Park notebook

Effects of bridge collapse

At the Aug. 15 Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) meeting, Superintendent Jon Gurban updated the commissioners about the effect the Interstate 35W bridge collapse has had on the parks system. Some of the first responders to the site were Park Police, he said. They were working 12-hour shifts and are now back to eight hours a day — money will be appropriated from the budget to cover overtime. The Park Board has also issued a right of easement, allowing the Minnesota Department of Transportation and federal government to design a new bridge.

Park Board tax levy

MPRB commissioners are requesting that the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation grant the maximum amount, 10.5 percent, for the Park Board’s annual tax levy increase for 2008. The commissioners will ultimately decide what the rate is, but the Board of Estimate and Taxation decides the maximum percentage.

The rate increase for the last five years was 4 percent, said Bob Fine, the MPRB’s Board of Estimate and Taxation member. “We’re asking for more than in the past.”

The Park Board will decide their 2008 rate this December. Their decision will hinge on whether the governor calls a special session, and the Legislature revives the tax bill that included increases in local government aid (LGA) that Governor Tim Pawlenty vetoed last spring.

“The hope is the governor now will pass that tax bill. If that happens, the rate that we ask may not be that high. But at least by setting the cap we have that ability to go up there,” said Fine. “If we don’t get this LGA […] we need a bigger tax increase because people want the services they’re expecting to get.”

Nike donates shoes to Park Board

Nike Inc. has donated almost 1,500 pairs of athletic shoes to the Park Board, valued at $72,000. The sneakers have been distributed to kids involved in Park Board programs, such as track and football. The gift is part of NikeSummerShoes, a program that has given more than 60,000 pairs of shoes to youth in 21 communities nationwide.

Emiliano Zapata statue

The city has received a statue of
Emiliano Zapata, a leader in the Mexican Revolution, from the Mexican state of Morelos, Zapata’s hometown. The Park Board has put Commissioner Scott Vreeland (District 3), who represents the Phillips/Longfellow area, in charge of working with the city to find a home for the statue. Commissioners mentioned several possible locations at the Aug. 15 Park Board meeting, such as Powderhorn Park, Adams Triangle, and a park in Northeast. According to Ernesto Reyes, president of Club Morelos, a Twin Cities organization, the statue should be placed near Lake Street, which is a central location for the 25,000 Minneapolis residents from Morelos.

According to Gurban, the statue is not officially being donated to the Park Board. “This should really be a city issue,” he said. “We were simply an option, a real estate option.”

Construction resumes at Lake of the Isles

Renovation work at Lake of the Isles started up again on July 31 after a delay intended to resolve historic preservation issues.

Crews have been working on projects that won’t have an impact on historic preservation issues, including stabilizing the south shoreline, reinforcing retaining walls alongside the bridges, installing concrete bench pads, raising the drinking fountain at the southwest planting area and adding 12 stone access points that lead down to the shore.

The Park Board is waiting for further approval from the State Historic Office before planting dozens of new trees around the lake. They may plant a few this fall, said project manager Deb Boyd, but the bulk will go in next spring, pending approval.

Boy Scouts want Park Board building

On Aug. 15, the Boy Scouts of America’s Northern Star Council presented commissioners with their plan for the 201 Building, a piece of property near Fort Snelling that belongs to the Park Board. They want to purchase the large building and use it as a base camp for troop members, with a climbing wall, ropes course and leadership center.

Some commissioners expressed concern about doing business with an organization that has, in the past, excluded gays and atheists from participating. A representative from the Northern Star Council insisted that their chapter is allowed to make decisions independent from the national organizations and is therefore more progressive.

Vreeland asked several times, “If I am gay and don’t believe in God, can I be a Boy Scout leader?” The representative responded that it’s up to the parents of troop members to elect scout leaders.

“I was a Boy Scout, so if you discriminate, you’re not doing a very good job of it,” laughed Commissioner-at-large Tom
Nordyke.

The board will decide whether to sell the 201 Building at a future meeting.

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