Monthly Archives: June 2011



June 9 Central River Forum: Power Of The Falls: Past Present & Future

This interesting meeting featured panelists from the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Historical Society, the National Park Service and Xcel Energy. The meeting was recorded by David Tinjum of the Mill City Times and, thanks to David, is available to view on Park Watch.


The following article by Nick Halter was published in the June 27, 2011 issue of the Southwest Journal:


On June 1, the commissioners of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board found themselves in a familiar position. They were in a hot debate over a surprise proposal to reforest the city’s North Side following the May 22 tornado that wiped out thousands of trees.

Commissioner Jon Olson, who represents the tornado-stricken area, wanted to send a message to his constituents. He asked the commissioners to support a resolution that would commit the Park Board to planting 2,000 trees in the area before the ground freezes this fall.

It wasn’t that any of the commissioners were opposed to sending trees to North Minneapolis, but some said it was irresponsible to make a blind commitment to planting so many trees at a time when repair crews could easily destroy the Park Board’s investment while they put the neighborhood back together.

In stepped Jayne Miller, who was about five months into her new job as parks superintendent and had thus far said relatively little during the often-contentious Park Board meetings.

“I would hate to see us make an investment financially, put trees in, and those trees don’t stay because they get damaged or they get torn down,” she told the board. “I would suggest that rather than pass the resolution that Commissioner Olson put on the floor, that you direct us as staff to develop a plan to replace the tree canopy in North Minneapolis with a minimum (number of trees).”

In the end, the Board almost unanimously passed a resolution to replace 3,000 trees by next spring, giving repairs crews time to do their work while also sending a message to North Minneapolis.

Miller, 52, is in charge of one of the largest park systems in the country — 182 properties, 6,732 acres of land and water, 49 recreation centers and a $59 million annual budget that will face declining revenues in coming years.

She’s also tasked with reconnecting the Park Board with the community and regaining public trust, which many commissioners and officials say has been missing for the past several years. It was just three years ago that some Minneapolis City Council members wanted to take away the Park Board’s autonomy and make it a city department.

Mayor R.T. Rybak said Miller, along with Park Board President John Erwin, is leading the park system in a new direction.

“In Minneapolis’s complicated system, the parks are independent, but under Jayne’s leadership they are no longer isolated,” he said.

While Miller hadn’t been publicly vocal until the past couple months, she’s spent her first few months behind the scenes trying to build relationships and get a handle on the system.

“When she first arrived Jayne invited many elected folks to her home, the superintendent’s house, and when I mentioned I’d be in the area but didn’t want to leave my dog in the cold car, she invited Sadie to the event as well,” said City Council Member Lisa Goodman (7th Ward). “I was quite impressed with her and look forward to a renewed working relationship with the park system staff.”

Miller, an upstate New York native and former Ann Arbor, Mich., parks administrator, said she’s focused on finding partners in the city, school district, neighborhood groups and nonprofit community.

“It was clear to me, given the tumultuousness and the kinds of relationships — which I think had been tarnished or damaged over the last number of years — need to be rebuilt and trust needs to be re-established, and that’s something I’m working hard to do,” she said.

The activist group Park Watch best explains the trust issue. It was formed in 2004 by several concerned citizens who felt that Miller’s predecessor, Jon Gurban, was hired by the Park Board without enough public input. Further, the group felt Gurban was unqualified and didn’t engage the public.

The group still exists and members attend every Park Board meeting, make large data requests and often blast the Park Board on their website,

Miller has met with co-founder Arlene Fried and said her goal is to build up enough public trust so that the group can cease to exist.

Fried wouldn’t commit to shutting down Park Watch, but she said she trusts Miller because she’s already made more information open to the public.

“We trust Jayne, but the transition is complex,” Fried said. “It’s not going to happen over night. Park Watch was a transition. We were always a catalyst for change. That change is happening under Jayne now.”

Commissioner Bob Fine, who was a Gurban supporter, said he’s been impressed by Miller during her first several months, but he also said it’s too early to know exactly what kind of superintendent she will be.

Just a few days before Miller took over, interim superintendent David Fisher and the Park Board made cuts to recreation staff.

Fine, a longtime baseball coach, said those cuts may prove to be problematic as recreation staff is being overworked this summer with new demands and responsibilities.

“I don’t know all the repercussions about what’s going to happen,” he said. “But from my end, I think she’s been doing a very good job.”

Rybak said he became aware of Miller’s leadership qualities following the May 22 tornado. Within an hour of the tornado, Miller had called the mayor to begin planning the cleanup.

“I do have to tell you that we have been through some disasters in this city before,” Rybak said. “When we first got the call from the head of the parks, we were a little taken aback because we’re not used to having the parks be this big of a player. It was really welcome news and a huge change.”



Jayne Miller

Age: 52

Family: Partner, Diana Sepac and two children in college

Education: Undergraduate at Midland Lutheran College in Nebraska; master’s degree from University of Maryland

Fun fact: Miller is an avid bicyclist.

Fuji Ya Initiative Announced at Minneapolis Park Board Meeting

Fuji Ya Initiative Announced at Minneapolis Park Board Meeting

Paul Reyelts of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation presented a vision for the former Fuji Ya site on the Downtown Minneapolis Riverfront at the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board meeting on Wednesday, June 15, 2011. The presentation was videotaped by David Tinjum of the Mill City Times and, thanks to David, is also available here on Park Watch.

Arlene Fried
Co-Founder of Park Watch



The following timeline was prepared by the Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3 and submitted to the MPRB:
TIMELINE 2010-2011

MAY 18, 2010 – The Wirth Lake Area Citizens Advisory Committee votes on, but does not pass, a resolution to recommend a new Welcome Center in conjunction with one of the two golf facilities in Wirth Park, even though the golf facilities are outside the scope of the committee as constituted at that time. The resolution proposing the new center includes a list of “active” sports but does not mention golf.

DECEMBER 3, 2010 – The Citizens Advisory Committee is reconstituted as a committee to advise on improvements for all of Wirth Park.

DECEMBER 2010 – The City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation submits to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) its document: A Vision for Theodore Wirth Park. The document includes a proposal to “Re-purpose the Par 3 golf course”.

DECEMBER 14, 2010 – The new Theodore Wirth Park Citizen’s Advisory Committee meets. For its initial meeting the agenda already includes concepts proposed in the Nordic Ski document regarding the golf courses.

JANUARY 4, 2011 – The Theodore Wirth Part Citizens Advisory Committee charges and directs study teams for each area of the park, including North Wirth Park. The North Wirth Park Team includes 4 MPRB staff members, a person from the bicycle industry, a member of the Off Road Cycling Association, and a member of the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation. No golfer’s organizations are represented.

MARCH 1, 2011 – In the 4th meeting of the Theodore Wirth Park Citizens Advisory Committee the North Wirth Park Study Group (Team?) provides a presentation showing recommendations on activities, including one about “Family Friendly Golf”, and two design alternatives, the first of which, Concept A, eliminates the Par 3 entirely. The presentation is made by a member of the Nordic Ski Foundation.

At this meeting more than 25 good questions, raised by committee members and by the public attending, were asked. These questions if answered fairly would support the continuation of the Par 3.

Also at this meeting a document is provided showing all Wirth Park Design Statements from meetings 1,2 and 3. There is an extensive list of winter and summer activities, but no mention of golf.


MARCH 2011 – Somewhere in this time frame the North Theodore Wirth Park Questionnaire (Survey) is prepared and distributed. It is made available on line and at various recreation centers. The purpose is to provide public feedback on the use and future of the park. The survey period is from April 1st to April 18th. The Wirth Par 3 does not open until April. 8th. Only 20 -30 survey forms are completed at the Par 3 during this period. (There are over 15,000 rounds of golf played at the par 3 annually) There is no notification about the survey to any affected Par 3 or other golf user group. Due to their involvement with the Advisory Committee and the Study Group the organizations that support Nordic Skiers and Off Road Bikers are aware of the distribution of the survey and are no doubt prepared to respond.

APRIL 19, 2011 – Theodore Wirth Citizens Advisory Committee meeting: The committee receives responses from MPRB to the 21 questions committee members raised at the March 1st meeting. Some of the responses are accurate and complete. Others do not adequately state a case supporting the Par 3 and the golfer’s perspective. (It is now up to us as Par 3 golfers to make a stronger case and give better responses to these and other questions). MPRB staff presents to the committee the preliminary results on the North Wirth Park Questionnaire (Survey).

One result of the survey concludes that golfers responding actually did not show a strong preference for preserving the Par 3. In fact there were less than 150 respondents that indicated that they played the Par 3 regularly or even occasionally. Less than 70 indicated that they play the course regularly. Yet the result is interpreted to indicate that the majority of Par 3 users support a partial or complete elimination of the Par 3 course. This interpretation includes a total of about 400 respondents so it includes over 250 persons who rarely golf at all. The survey results, seen in a different light, show that of the less than 150 people who golf regularly or even occasionally at the Par 3, 125 fully support making no changes to the course.

MAY 10, 2011 – At the Theodore Wirth Citizen’s Advisory Committee: Further discussion of the North Wirth Park Survey (Questionnaire) is postponed.

MAY 16, 2011 – The Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3 is organized and begins collection of signatures on a petition to reopen the North Theodore Wirth Park Survey (Questionnaire) so that golfers can be fairly included in the survey.

MAY 27, 2011 – After only 10 days, despite generally bad weather and storm damage to the homes of many of the Par 3 golfers, the Friends have collected over 300 signatures which support keeping the Par 3 as it is and reopening the North Theodore Wirth Park Survey so their opinions can be counted. The golf season is young and the bulk of the par 3 golfers, especially those that are still in school, have not yet had an opportunity to become aware of this issue. Those who are now aware are ready to make their voices heard by contacting the MPRB Administration, the Board, other public officials and the public at large.

Prepared by:
The Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3



The following letter-to-the-editor in support of the Wirth Park Par 3 Golf Course was published in the June 17, 2011 issue of the Star Tribune:

The editorial on Wirth Park failed to mention what a tremendous resource the Wirth Par 3 Golf Club is to Minneapolis golfers (“New life for Wirth in wake of tornado,” June 8).

The Wirth advisory committee and the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation would like to see the Par 3 closed and redeveloped for more skiing and bike trails. This golf course is a gem of a resource and an economical way for parents to introduce the game of golf to their children.

Since the inception of the First Tee of Minneapolis, more than 7,500 kids have learned these valuable life skills. Golf can truly change a child’s life. Our program works with more than 50 parks in the city and teaches nine core values to participants.

There are 84 miles of off-street paths in Minneapolis and only one par 3 course. Let’s fight to keep it!




The following letter was sent to MPRB President John Erwin and Commissioners by Robert Dwyer:

Commissioner John Erwin, President
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
2117 West River Road

June 6, 2011

Dear President Erwin,

I am writing on behalf of the “Friends Of The Theodore Wirth Par 3” about a $2.1 million project that is included in the Board’s bonding request for the upcoming Special Session of the legislature (H.F. No. 324). The project, a new ski center located in an area currently used for golfing, has some troubling aspects that require more study before any approval for funding. We support the improvement of facilities at Wirth Park for all sports. Strong consideration should be given to renovating the historic Wirth Chalet built in 1922 which is currently being shared by summertime golf and winter activities requiring snow.

It is difficult to tell from documents associated with this ski center precisely where it is to be located. Some documents place it on the back 9 of the 18 hole course. Suggested changes to the back 9 of the surrounding golf course would result in the DESTRUCTION OF SEVERAL HUNDRED TREES (SEE ATTACHED MAP).

Some maps indicate that the new building would be at the location of the current Par 3 building which may require changes to or elimination of the current Par 3 course.

This ski center proposal (previously identified as a welcome center or an active sports center in earlier funding requests) needs further study. Care should be taken not to proceed with projects which favor some users of the parks to the detriment of others.


Robert Dwyer
Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3



The following letter dated June 14, 2011 regarding St. Anthony Falls was submitted to FERC by Tom Dimond, a resident of St. Paul:

Tom Dimond
Saint Paul, MN 55119

June 14, 2011

Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE
Washington, DC 20426

RE: Comments regarding P-2056-051, P-2056-052 and P-11175-024

I am writing FERC to encourage your support of natural resource protection and restoration efforts on the Mississippi River. Your actions on the three items listed above will assist or diminish ongoing efforts to enhance and restore the Mississippi River.

Saint Anthony Falls is the only waterfall on the Mississippi River

The beauty of Saint Anthony Falls was documented by the early European explorers. Saint Anthony Falls is the only waterfalls on the entire length of the Mississippi River. Saint Anthony Falls is of significant importance to the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, a unit of our National Park System. St Anthony Falls is part of the State of Minnesota designated Mississippi River Critical Area. Critical Areas are areas the State designates for greater resource protection and enhancement.

For many years, the Mississippi River and Saint Anthony Falls suffered from unsound and short sighted resource management practices. The Federal Government, State of Minnesota and City of Minneapolis have invested considerable time and money to turn this situation around. Protection and restoration of natural and cultural resources and encouraging economic revitalization of the riverfront based on the resource restoration efforts has made great progress in revitalizing the riverfront. The natural resources are a vital catalyst for this revitalization.

The results have been rewarding in the significant turnaround of both the natural resources and the economic health of the area. Millions of people enjoy the National Park and tens of thousands live near St Anthony Falls. A vibrant arts and entertainment district has developed next to the Falls including the Guthrie Theatre and Mill City Museum that were funded by the State of Minnesota. The Guthrie was designed by a renowned French architect who grasped the importance of Saint Anthony Falls and include a cantilevered bridge in the building design to provide stunning views of Falls. The National Register stone arch railroad bridge was designed to take advantage of views of the Falls. It has been converted into a pedestrian bridge that provides dramatic views of the Falls for National Park visitors. Target Corporation annually provides a fireworks display above the Falls that spans the river. The display is one of the top ranked fireworks displays in the nation and draws tens of thousands of people to view the Falls and fireworks display. It is one of the finest ways to spend a summer evening in Minnesota.

For those who did not grow up in Minnesota the transformation of this area may not be fully appreciated. It is hard to overstate the significant transformation of this area and the resurgence of public interest in our river and natural resource restoration. National Park Rangers on the riverfront in the heart of our community is a significant and welcome addition.

Protect the source of water for Saint Anthony Falls

The Mississippi River is known as the Father of Waters. It is the most important river and flyway in North America. This area would not be a National Park if it were not for the river. Along the full length of this majestic river there is only one waterfall. Minnesota and Minneapolis are fortunate to be home to this wonderful asset. Protecting the source of water for the Falls is of paramount importance. Protecting the public water supply for the water fall is a public trust. It is hard to imagine any public official would even consider allowing the falls to be dewatered. FERC can and should protect the only waterfall on the Mississippi.

There is no alternative to the waterfall.

There is no alternative source of water for Saint Anthony Falls. There is no alternative waterfall on the Mississippi River. There are many alternatives to generate 3.2 MW of energy. If Crown Hydro is not constructed the grant money will be awarded to another renewable energy project. FERC should not reduce or eliminate the flow of water over Saint Anthony Falls to generate 3.2 MW of electricity by Crown or 1.8 MW by Xcel. FERC should protect a minimum 2,000 CFS at all times over the Falls.

Conservation is the best alternative to increased production. If there is going to be an increase in production, it would take 62 Crown Hydro projects to produce what one wind farm generates. It would take 178 Crown Hydro projects to generate what the High Bridge plant can generate.

Saint Anthony Falls is not an amusement park attraction you turn on and off.

Saint Anthony Falls is located in the heart of a vibrant city and is enjoyed at all times of the day. Saint Anthony Falls is enjoyed 365 days of the year. The Parks Board should be commended for requiring a minimum of 2,000 cubic feet per second flow of water for the Falls. Many would rightly make the case that no water should be diverted from the Falls. Reducing the flow of water diminishes the majesty of the Falls. The sound, turbulence and spray from the water falls directly relates to the flow of water over the Falls. Any dewatering or diminishing of the water falls is ill advised.

Past decisions have had a cumulative effect of dewatering the Falls. FERC currently allows diverting all of the water from the Falls with the exception that one inch of water (100 CFS) be provided during limited viewing hours from mid March to mid November. Allowing all of the Mississippi River to be diverted and allowing the Falls to go dry or the river to have only one inch of water is unacceptable. Allowing a private company to take all of the water from the only waterfall on the Mississippi River is a national disgrace. The 2,000 CFS minimum should be put in place now and the balance of water should be restored when the current license expires. Minnesotans go out at night and during the winter. We should be able to enjoy the Saint Anthony Falls if we are taking an evening stroll on the stone arch bridge or out enjoying winter. An ice encrusted waterfall is actually a beautiful sight.

Failure to ask a critical question

The March 21, 2011 Xcel Energy letter page 2 lists eleven items and lists no impact next to each of them. In the letter to public agencies I do not see any mention that the proposed project will increase the frequency and duration of no flow and one inch flow and reduce the flow over Saint Anthony Falls at all other times. I do not see any request from Xcel for comments from public agencies on the impacts to water flows over the Falls. Even without the inclusion of waterfall flow impacts information the National Park Service voiced their concern and asked to be consulted at the appropriate time. This is the appropriate time to hear from public agencies about the flow. FERC should withhold action until public agencies are provided information on the increased frequency and duration of no flow or reduced flow over the Falls. The public agencies should be given adequate time to send responses to FERC. Xcel has not completed their required flow study.

Taxpayers should not pay to divert water from Saint Anthony Falls

Xcel is seeking taxpayer funding of their efforts to reduce flow of the Mississippi River over Saint Anthony Falls. The record indicates that Xcel is seeking FERC approval to divert more water so they can get a Federal tax credit. FERC can help reduce the Federal deficit and increase the flow of water over Saint Anthony Falls.

Xcel will dry up or limit flow over the Falls to 1 inch (100CFS) 46 percent of the time

The Xcel proposal would essentially divert all of the water from the Falls nearly half of the time. You can debate how much worse it is than current conditions but why make matters worse by diverting more water? The proposed project will increase the frequency and duration of no flow and one inch flow and reduce the flow over the Falls at all other times. During low flows this can make a significant percentage difference. If the flow over the Falls is currently 400 CFS and the increased diversion is approved the flow over the Falls would be reduced to 100 CFS or a 75% reduction in water over the Falls.

FERC should not approve any additional diversion of water from Saint Anthony Falls

Protecting the public water supply for the water fall is a public trust. It is hard to imagine any public official allowing the falls to be dewatered. FERC can and should protect the only waterfall on the Mississippi. There are many alternatives to produce this small amount of energy. Xcel should work with the Park Board, MN DNR and National Park Service on the plan to restore flow.

There is much interest in the community to restore Saint Anthony Falls. The sloping apron designed to protect Saint Anthony Falls will need to be replaced in the future. Minnesota has been a leader in forming concrete to match natural rock outcroppings. The current sloping apron could be replaced with a vertical drop structure that accurately restores the drop flow of the waterfall. The white water rapids should be restored. Restoring the flow of the river to Saint Anthony Falls opens the door to restoration planning for the whole Saint Anthony Falls. This project can be a signature natural and cultural resource restoration in our National Park.

June 15, 2011 Park Board Meeting


5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. The meeting will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME. Speakers need to sign up before 3:00 p.m. the day of the meeting.

The complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, June 15, 2011 is at

MPRB meetings are telecast live from 5-9 p.m. on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast cable and online at

The regular meetings are retelecast on Channel 79 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Webcasts for the recent two months are posted two to five business days after the meeting and are available for viewing under “Webcast Archives” at

The Park Board’s website is The phone number is 612-230-6400.

Arlene Fried, Co-Founder of Park Watch