Parks update // Park Board identifies projects for riverfront revitalization

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is close to approving a full plan to revitalize the riverfront north of Boom Island, pinpointing three projects that are likely to come together the soonest.

A full report, called RiverFIRST, outlines several projects and a framework for connecting the community to the upper river, the last major waterfront in the city that has no nearby trails.

Three projects are listed as the most immediate: paving bike and pedestrian trails along both sides of the river, developing a park at the former Scherer Bros. lumber site just north of Broadway Avenue, and building a green space that would connect North Minneapolis via Fairview Park, over the top of I-94, to the riverfront.

“It’s these projects that really rise to the top as far as the immediacy of implementation,” said Assistant Superintendent of Planning Bruce Chamberlain.

The Park Board is considering spending money to have a design team to develop “schematic plans” that will give detailed cost estimates and push the projects closer to construction.

The Park Board already owns the Scherer Bros. site and has taken steps to clear it. It has also applied for federal grants through the Metropolitan Council for trails along the river.

RiverFIRST, in its entirety, is estimated to cost about $175 million, but includes many more projects such as biohavens on the river, wetlands on the west side of the river and a Gateway Park that would make a green connection Nicollet Mall to the river.

The Park Board has set aside about $25 million for riverfront development over the next five years in its capital improvement program.

“We need to be aggressive and forward thinking about how we can bring partners to the table and find other funding mechanisms in order to accomplish this aggressive project,” Chamberlain said.

Questions still surround the project. Some have complained that the Park Board hasn’t reached out to communities of color on the west side of the river for input.

Commission Jon Olson, who represents North Minneapolis, said the plan to connect his part of the city to the river via a land bridge isn’t large enough.

“A lot of people like the land bridge, and yeah I think it’s a great idea, but I think it’s far too small,” Olson said.  

People for Parks turns 35

This year is the 35th birthday for People for Parks, a non-profit organization that has helped enhance the Minneapolis park system since 1977.

The group was formed after Dutch Elm Disease wiped out 31,000 trees and left the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board hurting for funding to replant along city boulevards. The Dayton-Hudson Foundation had a policy of not donating to the government, so the Minneapolis Parks Foundation sprang to life and later became People for Parks.

To date, People for Parks has donated over $2 million to Minneapolis parks and is responsible for a wide variety of improvements, including the band shell benches and picnic shelters at Lake Harriet, the Park Board’s mobile sound stage, trails and lighting at Wirth Park and the Lyndale Peace Garden.

People for Parks has contributed to recent projects, including buckthorn removal at in Linden Hills, chess tables at Logan Park, landscaping at Audubon Park, a plane crash memorial at Minnehaha Parkway and several tennis court restorations.

Reach Nick Halter at [email protected]