Comments taken on the future of Southwest Parks

One of the concepts for Washburn Fair Oaks Park in Whittier. Image from Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

The final concepts for the 43 neighborhood parks in Southwest are nearing completion after another round of public open houses this month.

The Southwest Area Master Plan, part of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s effort to update neighborhood parks across the city, will not be finalized until this summer. The most recent plan of open houses featured two concepts for each park and offered a closer look about how the parks will look in the next 20 years.

Some major themes in the plans include adding places for skateboarding, nature-play areas, multi-use courts and fields and a lot more native plants.

“I think we’ve tried to incorporate native plantings and rain gardens in all of them,” said Allen Van Dein, a consultant with SRF who has been working on master plan’s across the city at an open house at the Jones-Harrison residence on Feb. 12.

Current concepts offer eight possible new places to skate in Southwest, from smaller skate spots at Whittier Park and Smith Triangle, to full on skate parks at Pershing Park and Waveland Triangle. Nature-play areas, designed to allow children in the city to play on elements like logs rocks, are included in concepts for 18 parks. There are 22 parks that have concepts calling for more spaces for native plants.

Not everyone is excited about the ideas. Nora Whiteman, of Cedar-Isles-Dean, thinks some of the ideas for smaller triangle parks have too much going on. She’s skeptical about concept plans for Allcott Triangle, one of which calls for a community garden with a tool shed and the other envisions a restroom on site. She thinks the bathroom in the small park is a waste of money.

“It’s too much stuff for this space,” Whiteman said.

James Garrett, Jr. a managing partner at consultant landscape architecture firm 4rmula, said the plans are trying to balance the needs of two groups: longterm area residents and people who have yet to be born or move here.

“This is a 20 year vision, and it’s not meant to serve only today,” Garrett said.

His favorite concept to work on was at Washburn Fair Oaks Park in Whittier, across the street from the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where one concept calls for a new central plaza for performances and transforming one of the park’s hills into a sloped grass berm for viewing. Also in the concept are plans for a climbing wall, public art wall and a nature play area.

One of the concepts for Washburn Fair Oaks Park in Whittier. Image from Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
One of the concepts for Washburn Fair Oaks Park in Whittier. Image from Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

“It feels like there is a lot of potential,” Garret said.

Now MPRB staff and consultants will review comments from open houses and online surveys and the plans will be reviewed further by a community advisory committee who will make further recommendations. Final concepts will then be posted for a 45-day public comment period before a public hearing and final approval from commissioners, expected to take place this summer.

Project concepts can be viewed and commented on at Minneapolisparks.org.

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