Long road to consensus on Southwest parks plan

Parade Park
The Parade Park, now with its own subcommittee, is among 13 parks still being debated in the Southwest Parks Plan. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

At a July 11 meeting, the community advisory committee (CAC) for the Southwest Service Area Master Plan was hoping to reach consensus on the balance between pickleball and tennis facilities, the distribution of basketball courts and the designs for nine neighborhood parks.

But after two hours, the group had only decided officially on the design of Mueller Park and formed a subcommittee on The Parade Park, which will require additional meetings to reach a consensus that will then have to be approved by the larger CAC.

Reaching agreement on the Southwest Parks Plan has been a long process, with various interest groups and neighborhood organizations lobbying for their respective desires to be reflected in the final designs.

Colleen O’Dell, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board project manager for the Southwest Parks Plan, said it has taken longer to work through plans in Southwest than in other quadrants of the city. There are 43 neighborhood parks in Southwest, and consensus has been reached on the proposed designs of 30 of them. The remaining 13 are some of the largest parks in Southwest: Armatage, Kenwood, Kenwood Parkway, Kenny, Lynnhurst, Linden Hills, Lyndale Farmstead, The Mall, Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Pershing, The Parade, Washburn Fair Oaks and Waveland Triangle.

Lynnhust Park is in the unique position of being included in both the Southwest plan and the Minnehaha Creek Regional Trail Master Plan. The Minnehaha CAC has reached consensus on a design for Lynnhurst, and the Southwest CAC was hoping to approve the design July 11 but decided to delay the vote to give the public more time to comment. (The Minnehaha Master Plan has slowed to a temporary halt after public resistance to plans to close part of Minnehaha Parkway to cars led to a pause in CAC meetings while more traffic data is collected; the Minnehaha CAC did vote against proposed medians at Lyndale and Nicollet avenues, which will allow for mostly continued vehicle traffic on the street).

The July 11 meeting included a debate over pickleball and tennis balance. Pickleball proponents called for larger investment in the game due to its popularity among seniors. One paddle-brandishing advocate called Minneapolis a “donut hole” for the game. Ultimately, the CAC voted to maintain existing tennis facilities at Kenny Park (even though plans called for pickleball) and to add a group of 6–8 dedicated pickleball courts at Kenwood Park.

A larger debate on the distribution of half- and full-court basketball throughout Southwest still needs to be held.

Efforts to find the right balance between athletic fields and diamonds have resulted in the creation of a subcommittee examining the issue at Armatage, Kenny, Linden Hills and Pershing parks. The group met once on July 15 and may need to meet again.

Bike skill training elements, such as shorter mountain bike tracks and parks, had mostly been removed between initial concepts and preferred concept designs, but have been re-added by the CAC at Lyndale Farmstead Park and are being considered at MLK Park.

After planners initially rejected requests to form a separate CAC for The Parade Park, the Southwest CAC voted to form a subcommittee for the park on July 11.

“The Park Board has ignored our neighborhood and ignored our area, and I’m not going to stand for it,” said Craig Wilson, a board member of the Lowry Hill Neighborhood Association and a CAC member.

With its premier athletic fields, indoor ice garden and connection to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, The Parade functions more as a regional park than a neighborhood park, Wilson said. O’Dell said the MPRB had planned other large neighborhood parks with regional attractions, like North Commons, without a separate CAC.

The preferred design concept calls for a dome over the turf field, an additional rink and curling center to be added to the ice garden and a new parking garage. He asked to see any traffic studies that have been conducted while voicing concerns that the increased amenities could lead to more vehicles in a busy area.

Nikki Schlepp, a consultant with design firm SRF, said her agency had examined traffic impacts and agreed to bring a report on those impacts to the first subcommittee meeting, which has yet to be scheduled.

The designs proposed in the Southwest Parks Plan will be implemented over the next 20 years, which is why planners tend to favor more general, mixed-use designs. The long-term nature of the plans means planners aim to maintain a balance between what residents say they want today, what the data tells them about the future of the city, other master plans within the MPRB and innovative park ideas from across the world, O’Dell said.

Ultimately, CAC votes are just recommendations and Park Board commissioners can tweak the designs before making a final vote on the master plan, which will likely occur in the fall. When that vote happens will depend on how many more meetings the CAC will hold and when a public hearing on their final recommendations occurs.

“There’s no prescribed schedule at which this has to continue,” O’Dell said. “We’re trying to see what the situation needs.”

Three additional CAC meetings are currently scheduled for the Southwest Parks Plan, all taking place from 6–8 p.m.: July 25 at Pershing Recreation Center, 3523 W. 48th St.; Aug. 8 at Lynnhurst Recreation Center, 1345 W. Minnehaha Parkway; and Aug. 9 at Kenwood Community Center, 2101 W. Franklin Ave.