Monthly Archives: April 2005

Park Preservation

[as written by Barry Clegg and Phyllis Kahn]

The following was written as a response to the totally inaccurate column by Nick Coleman on the DeLaSalle attempt to secure an inappropriate use of public park land on Nicollet Island. We were unsuccessful in getting a correction as columnists are given great leeway to deviate from the plain truth, or getting this op-ed published:

Nick Coleman’s March 20 column scolded neighbors who object to DeLaSalle High School’s plan to close a city street and take over Minneapolis parkland. Unfortunately, Coleman only talked to DeLaSalle and its backers. When you only ask one side, you get the story wrong.

DeLaSalle, a private high school on Nicollet Island near downtown Minneapolis, wants to build a new Astroturf field for football and soccer, along with bleachers to seat 600, lights, concessions and other athletic facilities. The school’s current fields can’t hold all that, so DeLaSalle is asking for the city to close a public street and for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to convey public parkland (about three acres) to the school. In return, DeLaSalle says the Park Board could use the field when the school isn’t using it. Adding an Astroturf field and proposed new tennis courts by the river would add extensive impervious surfaces very near the river – never good for the environment and the river particularly.

Coleman chided residents for not being willing to “share” Nicollet Island. But as part of the Central Riverfront Regional Park, Nicollet Island is already one of the most shared spaces in Minneapolis. The island hosts fireworks, festivals, footraces, 30 trains per day (more when the Northstar Commuter Rail line gets going), horse drawn carriages, walking tours, a high school, a hotel, and an event center. More than 720,000 people visit every year, according to the Metropolitan Council. Nicollet Island couldn’t be further from the “gated community” Coleman conjured up in his column. And we also should include the 22 units of affordable Coop housing.

The question isn’t whether DeLaSalle, like many other schools, could use more athletic facilities. But after some gratuitous neighbor-bashing, that’s where Coleman stopped. What he didn’t ask, but the public must, is how best to preserve the value Minneapolis citizens place on Nicollet Island Park, a place Coleman rightly calls a jewel of our park system.

Is this proposal the right way to use our regional park space? Is it right for public agencies to convey land worth more than $1 million to a private institution? Is this arrangement a just one for the citizens and park users of the City of Minneapolis?

The Park Board bought most of the land on Nicollet Island in the mid-1980s, using state “regional open space” money from the Metropolitan Council. A restrictive covenant (a provision recorded like a deed that runs with the land) prohibits any use of the land other than as “regional open space,” meaning open space for the public to use for recreational purposes. These are places for walking, biking, hiking, picnicking, playing, strolling, exploring – activities everybody does. The regional open space program specifically prohibits athletic fields. As the legislator who carried the original bill to use state funds for metro parks and who then fought to include city land in the regional park concept, Phyllis Kahn knows this size and usage issue well.

The parcel that DeLaSalle wants cost Minnesota taxpayers $1,065,000 in 1986. Presumably it’s worth much more now. Should our Park Board turn over a parcel the public bought less than 20 years ago, intending to keep it for perpetuity, to a private institution – all so the public can have use of a football field in the summer? In addition the coveted property has public tennis courts, a brick surfaced street and some 30 newly planted trees. Will DeLaSalle repay Minneapolis taxpayers for these amenities (all installed in the last few years)?

What’s in this proposal for the park system and the park users? Most people visit the Central Riverfront Regional Park to enjoy the river and the area’s historical attractions, not to look through a fence at fake grass. A private school may say it could use new facilities, but that’s not the Park Board’s job. Their responsibility is to preserve and build parks that serve all our citizens.

Coleman would have readers believe a few stingy neighbors are all that stands between DeLaSalle and their field. The reality is that every neighborhood organization that has considered the issue – representing thousands of people up and down the river -is opposed to the project as proposed. Yet despite Coleman’s charge, no one has “blocked” this proposal. After a year of talk behind the scenes and more recently in public, DeLaSalle has yet to even make a proposal to the park board.

We islanders value DeLaSalle as a good neighbor and an important part of our neighborhood. We want to help them solve their problem in a way that works for everybody, while preserving the park for what it was meant to be. Attacks and smear tactics won’t help get that done.

Barry F. Clegg
Phyllis Kahn, State Rep. 59B
Both Nicollet Island residents

Skyway News: Mayoral candidates support DeLaSalle field, sort of

By Scott Russell

Mayor R.T. Rybak and his challenger, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, both say they support better athletic fields for Nicollet Island’s DeLaSalle High School.

The issue surfaced during an April 14 mayoral debate sponsored by the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council. After the debate, both hedged when pressed on whether the field has to be on the island proper, as the school prefers, or simply near to the island, as some island residents have suggested.

DeLaSalle has an athletic field on the island, but it is not big enough to support bleachers and to play home games. School leaders have pushed to expand its current facility onto neighboring Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board land. The plan includes a road closure. It has sparked heated exchanges between school officials and Nicollet Island residents.

Mayoral debate moderator Nick Coleman asked the candidates where they stood on “the Nicollet Island dispute.” McLaughlin, in a relatively brief response, said the city made a commitment in the early 1980s to allow DeLaSalle to build a playing field.

“What we need to do is de-escalate some of the rhetoric around this, get around the table and solve the problem,” McLaughlin said. “I think that DeLaSalle deserves a playing field. I think we ought to negotiate our way through that and get it done.”

Rybak gave an extended answer that included not only the DeLaSalle field, but also the Mississippi River from the future Whitewater Park to the redevelopment of the Upper Harbor Terminal.

The mayor said he thought DeLaSalle deserved a playing field, but the way school officials made the proposal, “was a little clumsy.” He said once the issue “exploded,” he went to DeLaSalle leaders and said the idea was right, “but we have to think about some other alternatives.”

Rybak suggested the school put the new field in front of the school, replacing an existing parking lot, he said. It didn’t fit, “so we are going back to Plan B,” he said.

Rybak’s answer included reference to other stakeholders. “This riverfront is a special place, too, and it belongs to everybody,” he said. “We will find a solution for DeLaSalle, but our vision of the river should be bigger and about lots of folks.”

In a postdebate interview, Rybak said he didn’t have any specifics for “Plan B.” DeLaSalle’s field didn’t necessarily have to be on the island, he said. It could be nearby.

One of the big question marks in the Nicollet Island debate is the Park Board’s obligation to offer DeLaSalle its land. The island’s current land use resulted from a series of complex negotiations in the 1970s and 1980s.

The 1983 agreement McLaughlin referenced is between the Park Board and Minneapolis Community Development Agency (MCDA). It included language about building a joint-use DeLaSalle/Park Board facility on park property. DeLaSalle is not a party to that agreement.

The 1983 agreement said the Park Board shall “use its best efforts to construct upon property adjacent to the DeLaSalle Property an outdoor neighborhood recreational and athletic facility Š which, at a minimum, shall consist of a full- (regulation) size football field and no less than two full- (regulation) size tennis courts.”

In a postdebate interview, McLaughlin did not give a yes-or-no answer as to whether the DeLaSalle fields should be on the island or could be nearby.

“I am not the convener of that dialogue at this point,” he said. “It is time to have a real discussion, a real dialogue.”

The Park Board bought the land sought by DeLaSalle with approximately $1 million from the Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commission. Commission staff says converting the land into an athletic facility is inappropriate and would need review and approval by the Metropolitan Council.

Park Board staff is waiting for a specific proposalfrom DeLaSalle.

Original article in the Skyway News

Park Board Meeting April 6, 2005 Highlights

5:00 Legislation and Intergovernmental committee

Mid-session legislative report from Brian Rice, Maryann Campo and Kirk Pederson MPRB lobbyists
The gist of the report was that the governor was not into funding “individual” city projects so all of Minneapolis got just the planetarium. The rest of the time seems to have been spent trying to keep the money from the sale of the Fuji-ya property and avoiding a funding fight with the non-metro area parks. As to the Fuji-ya sale, the MPRB gets to keep the $750,000 to create the parking facility under the development, and $875,000 of the sale price. It has been earmarked by the legislature for specific projects. $25,000 must be matched and used to start planning for the East Phillips community center and the balance must be matched and spent on the Above the Falls plan ( I think specifically towards land acquisition).
Commissioners asked about using the money toward other projects higher on the MPRB priority list and were told the money was specifically allocated and could be taken back if not used for its intended purpose.
There were also discussions about LGA which seems to be set for the current level, but it is still too early for it to be completely safe. Commissioner Berry Graves commented that all youth employment money seemed to be drying up and that addressing public safety through other means was not as effective as keeping youth working and too tired to cause trouble. There seems to be an effort by many Minneapolis legislators to work on youth employment funding and the MN Twins and the Timberwolves are being approached by Mayor Rybak to fund Phat Summer programming.
A thank you was also mentioned for the MN Twins who gave $60,000 to for the MPRB rookie leagues and fields.


5:40 Administration and Finance committee

7.1 MPRB to enter into an agreement with the Bryn Mawr neighborhood for $3500 for the removal of invasive species (buckthorn et al) at Brownie Lake. ( The MPRB runs the power tools and the Bryn Mawr volunteers drag the brush)

7.2 MPRB enters into an agreements with Sea Salt to operate the Minnehaha Concession using the terms negotiated with the Tin Fish. (The Tin Fish is going to concentrate on Lake Calhoun ). The menu will be more seafood and less hot dogs and burgers but there will be ice cream and popcorn still available. The MPRB will be putting in an employee restroom and upgrading the ventilation system for the grill ( at what cost???? anyone????)

Commissioner Young asks if there is a schedule of what the concessions used to earn so that comparisons can be made as to how much these contracts are really earning the MPRB.

Then there was some discussion of why the new tenants want to offer cooking classes which a few of the commissioners mentioned they ought to take.


6:00 Regular Meeting and OPEN TIME

Victor Grambsch of Nicollet Island / East Bank Neighborhood Association
Recommended that since a discussion held at one of their meetings went so well that they are offering their services as a facilitator of discussions regarding the DeLaSalle issue. He noted that the Neighborhood Association unanimously passed 2 resolutions: (1) opposing DeLaSalle’s current plan of building on leased park property and a vacated city stree, and (2) continuing the discussion and working to find a solution that all can live with.

Arlene Fried
Ms. Fried attempted to obtain a copy of the minutes of the Standards and Conduct Committee meeting of the October 20, 2004 meeting where Commissioner Dziedzic’s conduct at a previous meeting was called into question. Since this meeting started before 5:00pm it was not recorded by the new system (DVD of the broadcast) and the audio tape machine had not recorded this earlier segment. She was dismayed and recommended a more diligent maintaining of records. (Maybe all public meetings should be schedule to begin at 5:00 when the broadcast starts).

Linda Hune
Ms. Hune believes that treatment of the Elm Trees would be dollars spent wisely to combat dutch elm and would like the MPRB to help facilitate making the preventative measures available to home and multi unit dwelling owners through group discounts or possibly by making payments through their tax bill. She believes preventative measures would be cheaper than removal and replanting over time.

Kathy Standing
Would also like a preventative method used on Elm trees. New studies are showing the methods to be effective and that the present system is like putting out a fire with a juice glass. The MPRB should be finding a major donor to get a prevention/protection component into their Dutch Elm program.

Mary Lou Hill Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association
The Bryn Mawr neighborhood has contacted the MPRB on both August 3, 2004 and February 21, 2005 about the possible and prospective uses for Bryn Mawr Meadows. Both of the letters were regarding whether the MPRB would follow the Basset Creek Valley Master Plan and the Bryn Mawr Land Use Plan. they would like at least an acknowledgment that their letters were received and would like a clarification of the MPRB’s position in regard to the plans.


6:15 Planning Committee

Commissioner Young would like to amend the agenda to include a Bryn Mawr discussion. There is some squabbling over the new rules which do not allow this and it became a study item as did the MPRB master plan. She also would like to add DeLaSalle and Commissioner Olson says that is already being handled by himself and the Superintendent.

4.1 Staff and the Friends of the Wildflower Gardens make a presentation on the upgrade to an area in the bird sanctuary in the Eloise Butler Wildflower Gardens and Bird Sanctuary for which the Friend’s are providing the money for the materials.

4.2 A presentation is given about the new light fixtures to be installed by public works along the Grand Rounds parkways ( about 100 lights per year, of a total 2343, and parts from the replaced lights will be used to extend the life of those remaining) The lights will be funded in 3 parts $6000 apiece installation and $1200 per fixture by public works and $600 per fixture by the MPRB (and why they could not find an acceptable $1200 fixture that would have cost the MPRB nothing was never addressed which would have been nice).

4.3 Retention of URS to provide consulting services for the Edgewater Park Master Plan Implementation, for a fee not to exceed $112,075.00

Discussion of Bryn Mawr and Bassett Creek Valley master Plan

Commissioner Erwin said he knows of at least 4 plans for the area and could we have a review at some point to see how or if the plans fit together.
Commissioner Mason asked that if a discussion is to be held during the next meeting that the neighborhood be invited.
Commissioner Young asks that receipt of the letters at least be sent.

The discussion then moves on to a Master Plan for the entire MPRB system.
Commissioner Erwin makes a motion for a sub-committee to be formed to work on the MPRB Master Plan
Then the discussion turns to whether it should be a sub committee or special committee or a working group.


Regular Meeting called back into session at 7:10 pm.

The agenda is amended to include a discussion of some police incidents specifically Hidden Beach and appointing members to the Master Plan group. Commissioners Young and Berry Graves asked why the need for satellite offices in Longfellow and Wirth House as the new headquarters was suppose to centralize staff and now they want to create field offices. The superintendent was asked to bring information about this to the next meeting and he requested it come before the board during the first meeting in May.

A motion passed, 7 for 2 against ( Fine and Dziedzic) to suspend the rules to add the Hidden Beach and Master Plan items to the agenda.

Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Gurban noted that with the loss of Teen Teamworks funding and money from the Youth Coordinating Board for Phat Summer that MPRB summer youth employment took a $200,000 hit.
Commissioner Hauser was willing to give up her travel allowance and Commissioner Mason asked about using money from the Innovation Fund
( what is the deal with that fund?? does it or does it not exist and what are the rules for its use?? it’s a half million dollars that is just hovering around and the public is curious)
Commissioner Mason also asked why she is no longer receiving the MPRB police statistics that used to come with the superintendent’s predecessors reports? She would like it back. Whenever there was a significant incident in a park the commissioner for that district was notified and that has also stopped happening, and she heard from either the press or the neighbors for the last 2 happenings in her district.

Superintendent Gurban then made a fiery statement regarding how safe our parks are and that to his knowledge no changes have been made and recommended a Public Safety report from the Park Police Chief.

GM Siggelkow reported that the MPRB was open for golf

GM Schmidt reported on Earth Day, Saturday April 23rd ( check for a site near you) and about the $60,000 from the Twins and another $20,000 from them for field improvements ($80,000 total GO TWINS)

The MPRB paid some bills and the vote on the Sea Salt concessions at Minnehaha Park passed with Mason voting NO and Berry Graves and Young Abstaining

Report on Summer Lunch Programs by District Manager Jon Oyanagi, River District manager
Due to changes in the MPS food distribution system the school lunch program was suspended after the summer of 2003. This was due to a change in how the meals were delivered and the extra costs associated with that ( early openings, transportation, refrigerated storage needed etc…) This led to a decrease in number of children coming to the facilities where the free lunches had been offered. Though the MPRB would like to offer the lunches again the issue of how to get the food from the MPS facility to the parks was discussed and suggestions ( have the Park Police deliver or maybe ask Meals on Wheels volunteers) were made but no definitive answer was found. If the lunches were to be provided the MPRB would look to supplement the many places they are currently available to cover areas that may be underserved. ( a page and a half of sites that offer summer lunches was included in the information the commissioners received ).

Bureau of Mines Property Report

Commissioner Kummer states that most of the pollution has been cleaned up by the Fish and Wildlife Department.
The estimated cost to re-hab the building is $12,000,000
It’s beautiful but the MPRB has no funds

Director of Planning Reitkerk stated that planning staff member Jennifer Ringgold went to the meetings and that the MPRB status is to keep its options open and are operating under that plan.

New Business

Vote on the addition of more sites to the MPRB list of where alcoholic beverages may be sold/served all present voted YES

Discussion Items

President Olson appoints John Erwin to Chair the Working group for the Master Plan with Commissioners Fine and Kummer.

Hidden Beach:
Commissioner Young would like a report about the Police behavior
President Olson states it is alleged behavior
Commissioner Erwin would also like a report and backs up the statement that the commissioner used to get calls on the more serious incidents
Commissioner Mason stated that she heard about the robberies on the Cedar Lake Trails on the news but would have liked the news when it happened and has requested the police inform her and is still not getting calls.

Petitions and Communications

Commissioner Mason has the neighborhood near Parade asking about the Circe de Soliel, they are not happy
Many commissioners are still getting DeLaSalle calls, letters and e-mails
Many commissioners are getting calls about de-centralizing the staff after the expense of the new headquarters
The cable broadcasts of the meetings seem to be having some technical difficulties with voice overs
Commissioner Erwin stated that when the weather gets nice and the buildings are not yet open that there need to be porta-potties ( or the bushes take some abuse)
Commissioner Kummer has been to meetings regarding the Longfellow House and would like to see cost comparisons on opening it for staff vs. maintaining it while it is closed.
Commissioner Dziedzic has been getting lots of MPRB questions at political events and states that the MPRB needs to be a team
Commissioner Fine attended a Minnehaha Creek Visioning Meeting and the staff did a good job presenting the MPRB’s plan to the Corps of Engineers.

Meeting Adjourned 8:12

State Bonding BIll Allows Land Sale by Park Board, Requires Split of Proceeds

The recently passed state bonding bill (House File 3, the Omnibus Capital Investment Bill) provides the following with respect to allowing the Park Board to sell the piece of land that the former Fuji-Ya restaurant sits on. The text of the House Research Bill Summary is below and at this link. Full text of the bill with Fuji Ya section 48 at line 41.12.

“Sale of Fuji Ya property; reuse of proceeds. Permits the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to sell a state bond-financed property, known as the Fuji Ya site, originally acquired as part of the Great River Road project, and use the proceeds of the sale for another project on the site and nearby. If the Park Board enters into an agreement with the commissioner of finance, the Park Board may use $750,000 of the net proceeds of the sale to prepay a 99-year lease for a parking facility with at least 85 parking stalls. It then evenly divides the remaining net proceeds between the state and the Park Board, directing the Park Board to use the money on capital improvements included in the “Above the Falls” master plan. Requires the state to get at least $544,000. Requires the Park Board to use at least $25,000 for predesign and design of the East Phillips Cultural and Community Center.”

Request for Identification of Minneapolis Park Watch

To: Minneapolis Park Watch

I’ve just come across your site and am curious who you are. I greatly enjoy the parks and have noted issues from time to time (mostly due to budget constraints). But, I’d like to understand who you are. Your site contains many stories describing duplicity on behalf of the Park Board or various promoters, yet your own site does not identify who you are. I think this site would be more credible and would better serve the public if you could identify who is “Minneapolis Park Watch.” Thank you.