When you’re a small man with small ideas, great men like Theodore Wirth (the elder, designer and builder of the Minneapolis park system) and Theodore J. Wirth (the grandson, and lead designer of Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, just to name 3) threaten your masculinity, ego, or something. Commissioners Bob Fine and Jon Olson really ticked the public off with their small-minded, arrogant remarks about the Theodore Wirths:
THEODORE WIRTH HOUSE
Arrogance is appalling
In the March 9 Star Tribune article “Some are shutting door on plans for Wirth house” the arrogance of at least one Park Board member shines!
“In fact, some commissioners are openly exasperated with the efforts of [Ted] Wirth and his group, the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society,” the article said, citing specifically Board President Jon Olson. And Bob Fine, the Park Board commissioner whose district includes the house, said of Theodore Wirth’s grandson, Ted, “He’s not from here. He didn’t grow up here. I think he found someone that is willing to take care of him.”
I do not know the youngest Mr. Wirth. I do know that founders are typically honored if they really had an impact and that it never is kind to publicly air the hostility shown in the above statement.
(As an important aside, as a Minnesotan for the last 29 years, I have experienced what many non-birth Minnesotans have — we’re not quite of the same cloth for many years. If you can survive the distance till then, it might change.)
Mr. Fine, what does Mr. Wirth not being from here have to do with any of this? Our amazing parks are known around the country as the legacy of his grandfather.
I am appalled, both by the attitude about this and by the difficulty in accepting a gift of time and love that some people want to give this city.
BARBARA C. GREENSPON, MINNEAPOLIS
Appropriate honor for park system architect
I read with astonishment the March 9 remarks by Minneapolis Park Board President Jon Olson, “Theodore Wirth wasn’t God. I’m getting tired of Theodore Wirth” and by Commissioner Bob Fine about Wirth’s grandson, “He’s not from here. He didn’t grow up here.”
The grandson wants to preserve the Wirth home as a museum that traces our park system’s history. Olson and Fine want to defeat the idea. They are leading us down the wrong path.
Trying to defeat this appropriate acknowledgment of the Wirth legacy reminds me of the folks in Kirby Puckett’s hometown of Chicago who are unaware of Puckett’s origins. Thankfully some people in Chicago are aiming to change that and are seeking ways to honor the athlete.
Similarly in Minneapolis we should be proud to honor one of the greatest park superintendents in history. The Minneapolis park system is consistently rated among the most respected city park systems in the country, and is studied by planners from throughout the world. Comments like “he’s not from here” and the like attest to a singular provincialism that can only serve to drive a wedge among community-minded people. Let’s show our pride in what we have.
ANDREA FITERMAN, MINNEAPOLIS
Theodore Wirth and William McGuire
The Minneapolis Park Legacy Society recognizes that Theodore Wirth played a pivotal role in developing a park system that in turn shaped the city. The Wirth House, with its treasure trove of original drawings, offers an unmatched opportunity for teaching the society’s goal: appreciation for and understanding of Minneapolis’ nationally recognized park system.
Lack of such appreciation and understanding may be at the heart of decisions made by the new board majority to give private users priority access to public land (DeLaSalle Stadium and Fuji Ya, with others to follow).
In a marvelous turnabout, a proposal offers to privately fund a park strictly for public use. The McGuire proposal for a riverfront park adjacent to the new Guthrie is likely something Wirth would have loved.
The park space Wirth set out for the downtown has largely disappeared under concrete and steel, but the principles he espoused could be given life by both the McGuire proposal and by preserving and interpreting the Wirth House.
The role and importance of parks in enhancing life is the message, and the Wirth House is the teaching medium. For those who embrace that philosophy, what’s not to like?
CHRISTINE VIKEN, MINNEAPOLIS