Monthly Archives: July 2006

Minneapolis Parks Comprehensive Plan Public Forum Dates and Info

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) invites city residents and park visitors of all ages to attend one of six town meetings to be held throughout the city in September. The town meetings kick off the Park Board’s efforts to gather information from the community as the MPRB develops its long-term comprehensive plan for the park system.

The MPRB wants to know what the community values about the park system, what it sees as the park system’s strengths, and how the MPRB can best serve the public’s park and recreation needs. The information gathered at the town meetings, along with information gathered from questionnaires, focus groups, a phone survey and community leader workshops, will guide the development of the comprehensive plan.

The six town meetings are scheduled as follows:

11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16
Folwell Park Community Center, 1615 Dowling Ave. N.

6:30 – 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 19
Van Cleve Park Community Center, 901 15th Ave. SE

6:30 – 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21
Powderhorn Park Community Center, 3400 15th Ave. S.

11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23
Lynnhurst Park Community Center, 1345 W. Minnehaha Pkwy

6:30 – 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 26
Whittier Park Community Center, 425 W. 26th Street

11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30
Nokomis Park Community Center, 2401 E. Minnehaha Pkwy

Children and teens are also invited to the town meetings. MPRB staff will provide fun, engaging, age-appropriate activities designed to capture kids’ thoughts and ideas about today’s and future parks.

Community members and park visitors are also encouraged to complete a brief MPRB questionnaire. The questionnaire will be available online at and at all 49 MPRB recreation centers from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. In early September, all Minneapolis households will be mailed an informational map about the park system that features the questionnaire and town meeting dates.

In order to tap into the broadest spectrum of community perspectives, the MPRB will conduct focus groups once the town meetings have concluded. These will include a wide variety of groups, particularly those that experience language, cultural, or physical barriers to traditional community participation formats. In addition, the nine Park Board Commissioners will each appoint three people to participate in a series of community leader workshops this fall. Residents interested in being considered for an appointment to the community leader group may submit an application by August 16. Applications are available at or by calling 612-230-6400.

The common themes identified through the questionnaires and at the meetings, focus groups and workshops will form the basis for questions to be asked in a residential phone survey scheduled for November.

Minneapolis parks serve more than 15 million visitors each year, so it’s no secret that Minneapolis residents love their parks. Understanding why Minneapolitans love their parks will help the MPRB build on success. The Minneapolis park system enjoys a national reputation as one of the finest park systems in the country. This is the result of the visionary leadership, thoughtful planning, and public support it has received throughout its 123-year history. In recent decades, much of what has been accomplished has been driven by findings of a 1965 comprehensive analysis of the park system known as The Brightbill Study. Today, the city is much different than in 1965. Communities are far more racially diverse, technology has exploded, new sports have gained prominence, public expectations have changed, and the funding climate has grown more challenging.

The comprehensive plan, scheduled to be completed by late 2007, will be grounded in the needs of the community. It will define priorities for the allocation of resources and delivery of services to create a park system alert to the needs of the community and integral to a thriving city. In laying the groundwork for the plan, MPRB staff has been inventorying infrastructure and services, assessing sustainability practices, and studying the city’s demographics. Now it is time to hear from city residents and park users.

For a recorded message about public input opportunities, call the Comp Plan hotline at 612-230-6597. To learn more about the comprehensive plan, find out about opportunities to participate, or fill out an online questionnaire (beginning mid-September) go to the MPRB website at

Historic Preservation Commission Nicollet Island public hearing

The Minneapolis Historic Preservation Commission will hold a public hearing on whether or not to grant the project proposers with a “Certificate of Appropriateness” on August 8 at 5:00 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers.

DeLaSalle, a private high school, wants to build a football stadium on public parkland in the middle of a national historic district and regional riverfront park. The Commission’s job is to determine if a football stadium that requires closing a 140-year-old street, shaving off part of a hillside and constructing large retaining walls is appropriate for the St. Anthony Falls National Historic District. Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) have advocated that such a development would have significant impacts on the scenic and historic character of the island.

FMR and others have been advocating for the consideration of alternative sites, but DeLaSalle won’t budge until the city turns them down. That’s where citizen action comes in. We need people to attend the meeting to give testimony and provide written comments. If you would like more information or wish to get involved, please contact Michael Guest at 651-222-2193 x22 or [email protected].

Download a letter FMR sent to the Minneapolis Park Board Commissioners earlier this year. PDF (76 Kb)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinal: Not yet on a separate parks district

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is resurrecting his plan to create an independent parks district to save one of the community’s most treasured legacies. But in this editorial, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal argues against creating an independent park body, citing among its arguments the notorious problems and lack of accountability at the Minneapolis Park Board.

Interestingly, among the problems the Milwaukee County Parks are having is millions of dollars of deferred maintenance, just like the Minneapolis Park Board.

Historic Wirth Home OPEN HOUSE

The Theodore Wirth Home and Administration Building, National Historic Site will be open on Saturday, July 15, 2006. The Historic Wirth House is at 3954 Bryant Avenue South in Lyndale Farmstead Park. The program at Noon will be followed by tours until 4PM. Grandson, Theodore J. Wirth will be present for these tours.

The following July 3, Southwest Journal article article will tell you why it is important to attend.


Ted Wirth works to rekindle the memory of his grandfather, Theodore Wirth, a visionary behind the city’s park system

Retired landscape architect Ted Wirth, 80, speaks softly. Usually, he totes a portable microphone to amplify his barely audible words. His hands are shaky. He is struggling with Parkinson’s disease.

Today, Ted will do his best to talk loudly enough without it. He is sitting in a meeting room of the Lyndale Farmstead Park building, clutching a cane topped by a silver, well-worn carving of a bird – against the backdrop of the house he played in as a child.

The 1910 house – called the Theodore Wirth Home and Administration Building – is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The home at 3945 Bryant Ave. S. is the center of a final project for Ted. It was home to his grandfather, Theodore Wirth, who is largely credited with designing the city’s parks. It was also Ted’s childhood playground.

The Dutch colonial house tucked onto the hillside of Lyndale Farmstead Park currently serving as a temporary office space for park staff was constructed to lure Theodore from Hartford, Conn. to Minneapolis in 1906. The same house drew Ted to Minneapolis from Billings, Mont., a century later.

His mission is to restore the home’s fading memory and shed light on the early park movement his grandfather helped shape. Ted wants to turn the house into a museum. To accomplish it, he has formed the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society (MPLS) with his friend and business partner Joan Berthiaume, a Linden Hills resident.

Ted, whose namesake is his grandfather (his full name is Theodore), also grew up to be a landscape architect. He was the oldest grandchild and the third and last generation in the family to uphold a career in parks. Ted’s father, Conrad, was the longest-serving director of the National Park Service.

Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom said the Wirths’ contributions are untold.

“It’s very telling that he [Ted] made the journey back to Minneapolis. He came to improve the park system just as his grandfather did. It’s a pilgrimage that runs in the family,” she said. “It’s a great testament to their belief in parks and this place and in parks in this place.”

A life in the park

During his tenure as the park system’s foremost landscape gardener from 1906 to 1936, Theodore tripled park property, cultivated the nation’s first rose garden at Lake Harriet, created playgrounds and dredged the lakes. As a testimony to his vision, Minneapolis parks have been rated number one by the Playground and Recreation Association of America since 1928.

Theodore and a team of draftsman labored in the basement where big windows afforded a picturesque view of the park, where children sledded and played soccer. His and other Wirths’ gravesites are also in view of the park, at Lakewood Cemetery.

Last year, the house attracted more than 1,000 visitors in a handful of tours. MPLS reconstructs Theodore’s office according to old photos. Some artifacts come from Wirth descendants around the world.

On July 15, from noon-4 p.m., tourists walking through the house can see the Wirth children’s sleeping room, the cabinet where Theodore secretly stowed his liquor during Prohibition days and offices where many of the plans for the city’s parks were drawn. «

For more of this article …

DeLaSalle: poor beleaguered school — or wealthy and influential wolf in sheep's clothing?

Charley Walters reports this item in the St. Paul Pioneer Press sports section today (Thursday, July 6, 2006):

« Pssst: DeLaSalle High School will receive a pledge of $3 million from one individual for construction of a football field if the Minneapolis City Council approves closing a portion of Grove Street so it can be built. »

Crown Hydro Owner Hosts Fundraiser for Notorious Anti-gay Congressional Candidate Michele Bachmann

by Karl Bremer (Originally published in the 6/29/2006 Stillwater Gazette)

Why was Michele Bachmann, an outspoken opponent of the use of eminent domain, honored June 26 with a fund-raiser by the owner of a company that is threatening to use eminent domain to take Minneapolis Park Board land for a private hydroelectric venture?

William Hawks, wealthy Minnetrista owner of a company called Crown Hydro, hosted the affair for Bachmann, featuring Vice President Dick Cheney, at his Lake Minnetonka home. Crown Hydro has been trying for years to secure a location and permits for a small hydroelectric plant on the Mississippi River near St. Anthony Falls. Thus far, they have been unsuccessful.

Crown Hydro received a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license for the proposed 3.4-megawatt plant in 1999, when the powerhouse was to be located in the basement of the old Crown Roller Mill on the river. When they failed to reach a lease agreement for the property, Crown Hydro proposed locating its powerhouse on the remains of the Holly and Cataract Mill foundation in Minneapolis’ Mill Ruins Park on the east side of West River Parkway and sought an amended license from FERC in 2002.

The Minneapolis Park Board intervened in the FERC license hearing and opposed the move, saying that “the relocated powerhouse and water conveyance components of the project would cause irreparable damage to Mill Ruins Park and to the goals of the Park Board and the City of Minneapolis in their development of recreational facilities and historic preservation activities in the project area.” The Board further charged that Crown Hydro had failed to negotiate for use of the Park Board’s land, despite the Board’s attempts to initiate talks.

Even the nearby neighborhoods the power plant was supposed to serve opposed the project.

Crown Hydro requested-and was granted-repeated extensions on its FERC permit application. In its final request October 26, 2004, Crown informed FERC:

“Crown would still prefer to work out a lease with the Park Board, but has not dismissed the possibility of exercising eminent domain in accordance with applicable law in the event there is no ability to enter into an agreed-upon lease.”

FERC was unimpressed with Crown’s threat to take public park land, and finally dismissed Crown’s application for an amended license in February 2005. Crown requested a rehearing on the matter and it was denied again in June 2005. Now, Crown has appealed FERC’s decision to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

William Hawks evidently is a guy who won’t take no for an answer-even to the point of picking up the cudgel of eminent domain to get his hydroelectric plant. But what’s even more offensive is that he’s willing to use eminent domain to take public park land-an historical site, no less-to achieve his goal.

The Bachmann fund-raiser at William Hawk’s Lake Minnetonka palace, which is nowhere near the 6th congressional district Bachmann seeks to represent, raises several questions that people should be asking of the candidate:

How does this square with Bachmann’s oft-repeated opposition to eminent domain? Or is eminent domain okay when it involves a private entity taking public land?

When Bachmann authored legislation last year to rein in the use of eminent domain, she wrote: “I have long been concerned about the abuse of eminent domain powers in Minnesota … That is why I am drafting legislation in the Minnesota Senate to reform our state eminent domain laws.”

What do William Hawks and Crown Hydro want from Michele Bachmann in return for hosting a gold-plated fund-raiser for her with the vice president of the United States? Is Bachmann already working behind the scenes to aid and abet the forced taking of Minneapolis park land by eminent domain?

Michele Bachmann talks a good game when she’s in front of her pro-property-rights crowds railing against the abuses of eminent domain. It will be interesting to see how she explains to her supporters this upcoming fund-raiser hosted by a wealthy proponent of using eminent domain to take public land.

Because if Michele Bachmann can’t be trusted on one of her marquee issues, what can she be trusted on?

Karl Bremer is a Stillwater writer and constituent of Michele Bachmann’s.