Monthly Archives: January 2006

Star Tribune Editorial: Group salutes Wirth's fateful arrival

Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society’s goal deserves support.

» One hundred years ago this month, a 42-year-old Swiss-born landscape architect from Hartford, Conn., stepped off the Pioneer Limited #1 at the Milwaukee Road Depot — and was promptly informed that the Minneapolis city parks system he had agreed to head as superintendent was badly in debt.

Minnesotans can be grateful that Theodore Wirth did not get right back on that train.

Instead, Wirth settled into the new house built for him at Lyndale Farmstead Park, and set about giving Minneapolis a park system recognized since the 1920s as the most beautiful in the nation.

For the rest of his life, until he died in 1949, he lived and worked in the big house at 3954 Bryant Av. S., drawing inspiration from children playing on the sledding hill that was his backyard. It was there that he designed the Chain of Lakes, laid out the Lake Harriet Rose Garden, planned the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway and implemented his rule that no Minneapolis child should grow up more than six blocks from a park. It was there that he oversaw the growth of the city’s park system from 1,800 to 5,200 acres.

At a midday reception Thursday, a plaque will be unveiled at the Milwaukee Road Depot commemorating Wirth’s arrival. It represents the latest in a series of projects by a volunteer group dedicated to raising awareness of Wirth and, by extension, appreciation of the parks that he built.

That group, the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society, includes Wirth’s grandson and namesake Ted Wirth, a retired landscape architect who recently moved to Minneapolis to help lead the group’s efforts. His goal, and the society’s, is to open his grandfather’s house, especially its basement-level drafting rooms, for hands-on lessons in Minneapolis history by touring children and adults. It’s a goal that deserves the embrace of today’s stewards of the parks Wirth built. «

Read original story here at Star Tribune website.

Star Tribune: Skateboard park proposal falls flat

Robert Naegele III’s state-of-the-art facility wasn’t built; instead, the Park Board got sued. Star Tribune reporter Rochelle Olson writes in a story published January 17:

» Minneapolis taxpayers face a $900,000 legal settlement because of the Park and Recreation Board’s failed attempt to develop a skateboard park with Robert Naegele III, 40-year-old son of Minnesota Wild owner Bob Naegele.

The board will now decide whether to pay the tab to settle a lawsuit filed by several contractors or sell off the vacant property near Fort Snelling at foreclosure. The options are the result of a mediated legal agreement with the board, the contractors and Naegele. Park board members say the Naegele name lulled them into a false sense of security.

As a result, what was supposed to be a privately funded project on public land will end up costing public money. «

» The origins of the would-be skateboard park date back to September 2000, when the park board paid $748,000 for an old federal building close to its baseball and softball fields and the indoor tennis center.

At first, the Wild considered converting it into a training facility, but the costs made the team choose Parade Stadium instead, said Don Siggelkow, assistant superintendent.

Then along came Robert Naegele III with a proposal to turn the 27,000-square-foot building into an indoor-outdoor state-of-the-art skate park with an observation deck encircling the park.

His company, called The Fort, signed a lease with the park board that stated the firm would pay for renovation and construction.

But within six months after construction began in September 2003, The Fort stopped putting money into the project, according to a written report submitted to the board by its attorneys, Brian Rice and Karin Peterson. At one point, one of the subcontractors even loaned the project $300,000 to keep it going.

After negotiations with The Fort failed, the Park Board terminated the lease in June 2004.

Later that year, contractors and subcontractors sued The Fort and the Park Board to recover $1.8 million in unpaid bills.

Negotiations to settle the suit began in July. The mediated legal agreement includes a $22,500 payment by Naegele to the Park Board and $150,000 to one of the subcontractors, Steenberg-Watrud Construction. Rice said the Park Board didn’t want to take a chance in court, which might have required it to pay an additional $200,000 in attorneys fees. «

Read full story at Star Tribune website.

See more information about this fiasco here, here, here, and here.

Private Group Proposes Chinese Garden on 12-acre Parkland

From an article by Sarah McKenzie in the Downtown Journal:

» A local group promoting stronger ties between the United States and China is considering building a large garden at the B.F. Nelson site on the edge of Downtown.

The Minnesota chapter of the U.S. China Peoples Friendship Association presented its plans to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on Jan. 4 – its first meeting with a new slate of Commissioners.

The association is considering several potential sites for the garden. The B.F. Nelson site, however, is considered prime because of its proximity to the Mississippi riverfront and Downtown.

If approved, the garden would be the only Chinese garden in Minnesota and the first traditional northern-style Chinese garden in the United States, said Linda Mealey-Lohmann, one of the founders of the Minnesota chapter of the Friendship Association.

A northern-style Chinese garden is defined by bold red and green colors while southern-style gardens typically feature gray, white and black hues. There are Southern-style Chinese gardens in New York, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle.

During a Power-point presentation before the Park Board, she said the garden would be world class and a major attraction for the city.

It would feature water as a focal point, as well as Chinese herbs and medicinal plants.

The Park Board did not take any action on the proposal at the Jan. 4 meeting.

Mealey-Lohmann said the chapter plans to brief neighborhood leaders on its ideas. The B.F. Nelson site falls within the St. Anthony West neighborhood next to the Nicollet Island/East Bank neighborhood.

A plan for a garden on the site would face challenges because of pollution. The Park Board received a $200,000 federal grant last year to clean the site, which contains buried asphalt.

The 12-acre site east of Nicollet Island has been city parkland since 1986.

The Park Board has a $4.6 million master plan for the city that calls for keeping the site largely “passive green space” with a new historical interpretive center.

Park Board Commissioner Walt Dziedzic, who represents the area, said the B.F. Nelson site has tremendous potential and called it one of the park system’s crown jewels that could be the city’s Central Park.

Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom, the board’s new vice president, told the association she would support their efforts, adding the city needs more gardens, particularly Downtown.

Some, however, expressed skepticism.

Commissioner Scott Vreeland raised concerns about turning public land over to a private user.

The issue is a familiar one. That’s the same question at the center of the debate over whether Nicollet Island’s DeLaSalle High School has the right to build a new athletic complex on park-owned property. «

Original article at Downtown Journal website.

Park Board Meeting

Regular third Wednesday of the month meeting.

Tonight’s meeting will adjourn by 6:30 p.m. in order to convene the Charter Commission Public Hearing at 7:00 p.m.

Official agenda documents can be found at this link.

Some agenda items of note:


1.7 Email dated January 10, 2006 received and submitted by Superintendent Gurban entitled “George Carlin’s View on Aging”. [I don’t make this stuff up.]

1.8 Memorandum dated January 13, 2006 to Commissioners from General Manager Schmidt regarding the lease with the School Board that allows the park Board to use the gymnasium, restrooms and related spaces at Peavey Park/Phillips School until the building is sold.

Potential Lake Calhoun Development, Linden Hills Neighborhood Council presentation

From the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council (LHiNC) web site:

Potential Lake Calhoun Development

LHiNC’s goal regarding neighborhood issues is to act as a liaison between all entities and give residents accurate information.

If you have additional information you would like posted to this site, and/or changes please contact our Coordinator.

Calendar of Events:

Sailing Club Presentation: Linden Hills

Thursday, January 26

7:00 p.m.

Linden Hills Park (43rd/Xerxes)

Representatives from the Calhoun Sailing Club will be presenting their thoughts on moving the Sailing School to the South Shore of Lake Calhoun. They will discuss their concerns about the current location and share the information that they presented to the park board’s planning committee.


Current Status:

January 12, 2006: LHiNC has arranged a meeting with the Sailing Club on January 26. We are working on getting Park Board representatives to attend.

Report: Park Board Meeting, January 11, 2006

Not wanting to break my nearly perfect attendance record I headed across the river to the Carl Kroening center to take in this Committee of the Whole meeting. All nine commissioners were receiving a presentation from Dave Metzen, a U of M regent and leadership speaker. The meeting was very casual and the commissioners spoke somewhat freely (since it was being video taped no one went crazy thus ensuring Park Watch will never win the big prize on America’s Funniest Videos). There were many suggestions given that could move the board forward in a much more amicable way over the next four years. The presentation was very interesting and the new personalities on the board make NO vote a given, especially after the discussion over the legislative agenda at the last meeting. I am looking forward to an interesting four years.