Monthly Archives: May 2004

Park Board Meeting

Note: public comment “open time” has been moved from 6:15pm to 6:00pm.

Detailed agendas for committee meetings and regular meeting are now available in Adobe Acrobat PDF format (easily viewable and printable from your web browser) at this link to the Park Board’s web site.

(Formerly agendas were available only as Microsoft Word documents.)

SW Journal: Parkways may again close to traffic some Sundays

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board may again close part of the Chain of Lakes Parkway to traffic a few hours one Sunday each month this summer so residents and park users can have some peace and quiet. The Park Board is expected to vote on the plan June 4.

Commissioner John Erwin said this year’s events would have better signage and advertising.

In Southwest, closing again would include East Calhoun Parkway from Lake Street to West 36th Street, West Calhoun Parkway from Excelsior Boulevard to Richfield Road, and West Lake of the Isles Parkway from Dean Parkway to the Channel Bridge.

SW Journal: City reaps few legislative successes amid stalemate

The Park Board lost a chance at its $5 million request to finish a $10.2 million project to renovate Lake of the Isles, its top bonding priority.

The money would pay for bridge repair, parkway improvements, and shoreline and path work on the north arm and south shore. Park lobbyist Brian Rice said the project appeared to be in good shape: the Senate had $2.5 million for Lake of the Isles; the House had $2 million when the Legislature adjourned.

“We are like everyone else,” Parks Commissioner Walt Dziedzic said. “We didn’t fare too well.”

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s biggest legislative achievement was getting the state to include sections of the Grand Rounds in Northeast Minneapolis in the Metro Parks regional park system, said Dziedzic, who chairs the Intergovernmental Relations Committee. It makes Columbia Parkway, Stinson Boulevard and Ridgeway Parkway eligible for Met Council trail maintenance money.

When the bonding bill died, the Park Board lost approximately $3 million for various projects through Metro Parks, a regional park improvement program administered by the Metropolitan Council, Rice said.

SW Journal: New city fees have Park, Library Boards crying foul

The Minneapolis Park and Library systems are in a financial tug of war with the city — and how it plays out will determine whether parks and libraries get hit with a new round of cuts.

In 2003, the city began charging the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Minneapolis Library Board for a share of city management overhead — such as the Assessor’s Office, human resources, procurement, budgeting, technology and affirmative action efforts.

In 2003 and 2004, the city charged the Park Board $800,000 a year, roughly equivalent to the operating budgets for two recreation centers (or quadruple Mayor R.T. Rybak’s 2004 tree-planting initiative.)

The city charged the Library Board $300,000 a year, or approximately half the annual budget of Uptown’s Walker Library, 2880 Hennepin Ave. S.

To city leaders, it seemed only fair for the Park and Library Boards to share the costs of services that benefit them. Some independent Board officials say they feel the city is fixing its budget problems at their expense.

Pioneer Press: Park Board Rejects Hydro Plant

“A proposal to build a hydroelectric generating plant in the area where flour milling once dominated downtown Minneapolis has been rejected by the Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board.

On a vote of 5-4, the park board, which owns the site near the Stone Arch Bridge, voted Wednesday against a proposal by Crown Hydro to build an underground generating plant that would have used the tunnels and chutes that once powered the old mills.

The proposal had been opposed by a number of groups, including residents of expensive condos along the river and the Minnesota Historical Society, which operates the Mill City Museum near the site and advocates of further historical excavations in the area.”

Gluek Park Closed Due to Asbestos Contamination

Gluek Park, a popular spot for dog walkers and kids in northeast Minneapolis, is closed. But the Minneapolis Park Board signs posted across the driveways don’t say why.

On Friday, a few neighborhood activists took matters into their own hands and posted home-made orange signs at the park entrance that made the reason clear.

“Park closed,” they read. “Asbestos Abatement Project.”

Neighborhood residents said the Park Board closed the park about three weeks ago [finally, after the Park Board commissioners were pressured by concerned citizens], but has not responded to their requests for signs that warn about the asbestos contamination. People — and children — on foot can easily walk past the signs, they said.

“Citizens should know it’s not wise to go in here,” said Tom Taylor, a member of the Sheridan Neighborhood Organization.

Crown Hydro Commentary the Star Tribune Refused to Print

Below is a commentary by Minnesota Historical Society Director and State Historic Preservation Officer Nina Archabal which the Star Tribune chose not to print.

April 28, 2004


Archaeology is a magical subject – full of surprises. Archaeologists make magic –
whether they are uncovering the remains of a previously unknown ancient village in Central America or of an abandoned flour mill in Minneapolis, archaeological discoveries make the news. In recent years, Minneapolis has experienced the magic of archeological discovery in the creation of Mill Ruins Park on the west side of Minneapolis’ Mississippi riverfront.

Thanks to the imagination of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, Minneapolis has an archaeological park along its riverfront. Comprised of the remains of long-abandoned ruins, this park tells the story of the industry that made Minneapolis the milling capitol of the world for 50 years from 1880 to 1930. For decades, the mill ruins lay buried under piles of sand and gravel and only recently archaeologists have begun to excavate the area to create Mill Ruins Park. Where most people saw only piles of sand and gravel along the banks of the Mississippi, the Park Board saw the remnants of Minneapolis’ milling past. No one really knew what would be found when the layers of dirt were stripped away. Even so, the Park Board went forward with a commitment that whatever the archaeologists found could play a central role in the recreational and educational experience available to the public in a revitalized Minneapolis riverfront. The people love it.

Just about any day you will see folks stopping on the Stone Arch Bridge to examine the now exposed lower floors of the Empire, Minneapolis, and Pillsbury “B” Mills. The ruins remind us of the story of the industry that made Minneapolis the world’s leading flour producer for half a century. These ruined chambers have taken their place among the most photographed locations in the city.

Now, the Park Board has the opportunity to continue the discovery process at the remains of the Cataract Mill. Built in 1859 and located adjacent to Portland Avenue between West River Parkway and the downtown side of the Stone Arch Bridge, the Cataract Mill is the oldest commercial mill on the west side milling district. Just like the adjacent ruins, which were exposed to create Mill Ruins Park, the remains of the Cataract are buried under layers of sand and gravel. Applying the wisdom of its earlier process, the Park Board would reasonably excavate the Cataract and its neighbors to expose the building foundations and water channels that once served the oldest of the mills.

Unfortunately, the proposal by Crown Hydro to build a commercial hydroelectric plant at the Cataract Mill site is threatening to obscure the Park Board’s vision. During earlier investigations of the area, archaeologists sampled sections and showed that the waterpower system and substantive parts of the mill’s lower levels remained intact.

What remains of the Cataract Mill? The answer is that no one will know until the archaeologists take a look. The same kind of systematic and careful excavation the Park Board undertook to uncover the mill ruins we can see today is needed at the Cataract Mill site. Not until this is done can the Park Board make a wise decision about any development at this location. Until this is done, the Minnesota Historical Society, which has clear responsibility under law to comment on the impact of the proposed project on historic resources, will be troubled. The Park Board owes it to the public to know what remains of the Cataract Mill and to protect the historic resource from damage or destruction. As owners of the Cataract, the Park Board holds this historic resource in trust for all of us and is responsible for protecting it. This is the least we should expect. Better yet, the Park Board could continue the success of Mill Ruins Park and make archaeological magic again – uncovering and preserving the remains of the Cataract Mill on the Minneapolis riverfront.

Nina Archabal, Director
and State Historic Preservation Officer
Minnesota Historical Society

Crown Hydro Debate Not About Renewable Energy

In the debate over the Crown Hydro power plant to be built on Minneapolis Park property, most proponents are framing the issue as being about renewable energy. They falsely claim those opposed to the project must be opposed to renewable energy.

Renewable energy is not the issue at all. It is whether the costs and risks of the project are worth the benefits to Minneapolis.

If what we want from this project is the additional hydro power, then why not simply allow Xcel Energy to produce it? Xcel has a hydro plant directly across the river from the proposed location running at far less than maximum output, simply for want of more water. Give the water rights to Xcel instead of Crown Hydro, and we save the $5.1 million from the renewable energy fund and an approximately $2 million rate subsidy from the state.

If you do not want to subsidize another private business, now is the time to call your Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board commissioner and tell them not to lease the land to Crown Hydro. They will be voting yes or no on this issue Wednesday evening, May 19.

Historical Society Opposes Crown Hydro

The Minnesota Historical Society opposes the proposed Crown Hydro power plant on St. Anthony Falls’ west bank, at least until more archeological research is done, said Nina Archabal, Minnesota Historical Society director.

The Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Bureau has not taken an official position, but Greg Ortale, its president and CEO, is raising concerns about the project’s potential impact on tourism.

Alternative energy supporters have backed the project because it is a source of renewable energy. Many new riverfront residents have strongly opposed it, saying it would detract from their neighborhood.