Parks update // Gurban exits

Sans fanfare, Gurban exits the Park Board

June 16 marked Superintendent Jon Gurban’s last regular meeting with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. The controversial leader is set to end his tenure June 30.

In an unusual move, Gurban did not receive special recognition at the meeting. President John Erwin said it was the superintendent’s request to keep things low key, despite Erwin’s own objections.

“Some of us had our differences,” Erwin said during a brief statement. “… But we cannot question his dedication to this system.”

Gurban, originally hired on an interim basis in 2004, put in his resignation in March. Highlights of his work include the creation of a comprehensive plan, tight budgeting and the passage of plans to fill in the decades-old gap in the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System. However, Gurban also was dogged for much of his six years by complaints about his interaction with the general public, and whether he would be retained was a common campaign topic leading up to last fall’s election.

Former Superintendent David Fisher will step in on an interim basis for the next four months. The search for the system’s next full-time superintendent is ongoing.

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Groups adopt parks to preserve, improve

At least two Southwest groups have tapped into the Park Board’s adopt-a-park program to help protect and preserve areas in Minneapolis.

The Park Board began the program to save the city’s natural resources while allowing the community a chance for extra involvement. Anyone from individuals to groups can adopt parks through one-year contracts.

“[This program is] a good way for the public to be engaged in park properties in a meaningful way,” said Michelle Kellogg, Park Board volunteer coordinator.

With the help of former environment committee chairwoman Kathy Urberg and current chairwoman Christina Cassano, the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council adopted William Berry Park, located between lakes Calhoun and Harriet. The neighborhood group chose the park because it’s been relatively untouched by invasive species, a condition that LHiNC wants to help maintain, member Connie Pepin said.

So far in their adopt-a-park journey, LHiNC has hosted weed pulls to reduce the invasive buckthorn and garlic mustard that had made its way into the park. In addition, it has planted trees and hosted wildflower tours to educate the public about the unique area.

For more information, go to bit.ly/bZ42xX.

Nearby, the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis has been working to protect Roberts Bird Sanctuary, located just west of Lake Harriet. The volunteer organization, which works to inform and educate about birds and other wildlife, as well as protect natural habitats from urbanization, is the first to ever adopt the park.

Roberts Bird Sanctuary is recognized as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society, meaning that it’s considered a prime space for birds to thrive. Volunteers with the local chapter are working to enhance what’s already there rather than restore the area.

“We’re interested in birds and conserving bird habitat, while still enhancing human life,” said Kit Healy, who has been leading the volunteer effort.

Audubon is hosting volunteer pulls to eradicate invasive species, and it has organized and provided bird walks to educate the public about the unique area. They recently obtained permission from the Park Board to set up a program allowing registered trained volunteers to adopt sections of the park for more specialized treatment. They also are working on setting up a series of meetings to allow the public to share their visions for Roberts.

For more on the project, go to audubonchapterofminneapolis.org.

For more on the adopt-a-park program, go to minneapolisparks.org, call 230-6439 or e-mail [email protected]

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Brownie Lake CAC OK’d

The Park Board unanimously approved the formation of a citizens’ advisory committee that will provide input on improving accessibility at Brownie Lake.

Brownie, the smallest lake in the chain that includes Calhoun and Harriet, is a mostly peaceful and rustic site located at the tip of the Bryn Mawr neighborhood. It edges into suburbia, but exactly which suburb left some commissioners confused. Ultimately, they voted to give St. Louis Park Mayor Jeff Jacobs a pick for the citizens’ committee. Earlier, the choice was expected to be Golden Valley Mayor Linda Loomis’.