Residents, Planners gather to discuss future of Southwest parks

Emmanuel Ortiz, right, of Parks & Power, talks with Tyler Pederson, a design project manager with the MPRB about the future of Parade Park. Photo by Andrew Hazzard.

For the first time in the 135-year history of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, the organization is doing an overhaul of its master plan for neighborhood parks and asking for the public’s feedback in an attempt to learn what residents want from their shared spaces.

“What’s great about neighborhood parks is people feel a lot of ownership,” said Colleen O’Dell, project manager for the Southwest Service Area Master Plan, overseeing the future of the 43 neighborhood parks in the area.

Several residents and parks advocates came to an open house on Nov. 15 to review the proposals for area parks and give feedback to the planners, technicians and architects.

“I think the designs should reflect the diversity of Minneapolis through and through,” said Emmanuel Ortiz, who works with the group Parks & Power, which is pushing for racial equity throughout the park system.

Big ideas

There are some big ideas out there for the parks in the Southwest neighborhoods. The initial design proposals call for more soccer fields, skate parks, dual usage spaces, nature interaction and, of course, bathrooms.

“If there’s anything we hear everybody ask for, no matter what size the project, it’s ‘we need restrooms,’” said design project manager Tyler Pederson.

Pederson and Ortiz looked over the proposal sketches for Parade Park in Kenwood together. Proposals call for enhancing the natural space around Spring Lake by adding paths and mountain biking trails and putting in a sports dome with three youth field spaces.

Ortiz said he likes to see more soccer space throughout the park system, because it’s a uniting game played by people from many cultures. He’s in favor of spaces not just for leagues but unreserved time where locals can come by for casual play and pick-up games.

At smaller parks, like Smith Triangle at Hennepin & Emerson, designers are looking at ways to maximize space for a variety of uses. Geographic information systems technician Madeline Hudek said they’re considering adding an open skate park area where the current statue of Thomas Lowry is now and moving that statue, appropriately, to Thomas Lowry Park. In the winter, they’d consider converting the space to a small ice rink.

Smith Park is also looking at adding an outdoor pingpong table. The only outdoor table currently in the Southwest area of the city is at Park Siding along the Kenilworth Trail in Cedar-Isles-Dean.

In the zone east of Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet, designers are looking at ways to use the Loon Lake Trolley Path and surrounding land. Early options will look to either add more nature play areas for children or a boardwalk with views of the lakes and trails that offer entry-level mountain bike runs, according Michael Lima, an architect with 4umla, a firm that’s working with MPRB on the master plans.

In nearby Painter Park, planners are eyeing a skatepark that can moonlight as an amphitheater with tiered stairs and rail elements.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to play with dual spaces,” Lima said.

At Martin Luther King Jr. Park in King Field, there’s talk of possibly taking out the two baseball diamonds for an event center that would have a turf field for soccer.

Getting feedback

At the open drawing studio, park enthusiasts talked to the planners about their sketches for future parks and wrote suggestions and comments on Post-It notes.

Post-it notes left by residents who came to the Southwest Area Master Plan open house on Nov. 15 give feedback to planners working on the future of neighborhood parks. Photo by Andrew Hazzard.
Post-it notes left by residents who came to the Southwest Area Master Plan open house on Nov. 15 give feedback to planners working on the future of neighborhood parks. Photo by Andrew Hazzard.

Right now, these are all just ideas. O’Dell said the planners will collect feedback and release proposed designs to a community advisory committee (CAC) in early 2019. Once the CAC makes their recommendations, staffers will make up final drawings and post them for a 45-day public comment period, with a goal of getting commissioners to approve a plan next summer.

O’Dell said neighborhood park plan overhaul throughout the city is “one of those legacy moments” for an organization that has won honors as the best parks system in the nation and is hoping to live up to the title by increasing racial, age and socio-economic equity.