines, and creating a canoe storage area on the south end. The project is about a year away from completion.

Minneapolis named top green, biking city

Minneapolis is one of the top 10 greenest cities in the country, according to MSN.com’s Cities Guide. The website praised Minneapolis for adopting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards; giving credit to residents for decreasing stormwater runoff; supporting the Hiawatha Light Rail system; and greening its fleet of city vehicles. Coming in sixth among cities like Austin, Berkeley, and Boston, the article called Minneapolis “a solider in the fight against climate change” and “a green heavyweight.”

On a similar environmentally conscious note, Minneapolis has the highest number of commuters biking to work each day, second only to Portland, Ore. According the U.S. Census Bureau, of the 189,294 workers in the city of lakes, 2.4 percent cycle to their jobs, vastly outnumbering the national average of 0.4 percent.

Grand Rounds Trivia Passport

The Minneapolis Park Board has started a “passport program” in an effort to get people walking, biking, and skating the 50-mile Grand Round Scenic Byway. The “passports” are actually postcards with trivia questions about the surroundings at kiosks along the byway. Participants can fill out the cards, send them in the mail free of charge, and win a free gift if they get all the questions correct. The contest lasts until Sept. 30 with prizes ranging from a water bottle to a digital pedometer. For more information, go to www.minneapolisparks.org.

Stop and smell the roses

Now is a better time than ever to visit Minneapolis’ public gardens. The mid-summer season brings out oodles of blooming flowers and native prairie grasses. Lyndale Farmstead Park, on the northeast shore of Lake Harriet, has four different flower patches with a wide variety of colors and scents, including a rose garden; a collection of annuals and perennials; and a hummingbird and butterfly area. Admission is free and the park is open daily from dawn until dusk.

Reach Mary O’Regan at moregan@mnpubs.com or 436-5088.

Parks notebook

Housing developers to build new parks
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has approved the first draft of a new Chapter 14 ordinance that would require a land dedication or financial contribution from developers who increase the number of housing units on a Minneapolis parcel. The ordinance says that, because new developments result in increased population, the Park Board would be responsible for creating new park facilities to accommodate the additional people. But the financial burden shouldn’t fall on the general property tax levy; instead the ordinance states: "New housing development[s] should contribute financially to and assist in paying the costs associated with creating additional public parks or recreation facilities."

Developers who choose not to donate land will be required to pay $3,000 per new unit or $1,500 for affordable housing units. Land dedications from developers are common in other cities such as St. Paul. Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-60B) is responsible for pushing the Minneapolis Park Board ordinance through the Legislature during the 2006 session.

Park projects head to state for funding
On June 20, the Park Board agreed on a list of projects to be submitted to the state Finance Department for the 2008 bonding session. In order of priority, they’re asking for $10 million for the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway; $2 million for regional park playgrounds; $1 million to rehab Father Hennepin Regional Park; $5 million for Theodore Wirth Regional Park ($1.5 million of which would go toward the JD Rivers Children’s Garden); and $2.7 million for health and wellness centers.

Green lumber
The Park Board has OK’d the purchase of $160,000 worth of lumber for use within the system. The amount, which includes delivery, comes from four different wood suppliers. Commissioner Scott Vreeland suggested that, in the future, the Board should look into purchasing lumber from a company that specializes in sustainability. "I think it’s important we acknowledge our environmental footprint," he said during the June 20 meeting. "Our leadership could transform the Park Board and the city."

Lake of the Isles funding increase
Due to Park Board approval, funding for Lake of the Isles’ North Shoreline Improvement Project has increased from $89,409 to $1,087,644. The new total allows for additional materials and labor. Construction on the project began last August and is close to completion. Some of the accomplishments so far include shoreline naturalization, new wetland areas, retaining walls replacements, and new pathways and trees.

New Peace Bridge in Lyndale Park
The Peace Garden Project Committee is raising money to build a new bridge in the Lyndale Park Peace Garden just off of Lake Harriet. They’ve collected $34,000 so far and need $60,000 more. The current footbridge – constructed in 1985 featuring stones from Hiroshima and Nagasaki – is frost-damaged and decaying. The committee hopes to rebuild it, keeping the same stones but using more durable wood and materials such as granite and sasi blocks. To make a donation, send a check payable to the Peace Garden Project to the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, 3800 Bryant Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN, 55409. Donors who give $100 or more will receive a special reprint of plans prepared by Superintendent Theodore Wirth in 1926 for the improvement of Lake Harriet.

Wet dogs
At the June 20 Park Board meeting, Commissioner Carol A. Kummer asked Police Chief Johnson about dog swimming ordinances in the lakes. She noted that it’s currently against the law for walkers to allow their pooches onto the beach, let alone in the water, but that no one is enforcing the rule. Johnson explained that the ordinance forbidding dogs on beaches has only recently been added to the Park Board website. But unless police witness the aquatic pups, there’s not much they can do.

Reach Mary O’Regan at moregan@mnpubs.com or 436-5088.