Parks update // Whittier China garden

Fundraising approved for Whittier China garden

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on July 7 approved a fundraising effort for a Northern-style China garden at Washburn Fair Oaks Park that would be the first of its kind in the city.  

The Park Board has worked with the Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society and Whittier neighborhood since 2007 on the project, which would be located in the southeast section of the 7.5-acre park. No specific design is in place, but the Northern, or imperial, style garden would feature gradual sloping eaves in its architecture and a harmonious unity with nature, according to a statement from the Park Board.

Plans might include a gateway, seating, roofed structure, paths, bridge and plantings. The Garden Society has estimated a $1.5-$2 million price tag for the garden, money that is expected to come entirely from fundraising.

The plan is to raise 20 percent of the cost during the first year, 40 percent in the second year, 60 percent in the third year and 100 percent by the fourth year. When 60 percent of the funding is reached, the Park Board will form a Citizens Advisory Committee to discuss design details. The city has been working with its sister city of Harbin, China, to help fund the garden.

The Whittier Alliance voted more than a year ago to explore the garden concept, but residents still have concerns about how it would be maintained or whether it would interrupt regular park uses, such as sledding.  

“If this moves forward, how is the balance of the park affected? Whether or not the Chinese garden is a good thing or a bad thing, the neighborhood hasn’t taken a position on that yet,” said Whittier Alliance Executive Director Marian Biehn.  

Park Board Commissioner Anita Tabb (4th District), said she thinks the garden could be a “potentially lovely addition to the park,” but noted it needs community buy-in to be successful and it should also transition smoothly with its surroundings.

Washburn Fair Oaks Park is at 200 24th St. E.


New Park Police Chief appointed

In a sudden restructuring move less than a month after taking the reins of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Interim Superintendent David Fisher has opted for a new park police chief.

The Park Board announced in a brief statement July 19 that Fisher had appointed Lt. Linda Bergstrom to replace nine-year Chief Bradley Johnson. The reason for the move wasn’t clear, but Park Board General Manager Mike Schmidt said it was part of Fisher’s plan to reorganize the park system.

“I’m sure there were a lot of people who were surprised, but superintendent Fisher had talked about making some structural changes,” said Schmidt, who also serves in a superintendent-appointed position, along with about a dozen other employees.  

He said Fisher was more comfortable with Bergstrom in the chief role, so he made the change. Fisher could not be reached before press time to comment on the decision.

“Some superintendents make changes that put people into places that they’re more comfortable with or fit within their idea of the structure of the organization,” Schmidt said.

Bergstrom started her law enforcement career with the Park Board in 1979 as a patrol agent, was promoted to park police officer in 1981, to sergeant eight years later and to lieutenant in 2006. She now oversees safety and security for a system that includes 182 park properties and draws roughly 18 million visitors each year.


Meetings set to discuss revitalization of bird sanctuary

The Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis (ACM) recently adopted the Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary to preserve and improve the natural area.

The ACM partnered with the East Harriet-Farmstead Neighborhood Association and the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council to create a long-term management plan for the park. The plan includes involving the community in identifying opportunities and priorities for revitalizing the area. The meetings will be held as follows:

The meetings will be held early August through Sept. 7.

For more information, visit the ACM website at: