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Welcome to the new Park Watch website.  We hope that you will find the new format easier to read and to use. To facilitate navigating the website, there is a search feature and an index of topics.

In addition to the current postings, the new website includes ALL the postings from the old website beginning with January 2004.  With ten years of postings, the Park Watch website  presents a valuable perspective on a critical period in the Park Board’s history.


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Heads-Up for the October 22, 2014 Park Board Meeting

5:00 P.M.  REGULAR BOARD MEETING. The meeting will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

5:30 P.M.  OPEN TIME. Speakers can call 612-230-6400 before 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting to sign up or they can sign up at the Board meeting prior to the start of “Open Time.”

Listed below are some agenda items of interest:

–Authorizing a Professional Services Agreement with LHB to provide Consulting Services for the Downtown Service Area Master Plan for a Fee Not to Exceed $274,000, including Expenses

–Accepting a Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Fund Grant from the State of Minnesota in the Amount of $600,000 for Vegetation Enhancements at Theodore Wirth Regional Park

–Superintendent’s Recommended 2015 Budget

–Authorizing the Formation and Charge of an Appointed Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Reconstruction and Cowles Conservatory Renovation

–Minneapolis Parks Foundation Presentation of the Water Works Site Concept Plan Within Mill Ruins Park

–Awarding a Construction Contract to Morcon Construction Co. Inc., in the Amount of $1,305,000.00 for the Minnehaha Park Refectory Improvement Project, Per O.P. No. 7996, Pending Approval by City of Minneapolis Purchasing & Procurement and Civil Rights Departments and Authorizing Administrative Use of a 10% Construction Contingency Up to $130,500.00 for Necessary Construction Change Orders that May Arise with the Contract and Authorizing an Internal Loan Up to $1,500,000 for Refectory and Site Improvements

–Amending Professional Services Agreement C-31051 with Landform for Master Planning, Final Design, Construction Document Preparation and Project Management Services Related to Construction of Weber Park Natural Swimming Pool and Pool House in the Amount of $62,340 for a New Contract Total of $632,840 and Allocating Additional $80,000 in Future North Mississippi Regional Park Funding to Cover This Change Order and Other Miscellaneous Project Costs

–Authorizing a Professional Services Agreement with M. A. Mortenson Company for “Construction Manager as Agency” Services for Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Reconstruction and Cowles Conservatory Renovation in the Amount of $657,444

The complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners meeting on October 22, 2014 is at http://minneapolisparksmn.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx .  Board meeting agendas and related information are posted on this web page two business days prior to meetings. Webcasts of MPRB regular board meetings are posted on the same web page two to five business days following each meeting and are available for viewing, along with webcasts for the previous two months.

Also of interest and now available to the commissioners and the public are the monthly reports that Superintendent Miller has initiated for construction permits and for Planning Department projects. The availability of these reports is one of the important changes instituted by Superintendent Miller. They are normally in the agenda packet for the first regular meeting of the month.

View Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board meetings live from 5-9 p.m. on the Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast Cable. You may also view live meetings online on the Channel 79 webpage: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/tv/79

Regular meetings are typically re-telecast on Channel 79 on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 5 p.m. Telecast schedules are subject to change.

The Park Board’s website is www.minneapolisparks.org. The phone number is 612-230-6400.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch

Another Hydropower Proposal Emerges

The following article by Ben Johnson was published in the September 30, 2014 issue of The Journal and updated on October 15.

Another Hydropower Proposal Emerges

Three pending hydropower proposals along central riverfront test balance between renewable energy and maintaining flow over St. Anthony Falls
Photo by Ben Johnson

St. Anthony Falls at about 11,000 cubic feet per second (cfs)

Another hydropower proposal has joined the crowded field of existing and proposed
hydropower facilities vying to divert water away from St. Anthony Falls to create renewable energy.

The controversial proposals highlight the increasingly complicated battle between numerous stakeholders over water use along the central riverfront.

The newest plan is called Symphony Hydro, led by former Northern States Power (NSP) executive Bob Schulte and several anonymous partners. Its plan, submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on June 26, would place a hydropower plant entirely within the soon-to-be-shuttered Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam.

60-day Comment Period Open for Draft of Theodore Wirth Regional Park Master Plan

The Park Board has issued the following notice:

60-day Comment Period Open for Draft of Theodore Wirth Regional Park Master Plan

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) invites public comment on the Draft Theodore Wirth Regional Park Master Plan through December 15, 2014. Once approved, the master plan will guide park investment at Wirth Park for the next twenty years. The draft plan builds on the concept plan that was approved by the MPRB Board in July 2012. Based on comments received, the draft plan will be revised and presented to the Board of Commissioners for a public hearing and approval in 2015.

The Draft Master Plan is available for review:

  • Online on the Wirth Park project page
  • At the following locations:
    • Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Headquarters, 2117 West River Road N
    • Wirth Chalet, Theodore Wirth Regional Park, 1301 Theodore Wirth Pkwy
    • Par 3, Theodore Wirth Regional Park, 1325 Theodore Wirth Pkwy
    • Harrison Recreation Center,
    • Kenwood Community Center,
    • North Commons Recreation Center,

 Submit a Comment:

  • Online
  • By Mail: Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board; 2117 West River Road N, Minneapolis, MN 55411 ATTN: Colleen O’Dell, Project Planner

 If you require language translation, please send an email to planning@minneapolisparks.org requesting translation in the language needed.

Riverfront Summit Monday, Oct. 20

The Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership will hold a Riverfront Summit on Monday, October 20, from 5:30 to 8:00 PM at the Mill City Museum.  The event will include the Mississippi Minute Film Festival, featuring 17 one-minute videos about the river submitted by members of the public.  Admission is free.

Further information is available at http://minneapolisriverfrontpartnership.org/minneapolis-riverfront-summit-2014/

MPRB Resolution on SWLRT tunnel consultant

Below is the text of the resolution passed by MPRB on October 1, which calls for hiring an outside engineering consultant to perform a more detailed study of a deep tunnel under the Kenilworth channel.  The Metropolitan Council abandoned the tunnel idea because they felt it was too expensive.  MPRB believes it would help reduce the impact of the Southwest light rail line on the Kenilworth corridor.  More information about the resolution is given in a previously-posted article, http://mplsparkwatch.org/2014/10/06/park-board-votes-to-study-southwest-light-rail-tunnel/  

MPRB Resolution on SWLRT tunnel consultant

Whereas, Current plans for the Southwest Light Rail Transit Project (SWLRT) bring the alignment over the Kenilworth Channel, co-locating freight, light rail and trail in the Kenilworth corridor and require massive at-grade infrastructure in and around the Kenilworth Channel that will fundamentally and permanently affect and change park, recreation areas, and historic property;

Whereas, In August, 2013, the MPRB Board of Commissioners passed Resolution 2013-282 stating a position on the preliminary engineering options for the proposed SWlRT through the Kenilworth corridor;

Whereas, Through Resolution 2014-114 in February 2014, the MPRB notified the SWLRT Project Office of the MPRB’s concern about the project and its effect on parkland and requested the SWLRT Project Office to conduct preliminary engineering feasibility and cost analysis of tunneling under the Kenilworth Channel;

Whereas, In Resolution 2014-209 the MPRB has stated its position that, based on SWLRT Project Office preliminary finding of feasibility, tunneling LRT under the Kenilworth Channel may be the only Section 4(f) prudent and feasible alternative;

Whereas, In Resolution 2014-209 the MPRB requested that the SWLRT Project Office continue necessary design and engineering studies to determine the feasibility and prudence of a tunnel under the Kenilworth Channel;

Whereas, The Metropolitan Council has not directed project office staff to develop the tunnel under the channel to the same level as the bridge option and has declined to conduct additional analysis;

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Readers’ Comments on the Forming of a Parks Conservancy

Readers’ Comments on the Forming of a Parks Conservancy

Here are a few readers’ comments that were posted on the Star Tribune blog which were critical of a parks conservancy for the Downtown East Park.

quinneroo Oct. 9, 14

rshackleford and I are NOT anti-stadium and never have been. Stop with the labels because it is a lie. We are anti-taxpayer funding, and if you have followed this issue you would realize the travesty that unfolded two years ago and the financial mess that it has caused, not to mention the discarding of the peoples right to a vote on the matter.

quinneroo Oct. 8, 14

So let me get this straight. We (City) are going to finance another playground for the same group that burdened us with a (peoples) stadium that a vast majority of residents can’t afford to visit, and by doing so also limit our use of it for their special events on the best days of the year. GOSH!!! Where do I sign up? I would rather fund the MPRB and have this space open to ALL residents ALL the time. Enough already!

Escape Oct. 8, 14

This isn’t public land. It’s publicly-funded land that most of the public won’t be allowed to use. It’s a park for millionaires paid for by us working slobs who can’t afford a Vikings ticket.

ghutch Oct. 8, 14

A non public, unaccountable, private business to oversee a park that the taxpayers of Minneapolis are responsible to pay the operating costs? HUH? This is simply adding more overhead to the unjustified expense of building and maintaining a private venue for the Vikings to exploit for their private benefit. Either make this a public park with full public access or sell it to the Vikings and let them run it and pay the bills. This is another public giveaway to the closed-head-injury entertainment industry.

rshackleford Oct. 8, 14

“The one outstanding question that we’re wresting with is how do you pay for the maintenance costs, the ongoing maintenance costs,” Frey said. —– These people in this group are GENIUSES. Good luck funding a park in perpetuity WITHOUT taxpayer money. If these people want to create a pseudo-park for Wilf, go ahead and pay for it for all time. And, paying for these pseudo-parks is not to be considered “charity and/or donations” that are tax deductible.

Downtown Leaders Form Entity to Oversee Green Space

The following article by Eric Roper was published in the October 9, 2014 edition of the Minneapolis StarTribune. Park Watch comment: Unfortunately the article fails to mention that the City is not authorized to own parks. Conservancies manage parks; they do not own parks. The unasked question in the article is so who will legally own the park?)

Downtown Leaders Form Entity to Oversee Green Space

An architect’s rendering of Downtown East next to new Vikings stadium.

A nonprofit conservancy seeks to operate the public green space near the new stadium.

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NRPA Article: Park Board rejects Downtown East park

The following article was published as the Feature Article in the October 2014 issue of the National Recreation and Parks Association’s magazine.  Richard J. Dolesh, the author, is NRPA’s Vice President of Conservation and Parks.  (Park Watch correction: The comment “The gift that keeps on taking” was attributed to Arlene Fried, but it was Park Board President Liz Wielinski who first said it.)

‘No Thanks’ Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Rejects Offer of Downtown East Park
Imagine this: Your city plans to build a vibrant urban park adjacent to a new stadium in an underutilized portion of downtown that will enhance and expand the urban core of your city. It will be a public space pulsing with energy, people and economic activity. Every other week or so, a huge influx of people will fill the city center for the day — people bent on eating, drinking and having a good time. They will stay in hotels, eat in restaurants and congregate in the new downtown park, producing business receipts and tax revenue. Best of all, your new park will periodically provide a dramatic backdrop and focal point for one of the biggest sports spectacles in America — a National Football League game.

For many in the business community of the City of Minneapolis, this is the long-awaited vision for the rebirth of the Downtown East area of the city. This redevelopment will be a dream come true. But in the eyes of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the public park agency of the City of Minneapolis, the Downtown East Park would be a nightmare come true that could lead the agency to financial ruin if it were to accept the agreement to operate the new park.

Arlene Fried, president of the Minneapolis volunteer advocacy group ParkWatch, pronounced her verdict on the agreement for the new Downtown East Park: “It’s absolutely outrageous!” she says, “And you can quote me on that!”

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The following article by Dylan Thomas was posted on the Southwest Journal’s website on October 2, 2014.


This illustration provided by the Metropolitan Council shows the bridge planned for Kenilworth Channel. The Park Board is pushing for a tunnel, instead.

Submitted image

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will spend up to $500,000 studying an alternative to a bridge over the Kenilworth Channel.

A divided Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted Wednesday to spend up to $500,000 studying a tunnel beneath the Kenilworth Channel to carry light rail trains.

The Metropolitan Council planners leading the nearly $1.7 billion Southwest Light Rail Transit Project had previously discarded that option in favor of a bridge over the channel. The resolution, passed on a 5–2 vote, states the bridge “will fundamentally and permanently affect and change park, recreation areas, and historic property” near the channel, which connects Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles.

The Park Board’s action could lay the groundwork for a future lawsuit by making the case that a tunnel is a “feasible and prudent alternative” to a bridge. That’s the standard for protecting parkland and historic sites set down in section 4(f) of the Federal Transportation Act.
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The following letter from Connie Sullivan regarding Peter Callaghan’s article about the Park Board’s reaction to being ignored by the MET Council was posted in the October 2, 2014 issue of MinnPost


The stonewalling by the Met Council and its staff is breath-taking. They intend to proceed as if the Minneapolis Park Board didn’t exist and didn’t have stewardship duties toward our parks–including what the met Council apparently thinks is some dinky little canal whose users can be ignored.

The decision to hire an engineering study for half a million is a brave act by the parks commissioners who voted for it. Think how guilty each of them would feel if they didn’t do everything possible to avoid desecration of a park amenity basic to the legend of our city lakes.

We should also look to see who wasn’t at last night’s meeting. Bourn made an extra effort, and we all would benefit from knowing who, among the commissioners, suddenly had something else that precluded their attending to their elected duty.