Monthly Archives: June 2004

Theodore Wirth Statue Unveiling Ceremony on Cable

If you were unable to be at the Theodore Wirth statue unveiling ceremony on June 19, you now will have the oppportunity to see it on video. The Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society’s Wirth-While Weekend, Part I, will be telecast on MTN cable channel 17 at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, July 1. It’s
definitely “Wirth” watching.

Snubbing Theodore?

The Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society’s Wirth-While Weekend, which celebrated Theodore Wirth and the development of the Minneapolis park system, took place this past weekend (June 18 to June 20).

The highlight of the weekend was the unveiling of a bronze statue of Theodore Wirth, a generous gift to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the people of Minneapolis by donors Mr. and Mrs. John Richter and other Legacy Society supporters.

Park Board Commissioners John Erwin, Rochelle Berry-Graves, Walt Dziedzic, Vivian Mason, Jon Olson and Annie Young were present at the unveiling ceremonies as well as many of the other events, where they were participants. Also present at the unveiling and other events were 60 plus members of the Wirth family who came to Minneapolis from all over the country and as far away as Italy, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Not present, however, at the unveiling or any of the other many weekend events were Park Board Commissioners Carole Kummer, Bob Fine and Marie Hauser. Apparently, for these three commissioners, honoring the father of our park system was not a Wirth-While priority.

Webmaster’s note: The preceding commentary arrived in the webmaster’s mailbox yesterday. It was signed, but the writer, who is a private citizen and was not part of the event planning, has asked that his or her name be withheld.

St. Louis Endeavors to Build a Park System Like Ours

The Great Rivers Greenway District is set to break ground today on a four-mile trail along the River Des Peres in St. Louis. The family-friendly biking and walking trail will be one of dozens of green areas that eventually will form a “River Ring” around St. Louis.

“The River Des Peres project is symbolic of what we’re going to do,” said David Fisher, executive director of the agency, formerly known as the Metropolitan Park and Recreation District. “Someday, people in St. Louis will identify themselves with this. . . . The rivers define the region.”

The park district’s plans call for developing a string of “greenways” throughout the region. The greenways consist of trails, parks and on-street bicycle routes, sprinkled with picnic spots, boating facilities, wildlife areas and open space.

Eventually, people could walk or ride bicycles to work or neighborhood attractions or pedal from Missouri to Illinois and back again, all on leafy, safe pathways.

If the plan works, St. Louisans will enjoy a network of park land comparable to the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis or the Emerald Necklace in Boston.

Grandiose Schemes for Legacy Projects Lead to Total Mismanagement

In Thursday’s (6/17) Star Tribune Metro Section, page B6, an article by reporter Chao Xiong appeared discussing this fiasco on Park property at Ft. Snelling, and how the taxpayers via the Park Board are likely to be on the hook for millions of dollars:

“At least four contractors have filed liens totaling more than $2.5 million against the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for unpaid labor on a privately funded project on city land that failed because of financial troubles.

The companies said they weren’t fully paid for work on the The Fort, a multimillion-dollar attempt to build an indoor skate park, climbing gym and meeting facility in Fort Snelling’s historic Drill Hall. Phase Two of the project called for outdoor skate parks, two roller and ice-hockey rinks, and space for music events on the 6-acre site, according to the Web site for the Project’s private developer, Fort Inc. [sic]”

The web site for this project and The Fort LLC can be found here.

Work started on the building in September but stopped in January when contractors were not paid. Work restarted a month later when more funding came through, but again financial problems caught up with it and all worked stopped for good in late April, according to Mark Dongoske, owner of Associated Construction, which filed a $1.7 million lien this past week.

“The Fort project was supposed to dovetail with the Park Board’s $14 million Leonard Neiman Sports Complex completed just across the street in 2002, said Don Siggelkow, the board’s assistant superintendent.”

And we wonder why the Park Board is so broke they can’t mow the grass or open beaches? Note that the Sport Complex project was sold to the public as only costing $12 million in May, 2000.

“‘We certainly aren’t happy with the outcome, but there’s nothing the board could have done to protect the contractors,’ Siggelkow said.” Nothing — such as a performance bond, insurance or maybe doing due diligence on the financial viability of the proposed project before leasing the land, right? In fact, this very topic came up in a commissioner committee meeting, and Commissioner Bob Fine pointed out that The Fort LLC was a shell company with no assets and if something went wrong, the Park Board would have no protection. The lease was supposed to be amended to include such protection, but when it came up for a vote by the full board of comissioners, no such changes for financial protection were included. Bob Fine and other majority commissioners voted in favor of it anyway.

The Park Board signed a lease with The Fort LLC in July 2002 agreeing to let them renovate and build on the site in return for 15% of the facility’s monthly income as rent.

“Bob Naegele III, son of Minnesota Wild owner Bob Naegele Jr., initially invested several hundred thousand dollars in the project, Fort attorney Todd Duckson said.”
That’s quite the contrast. The lead investor puts in several hundred thousand, but the contractors are out more than $2.5 million in labor costs alone for a project that is not even close to complete.

“Aside from Naegele’s investment, financial backing for the project was not secured when the lease was signed, Duckson said. But the board was confident Fort Inc. would find the money before construction began, Siggelkow said.”
How many private landlords out there do business like this, leasing out property before demonstrated ability to pay?

The Park Board terminated the lease with The Fort LLC on June 1 after learning of the situation in early March, according to Siggelkow.

The Park Board cooked the books and deceived the public when they spent $14 million on the Sports Complex at Ft. Snelling. The Park Board cooked the books and deceived the public when they spent $6 million their new HQ building. The Park Board failed to do due diligence on The Fort project. The Park Board complains that due to cuts in LGA from the state, they don’t have enough money to man the beaches, fill the wading pools, run the fountains and mow the grass. I think it’s clear that the Park Board is focusing on giant, unnecessary “legacy” projects, which enrich a few people, at the expense of maintaining the park system that we have. The Park Board has abrogated its obligations, both moral and legal, to the taxpayers of this city to run the park system as it was intended.

Have similar feelings? Wonder what you can do? Here are some ideas:

  1. Attend the Park Board meetings, usually the first and third Wednesday evenings of the month. Tell others what you see and hear there.
  2. Demand satisfaction: contact any and all commissioners to ask questions, express your opinion and demand action; contact Park Board staff to ask for public data, such as budget information. File a legal action if necessary. Don’t take no for an answer.
  3. Support campaign efforts to vote the bad apples out of office.
  4. Demand that a good superintendent be hired, and the new superintendent clean house — the superintendent appoints more than 15 positions.
  5. Have some good evidence of illegal activity? Call the County Attorney’s office and ask them to investigate.
  6. Demand that Brian Rice’s law firm be fired as both counsel and lobbyist. He is the single largest contributor to commissioner election campaigns. The conflict of interest is staggering.
  7. Keep the pressure on. Take names, and mete out consequences.

Alternatively, do nothing, and continue to have your pocket book pilfered via property taxes and park fees to enrich and empower the corrupt individuals and their backroom pals.

Wirth-While Weekend Begins This Evening

The Wirth-While Weekend festivities celebrating the unveiling of the Theodore Wirth statue on Saturday begin this evening with a welcoming banquet for members of the Wirth family hosted by the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society, and open to the public and park lovers. There is still room at the banquest if you have not yet made your reservations. Call Kate at 207-6287 if you wish to come.

Links to further information:

Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society home page

Star Tribune Article 1

Star Tribune article 2

Report on June 16 Park Board Meeting

5:00PM — the Standards and Conduct committee met. The official agenda lists Carol Kummer as Chair, and Bob Fine and John Erwin as members. However, it appears that Annie Young, Marie Hauser and Vivian Mason are also members from their interaction during this meeting.

Most of the discussion centered around how the board will appear when their meetings start appearing on cable TV. The time slot is only 2 hours and Park Board meetings often go 3 hours or longer. [Seems like a perfect opportunity to move controversial things out of the public eye by discussing or voting on them after the 2 hour time slot, doesn’t it?]

There was much discussion and some quibbling about when items got officially places on the agenda, and when and how the agendas got sent to the commissioners, and the deadlines for these things. Mason is concerned that items are often discussed without ever being listed on the published agenda that the public gets to see, and so the public has no way to know in advance when something might be discussed. The President or acting President prioritizes the agenda.

In theory, agenda items are due Monday the week before the meeting, the superintendent’s staff does a review of them on Tuesday and finalizes the agenda on Wednesday. They are then sent to the commissioners on Thursday or by Friday at 4:30PM.

There apparently has been some adjustments to the agenda setting and timetables driven by the staff [which seems highly suspicious to me. Other than saying they don’t have time to finish a requested task before the board needs it, attempts to drive the board such that the staff is able to bury items or hide items seems completely bogus.] Staff wants to move public hearings to 5:30PM, it seems. [The earlier they are, the fewer people will be able to show up, since most citizens have day jobs.]

Mason notes [again] that committees have no official minutes and that it would better serve the public to find a better way to schedule committee meetings so that the public would know what was going on in them.

Hauser questions language in #4 regarding public hearing process wherein the language appears to contradict itself saying something to the effect that no one not called by committee or board may testify, which seems to totally defeat the purpose and intent of a public hearing. No one has a good explanation, nor is able to put the meaning into clear words, including staff.

Young says lot of things may change to fit the procedures and meetings into the “GO” process so they should use the rules as is until fall, and then revise them. [What’s the “go” process?]

Assistant superintendent Don Sigglekow points out the review is needed because they are doing a dry run of the cable TV broadcast at the July 7 meeting.

Committee adjourns at 5:53PM.

Vice President John Erwin is filling in for President Jon Olson who is absent. On the official agenda, the Superintendent Search committee is next. But Erwin says (as chair of that committee) the committee no longer exists — it was charged with coming up with a timeline for the search process by president Olson, and once finished, disbanded. Erwin wants to move discussion of this to the end of the regular meeting.

Mason states the committee ought to continue.

Erwin asks Hauser to call the Administration and Finance committee to order. She does, and they spend millions of dollars in just 6 minutes, with Young opposed on one consent item due to lack of dollar amount. There is a tiny amount of discussion on item 7.9 about putting ATM machines in the parks. Dziedzic wants parks to take VISA cards, too. Hauser thanks that staff for their hard work and says it is a win-win deal. [a completely pointless, useless and empty remark]

6:01PM Erwin calls Regular Meeting to order. Young adds Superintendent search and Gluek Park to the agenda. Mason adds Signage and Communications. Agenda approved.

Open time for public comment begins:

John Lloyd, of Lloyd Construction is called to talk about “the Fort” but he is not present.

John Richter thanks the Park Board and staff for something many people have worked on for many years, the installation of a statue of Theodore Wirth in Wirth Park, along with statues of children. [Mr. Richter had no small part in making this happen himself.]

Joan Bethiaume of the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society (http://www.MinneapolisParksLegacySociety.org) tells how the Wirth-While Weekend (June 18 through 20) celebrating the installation of these statues, is coming and thanks for commissioners for their help and hopes to see all of them present at the festivities.

Steve Bowell is called but is not present.

T. Jay Wirth, great-grandson of Theodore Wirth who built our parks and of whom the statue was made, has come to Minneapolis from Beaver Creek, Oregon with his family for the dedication ceremony during the Wirth-While Weekend. He played golf at the Wirth golf course today, and wants to say what a fine park system and golf course we have, and thanks the Board for making it all possible.

Ruth Jones, who is acting as host to members of the Wirth family who will be in town for the dedication of the statues on Saturday, June 19 at 11:00AM during the Wirth-While Weekend has some concerns about the Wirth Home and Administration Offices (3954 Bryant Ave. S.). The park board staff recently mowed the grass, but it is not in top-notch appearance for the celebration, tours and ceremony to take place there on Saturday, June 19, 1-5PM. She wants reassurance it will be taken care of, or permission to get some volunteers to clean it up at bit, trim the grass, pull weeds, etc. ** Interim superintendent Jon Gurban assures her it will be taken care of.

John Berthiaume was going to address a different issue having to do with the Padelford Boat, according to the printed agenda, but states the issue has been resolved. Instead, he wants to point out that the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society never intended or planned to become controversial or partisan, and some members of the Park Board apparently have taken them that way. John says their intentions were always pure, and he apologizes profusely for mistakes they made which may have angered anyone.

Brian Brom and his wife talk tell the story of how they just moved to Minneapolis to a home across the street from Sibley Park, how they have a son age 12 and daughters aged 7 and 5, and how one day the daughters were across the street in the park playing [apparently visible to their mother across the street], when some employee of the Park Board at the recreation center in the park decided to (1) tell the mother that policy did not allow children to play in the park without parents in attedance, (2) call the police, (3) threaten the parents if they ever let their children play their again unsupervised, and (4) called child protection services. Mr. Brom called numerous individuals at the Park Board [and the city and county?] to learn that no such policy has ever been created, and that child protection was called using county guidelines for leaving children at home alone. His wife pleaded nearly in tears that the Park Board use common sense and reasonableness in creating an appropriate policy where one does not exist.

[COMMENT: Of all the bone-headed, ridiculous, bureaucrat-out-of-control things I’ve ever heard — the parks are PRECISELY for use by children. At least one, and maybe several, Park Board employees need to have their fannies spanked, and sent to their room without dinner, so to speak.]

John Lloyd of Lloyd Construction arrived and was allowed to speak. He is not being paid for work he has done for the Park Board at “the Fort”, and is out $150,000 and having a tough time making payroll. Mechanics liens are being filed, and he is filing a lawsuit against the Park Board and believes he is sure to win. He is here to get the commissioners to pro-actively solve this problem [before he has to take it out of their hides in court]. He says there should have been a bond and/or insurance for this project and there was not. [More details on this situation would be interesting. “The Fort” is some kind of skate park, climbing wall and other facilities supposed to be built in the 201? Building at Ft. Snelling on the land the Park Board is leasing from the DNR for their black hole for cash known as the Neiman Sports complex.]

IV. Petitions and Communications

Young received many and they are in the commissioners packets. She hopes they are reading the information they get.

Hauser attended a 35W meeting and says it will impact Park property where 35W crosses Minnehaha Creek so this project (Crosstown/35W widening) should be watched.

Dziedzic says the staff [and the commissioners by extension] are getting screwed by their health plan and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, because the health plan only allows them to buy 30 day supplies of prescription drugs at local pharmacies, but they can buy 90 day supplies from mail order places.

Berry Graves encourages the rest of the commissioners to go to Wirth Park and see the statues. She says they look great and really add to the parks. She thanks John Ricther and the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society for raising the money, having them made and arranging for the whole project.

V. Officers Report

– Assistant superintendent Judd Reitkerk reports on Gluek Park and how the EPA person who is in charge of the EPAs clean-up project was out of town the whole month of May and so couldn’t give them an update sooner. She will come in July. The clean-up is supposed to start in July. He says there is more to project than they originally expected [is this a surprise?].

Dziedzic asks Interim superintendent Jon Gurban why the fencing is missing from two sides of the park [as the park is contaminated with asbestos among other things and the idea is to keep the public out].

Gurban evasively talks about how the undergrowth has grown so tall, and there is snow fencing on the vehicle and pedestrian access points, and the water pump [contaminated with industrial chemicals] was dismantled and oh, yeah, the temporary snow fence around the park was removed because it was “objectionable to businesses on both sides.” They are waiting for the EPA to take control of the site.

– Interim superintent Jon Gurban reports that a Crown Hydro letter to the Park Board states that negotiations are on-going, but [in classic CYA] Gurban states categorically that staff is not negotiating with Crown Hydro, they are just providing requested public materials.

Young states that Crown Hydro has gone back to FERC to get a 90 day extension to negotiate and has heard they are trying to move the siting of the turbines back to the Crown Roller Mill [a deal that fell through the first time, but which will still require Park Board approval as the headrace and tailraces cross Park Board property].

VII. Consent items pass without opposition or discussion.

VIII. Unfinished Business.

Young Moves to re-establish Superintentendent Search committee to provide oversight to the process.

Hauser says the committee was established and disbanded by president Olson.

Erwin explains how it folded.

Young notes that nothing prevents the board as a whole from establishing a committee [versus just the president].

Erwin says committee was just to establish a timeline.

Young — new or re-established committe would follow through and report to the board.

Fine says that’s too general a purpose, generally think it’s not a good idea [of course he doesn’t].

Young points out that 2 days before the deadline for finding search firms to find a superintendent, they had zero applicants. There are no checks and balances to make sure the process is on track. There’s nobody for staff to go to. The committee is needed for extenuating circumstances.

Erwin says some of these things are in the RFP for the search firm.

Motion fails on a voice vote.

IX. New Business

Discussion Items:

Erwin: Four search firms have submitted proposals for doing a superintendent search.

Young: Perfect example of the [foregoing] problem — relying on the board president to lead the whole board through the process versus having a committee and the chair reporting to the board as a whole. Wants her motion reconsidered, but by Robert’s Rules, cannot request it as she was on the losing side, so it’s just a point of information.

Fine blathers about search firms, and suggests by next meeting or as soon as possible there after, that the board hear from all of the four in person. There’s too much paper.

Hauser asks for comments from staff person Mary Page who created a summary of the 4 firms.

Mary Page: reviewed 4 proposals. They all offer roughly the same kind of service for prices ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 plus extras — which include everything besides professional fees, e.g. postage, brochure, travel, etc. They will narrow field to 8 – 30 candidates, give a written report, recommend finalists, facilitate questions and interviews for the finalists.

Hauser: Anything stand out? How difficult to meet the firms?

Page: All are available to meet the board, depending on schedules. She likes the 2 firms which have searched for park superintendents before. All have done local searches.

Dziedzic asks about the firm which says it did a chief of police search — which department. Answer: Minneaoplis, Chief McManus.

Page: If no selection is made tonight, schedule has to be revised. There is a planned public hearing next week.

Young: Already need to revise the schedule as there is no time to publicize a public hearing on such short notice.

Berry Graves: Hopes that broadcast of the procedings on cable TV will make the public feel more involved.

Young MOVES that the meeting on June 23 [public hearing?] being moved to August 4.

Kummer: When will we do search firm selection? Are we ready tonight? July 21 is when search is supposed to initiate. Schedule needs more modification.

[7:05PM]

Berry Graves thinks there is more than enough time with current time line and public input.

Young is concerned about search and still having public comment versus before start.

MOTION PASSES. Hearing moved to August 4.

Young was ready to make a motion on which search firm to select, but Fine and ?? want in-person presentations.

Mason says no firms had applied 2 days before deadline and then on deadline day, suddenly there were 4. Due to lateness of receiving the information on those 4 (Saturday), it is difficult to make a good selection based just on a quick reading of all the paper those firms submitted. Will a presentation by each firm cost anything?

Page: probably not.
Erwin: firm(s) used last year did not charge for this. Asks which one commissioners likes and why.

Young favors the Oldany Group, which did the police chief search. They are from out of town.[Seattle?] They’ve done a search for Seattle parks.

Kummer: were they involved in school board search?

Answer: No.

Kummer: our search is very different than a police chief search, wants a different process.

Dziedzic says he “knows little about the public school search and even LESS about the police chief search but if he was a city council member, he’d have questions about why a search firm was bringing someone who couldn’t get licensed [referring to McManus]”. He is ready to vote.

Mason: we have time.
Young: out of town search firm preferred.

Fine MOVES that they interview all 4 search firms on July 7.

Kummer, could vote tonight. Compliments Mary Page on a good job. Kummer says which firm they select doesn’t really matter a whole lot. The prices ranges are the same.

Fine’s motion FAILS, 3-4, with Erwin the tie breaker and Mason abstaining as she will be out of town on that date.

Dziedzic clearly wants one of the local firms [PDI?] and suggests trying to get them to lower their price. He has worked with them “many times before.” He so MOVES. Hauser seconds.

Young: problem — they have never searched for a park position. She wants local and park experience.

Mason doesn’t think we should restrict it to just park and recreation people.

Young — understands, want to broaden the search during the search process itself.

Dziedzic argumentatively points out that on page 1, his favored firm recruited a parks director.

Young points to page 11, 12, and 13 where same firm did not list any parks contacts.

Dziedzic vehemently says well of course, when the parks director works for the city manager, the contact would of course be the city manager.

Assistant superintendent Sigglekow explains that the firm has searched for park staff, but not for an elected park body such as the Park Board, only for individual managers such as a city manager.

Fine says it is difficult to make these decisions without the interviews that his failed motion called for. He says the Springstead Group[?] is respectable but he didn’t know they did searches as he knows them from financial consulting. He has a problem voting without asking questions of the search firms directly.

Hauser: Point of Order, call the question.

Vote is taken, Dziedzic’s motion fails, 1-7.

Young MOVES to select Oldany.

Dziedzic states this is ludicrous! Oldany didn’t bring forth information on lack license problem with chief McManus. Says that whole deal is not over yet.

Berry Graves says to call the question and take care of park business and let the city worry about the police department.

4 Yes, 4 No, Motion FAILS.

Dziedzic MOVES 4 firms come in to talk with board not on July 7 but on a date left to the president and vice president of the board to select. Hauser seconds.

Kummer: did we not vote this down before?

3 Yes, 4 or 5 No, Motion FAILS.

Kummer MOVES to hire Park[?] Group. Young seconds for sake of discussion.

Young: they have some park experience, and she is convinced there are people outside of Minneapolis who can help us. The 2 locals don’t look so hot.

Motion fails.

Kummer: how can we bring in groups for interview when 3 have [now] been voted on [and voted down]?

Hauser: Point of Order, winning side can reconsider.

Kummer: motion to reconsider Dziedzic’s motion to let president/vice-president select a date.

Fine offers friendly amendment to limit to 3: Oldany and both local firms.

Kummer does not accept the amendment.

Hauser seconds.

Motion PASSES to reconsider.

Kummer MOVES to hold an interview of all 4 at a date to be identified.

Motion PASSES.

[7:40PM]

IX. New Business

Communications –

Mason states that Interim superintendent Gurban sent a letter on April 13 to the University of Minnesota regarding building a boat house on park property in which he made statements which were inappropriate before they were discussed by the board of commissioners. Direction needs to come from the board.

Young describes a second incident of a letter lost, sent by Sierra Club on May 13 to be on desks of commissioners on May 19. Letter appeared on Minneapolis Issue e-list on May 22. Was an important letter which should have been part of Crown Hydro dialog.

Dziedzic attempts to defend Gurban’s inappropriate communications with the U by talking about how 5 years ago the Park Board met with U president Yudolf, and how the boat house would have happend if Yudolf had not stopped all capital projects. Title IX says the U has to do something for the women when they spend money on men’s sports. [U Athletics Director Joel] Maturi called Dziedzic and Dziedzic said they could meet, [but they were] not official discussions. He also describes a social chat between Young and U president Robert Bruiniks in which boat house was mentioned. Says no decisions were made, that he just asked the U to refresh their memory of 5 years ago and then come see the Park Board.

Berry Graves says she is glad to see Dziedzic finally getting on board with the rest of us after 10 years and 15 years of trying to work with the U. She is offended that she wasn’t made aware of the contact with the U as chair of the recreation committee.

Hauser talks about her relative who was on the rowing team 12 – 15 years ago when it wasn’t an official team, and it’s moving in the right direction.

Young says she believes they are supposed to be talking about communications, not boat houses, and is skeptical that inappropriate talks have NOT taken place given that she’s heard about a day care facility being involved.

Mason objects to moving on items which only 2 commissioners have discussed and not the whole board.

Signage –

Mason wants to know what the deal is with the sign that was supposed to go in front of the Wirth Home indicating its National Historic Site status. Assistant superintendent Judd Reitkerk was going to recommend it not happen.

Reitkerk: “Uhhhhhhh…..” What is the description of the sign? What is the appropriate signage at the Lyndale Farmstead Park? He recommends “proper” identification of the park as “Lyndale Farmstead Park” at the access points to the park. Says the use of the Wirth Home is not as an interpretive center, so should not have a sign saying it is a Historic Site. He says the sign identifying the building should be appropriate to its use, and it is leased to the Minnesota Recreation and Parks Assocation until June 30, 2005, so it should say 3954 Bryant Ave, MRPA Offices.

[Reitkerk sounds pretty silly trying to defend this ridiculous “how many angels can dance on a pin head” definition of how things should be signed. Most owners of buildings, regardless of their current use, would be happy to have a big sign out front proclaiming their historic designation. But for some reason, Park Board staff is trying to white-wash the fact that Theodore Wirth ever existed — much less created our fantastic park system — right out of existence. And Jon Gurban is one of the prime movers behind that effort.]

Berry Graves says what is the correct historic name for the house? Answer: Theodore Wirth Home and Administrative Building National Historic Site. [hope I got that right] Why is this a problem?

Reitkerk: It would be incorrect. [what, it isn’t named that by the federal government? Oh yes it is.]

Berry Graves MOVES to place a sign in 20 feet in front of the building stating the above official historical title.

Mason points out other such signs in the city and supports the motion.

Young says sign should be visible from the street and offers a friendly amendment to specify such. Amendment accepted.

Fine asks which buildings in the park system are historic. Fine has a problem with the building being called the Wirth Home because it is the Superintendent’s Home [sorry, Bob, but that’s not how it works — the National Park Service decided it was historic because Wirth lived there, not because superintendents lived there, and they designated it the Wirth Home … Historic Site. Like it or lump it.] Fine continues his whine by talking once again about the tenant in the building.

Young says we are talking about a sign, not a lease.

Mason says people will be looking for a sign to find a historic site.

Dziedzic asks when lease is up. Answer from staff (Gurban): June 30, 2005.

Dziedzic asks what MOVED sign is supposed to say.

Young: “Designated Historic Site” “Theodore Wirth Home and Administation Building”

MOTION passes 6 to 2, with Bob Fine and Marie Hauser voting NO.

Assistant superintendent Mike Schmidt is asked if he can have a sign ready as previously discussed, and he replies he did not discuss any such sign with the commissioners, but that they discussed a sign for 40th and Kings Highway. [sounds like some kind of excuse — we heard the sign actually existed at one point; what did they do? Destroy it to keep it from being put up? Can we taxpayers sue Park Board staff for malfeasance?]

Meeting adjourned at 8:14pm.

Star Tribune: Wirth's park revolution

There was once a time when Minneapolis children couldn’t play on the grass in their city’s parks.

Not for baseball. Not for picnics. Not for kickball.

Then came Theodore Wirth, and he changed everything.

Joan Berthiaume is grateful and she wants to show it.

“He ripped down the ‘Keep Off the Grass’ signs and he tore down the fences,” said Berthiaume, a city parks buff.

“Now, they’re for the children. They’re all for the children.”

A group of park-loving citizens wants to give something back. And Friday, they will get their chance.

That’s when there’ll be a welcome banquet for the Wirth family at the Minneapolis Radisson Hotel. More than sixty members of the Wirth family have descended on Minneapolis — from as far away as Switzerland and New Zealand — to pay tribute.

Wirth built the city’s park system and was parks superintendent for 30 years. Now the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society, a nonprofit group co-founded by Berthiaume, will be honoring him with a “Wirth-While Weekend.”

The highlight will be the Saturday unveiling of a statue of a man whom she believes too few people know about.

Said Berthiaume: “This will probably be one of our biggest events since we started.” She’s hoping for strong attendance. “We’ve got a grand plan,” she said. “It’s very grand”

Wirth’s bronze statue made its way to Minneapolis’ Wirth Park — a 1,000-mile trip — from Billings, Mont., where it was crafted. But it wasn’t traveling alone. Five other statues, depicting children, also will be installed by week’s end. One child carries a 1920s-era baseball bat, another totes a picnic basket.

Berthiaume said the statue arrangement shows Wirth’s love for children.

Billings sculptor Bill Rains has “created something that is some sort of magic,” she said. “They’re so lifelike. They look like they’re really moving.”

Rains, who lives in Billings, said Wirth’s was one of the best statues he’s done — which says a lot: Rains has sculpted Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and others.

“What was my inspiration? Well, Ted Wirth loved children,” Rains said. “He’s basically saying, ‘Come let me share my vision for the parks with you.’ ”

When Rains needed live models, his grandchildren would stop by his home after school and help him. They’ll accompany him on the journey to Minneapolis this weekend.

The statues were privately funded, with longtime Minneapolis resident John Richter a primary donor. Now living in Golden Valley, Richter said he wanted to salute what Wirth did for the community.

“Minneapolis would not be the city it is without somebody like Theodore Wirth,” said Richter, who will deliver a speech at Saturday’s statue dedication. “We’re honoring somebody that made Minneapolis the City of Lakes.”

Four years ago, Berthiaume co-founded the Parks Legacy Society with Billings resident Ted Wirth, grandson of the former parks superintendent. Their goal: educate the public about the man who wanted to spread his message of active recreation across Minnesota.

Wirth began his 30-year run as parks superintendent in 1906. He died in 1949 — but not before laying the groundwork for Minneapolis’ 6,400-acre park system. Perhaps his most cherished project was transforming the Lake of the Isles from a swamp into a stretch of scenic land and lake.

“We need to remember how fortunate we are to have this system,” Berthiaume said.

The Parks Legacy Society is run entirely by volunteers; it funds projects primarily through private donations.

Park Board Meeting

5:00PM – Standards and Conduct Committee

5:45PM – Superintendent Search Committee

6:00PM – Regular Meeting and Public Comment Period

6:30PM – Administration and Finance Committee

Link to Meetings and Agenda Page, which contains links to each of the 4 Microsoft Word-format Agenda documents for the 4 items above.

Please come and bear witness to dysfunctional behavior of public officials.

Why is Park Board trying to kill me?

Published in the Pulse of the Twin Cities
by Ed Felien

“I like to play nine holes of golf in the morning during the summer, the back nine at Hiawatha. Last week I was playing and the groundskeepers were spraying the greens right in front and behind me. I got up to the clubhouse and found they were using Echo 75 WSP, a fungicide to keep down mold. I got to my office and Googled Echo 75 and found it was a dangerous carcinogen. Its acute hazard warning label is 1Danger, which means it is highly toxic and a dangerous poison.

The golf course warns away children and small animals, but what about the rest of us? What are we? Chopped liver?

This is the kind of poison that lasts for a long time. … It has a cumulative effect. Once it gets in your body, it doesn’t go away but eventually causes liver damage and pancreatic cancer.

Silent Spring and Living Downstream should be required reading for anyone connected with the park system and concerned about the public welfare. Will it take a class action lawsuit to get their attention?”