Monthly Archives: September 2011

Tentative Schedule for Wirth Charrette


The following is a tentative schedule for the charrette:

Wednesday, November 2 – Evening Meeting

This meeting will be primarily information sharing. A series of short presentations will highlight 1) park analysis from several perspectives, 2) recreational trends, 3) park program alternatives, and 4) decisions made and direction provided by the CAC to date. CAC members will be asked to share with the design team any additional information that will help with the design process. There will be an opportunity to also collect information from residents who attend the meeting.

Thursday, November 3 – All-day design team studio time + open studio

During the work day, designers will develop program and concept alternatives based on the information that has been shared with them or that they have collected in the park. The studio will be opened during late afternoon for CAC members and the public to drop in (no formal meeting) and interact with the team.

Friday, November 4 – All-day design team studio time

This day will be used by the design team to refine concepts and prepare support graphics that convey underlying ideas.

Saturday, November 5 – Morning Open House

The graphics prepared during the charrette will be displayed in a gallery format. The CAC and community will have a chance to talk with the team one-on-one and hear presentation of the concepts. There will be several forms of public feedback offered.

Tuesday, November 8 – CAC Meeting

CAC members will review the concepts and information collected at the open house and craft direction to Park Board staff for refinement and master plan recommendations. Depending on available time and level of consensus about concepts, prioritization may also begin at this meeting.

M P R B Discussion of Loring Conservancy


The proposed Loring Park Conservancy was on the agenda of the MPRB’s September 21, 2011 meeting. Thanks to the Mill City Times for the following link to the video of the discussion:

Scherer Brothers Site Gets $1 Million for Cleanup

The followng article by Nick Halter was published in the September 12, 2011 issue of the Southwest Journal:


Hennepin County awarded the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board a $1 million grant to clean up the Scherer Brothers Lumber Company site just north of Boom Island.

The Park Board bought the land in 2010 and has hopes of developing a park along the river and perhaps opening up the land to the east for private development.

But the Park Board first needs to demolish the buildings on the property and dig up about 2 feet worth of soil contaminated with petroleum and heavy metals.

The $1 million grant was funneled from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to Hennepin County and finally to the Park Board.

The Park Board says it expects to have the cleanup work done this winter.

A design team is working on a plan for the site that envisions a kayak park and other forms of recreation. The project would be the first phase of the RiverFIRST plan — a vision for a 5.5-mile stretch of the riverfront from the Stone Arch Bridge to the city’s northern border.

The Park Board’s Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative is overseeing the riverfront revitalization efforts. For more details, go to

Minneapolis Riverfront Plan Features Parks, Trails

The following article by Tom Meersman was published in the September 22, 2011 issue of the Star Tribune:


The upper Mississippi River corridor in Minneapolis could have three new parks underway in the next five years, along with a reclaimed wetland area and miles of new bike and walking trails, according to an ambitious and costly plan presented to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on Wednesday.

The riverfront proposal is the work of a design team hired by park officials in February to create a 21st-century vision for the area, which runs 5 1/2 miles on both sides of the river from downtown to the city’s northern boundary. It includes some of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and industries, some of which cut off access to the river.

Park Board President John Erwin was undaunted by the estimated cost of the project, $145 million to $175 million, amounts made public for the first time this week.

“You have to be bold when you do something like this, and I think it’s very possible to do the dollars,” he said, adding that possible funding sources to buy and improve the land include sales tax dollars, donations and pollution cleanup funds.

Long-term operating costs could be offset eventually by higher taxes from the more valuable property that would be developed along the corridor, he said.

The California- and Boston-based firms that make up the design team recommended that all five projects get underway at the same time. The team also said that none would undermine or “wipe out” current industries or businesses in the area. The proposals are:

• Six miles of new walking and bicycling trails on both sides of the river, from the Plymouth Avenue Bridge to Camden Bridge. The trails would cross public parkland and private property, and some stretches would need land purchase or easements for access. In some cases the trail could be elevated above industrial land. New trails would also be attached to three railway bridges, one of which would be converted to exclusive bike and pedestrian use.

• A new park and beach along the river. The former Scherer Brothers lumberyard, recently purchased by the park board, would become a seven-acre park with four acres of adjacent property for residential housing or other private development. The park, on the east side of the Plymouth Avenue Bridge, would become a focal point for kayaking, biking and other recreation.

• Northside Wetlands Park. The project would re-establish 25 acres of historic wetlands on a portion of the 48-acre site currently used as the city’s upper harbor terminal. The port facility that handles coal, steel coil and other products would be consolidated to make room for the wetlands.

• Downtown Gateway Park. The project would turn several blocks of surface parking lots into green space between the Minneapolis Public Library and the riverfront. The goal is to establish a park to link Nicollet Mall and downtown with the river at the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.

• Floating islands. The proposal would create six large clusters of “biohaven islands” made from recycled foam that would float near shore and be covered with soil, plants and shrubs. The islands would be anchored, and would provide channels for kayaking and habitat for migrating birds, native mussels, turtles and other wildlife.

Jeff Skrenes, housing director for the Hawthorne neighborhood, said he liked proposals to reconnect his community with the river through improved trails, such as the 26th Avenue North Greenway. “It’s one of the best infrastructure developments that north Minneapolis has seen in a generation or more,” he said.

John Anfinson of the National Park Service said that reconnecting people with the river and restoring natural ecosystems are laudable goals but that a key question will be what kind of non-park development will be allowed along the river to pay for the operating costs of an expanded park system.

“The devil’s in the details,” he said.

The park board on Wednesday authorized a 45-day public comment period for the plan. It will make decisions about what elements will move forward in late November or December.

M P R B Attorney Brian Rice's Response to Crown Hydro Letter to F E R C

September 2, 2011

Ms. Kimberly D. Bose


Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE

Washington, DC 20426

Re: Crown Hydro LLC, Crown Mill Hydroelectric Project

FERC Project No. 11175

Dear Secretary Bose:

I am the General Counsel for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (“MPRB”). I am writing in response to the letter dated August 25, 2011 from Donald H. Clarke, the attorney for Crown Hydro, LLC, regarding the recently concluded Minnesota special legislative session. There are several assertions in that letter that I believe are misleading and inaccurate.

First, on June 23, 2011, Crown Hydro’s attorney sent a letter to FERC asking you to delay action on the proposed termination of their license based on their promise that they would obtain passage of legislation in a special session of the Minnesota legislature that would give them site control over MPRB public parkland Crown Hydro needed for their operation. The Minnesota legislature did convene in special session on July 19 to deal with budget and other matters. In the course of that special session, no legislation to benefit Crown Hydro was passed or even introduced, despite Crown’s assurances legislative action would occur. The session ended and Crown Hydro’s promise of legislation to give them site control did not materialize. In light of those events, FERC should be highly suspect of any claims by Crown Hydro about their ability to enact legislation during a special session.

Second, Crown Hydro’s representative asserts that only budget matters were dealt with during the 2011 special session. That statement is factually incorrect. In addition to passing eleven budget and tax bills, the legislature also enacted a policy bill dealing with pension reform. The excuse Crown Hydro uses that only budget bills were enacted is not accurate. In calling the special session, Governor Dayton specified that the legislature consider twelve pieces of legislation. The legislature considered and passed those twelve bills. Crown Hydro’s legislation was not one of those bills. In Minnesota, only the Governor can call a special session, and it is the Governor who establishes the agenda for the session.

Crown Hydro is now urging FERC to forego action on termination of their license with yet another promise to enact legislation during a yet to be called special session of the legislature. At this point, there is no need for a special session of the legislature as all budget bills have been enacted. The Governor could call a special session later this year; however, the entire discussion about another special session has focused around a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. At this point, there is no certainty another special session will be called. Further, there has been absolutely no public attention on the question of Crown Hydro’s desire to obtain public parkland for its project such as would necessitate the need for special legislative action.

Lastly, FERC should know that the MPRB is opposed to legislative action that would take away the Park Board’s control of its property. The Minnesota Constitution prohibits special legislation of the type Crown Hydro has proposed. FERC should also be aware that the League of Minnesota Cities and the City of Minneapolis are opposed to the strategy that Crown Hydro is employing to obtain site control to this property. Any legislative effort by Crown Hydro would be met with strong opposition and would likely face constitutional problems as well.

I would urge FERC to give no credence to the mistaken and misleading information that Crown Hydro’s attorneys are providing.

Very truly yours,

Brian F. Rice

cc: Minneapolis Park Commissioners

Peggy Harding, FERC Regional Engineer

Crown Hydro, Facing License Termination, says Project is Still Possible

The following item, by Nick Halter, was published in the September 5, 2011 issue of the Southwest Journal. A week later, the Park Board’s legal counsel wrote a letter to FERC to point out the “misleading and inaccurate” information contained in the letter. That letter is also posted here on Park Watch.


Crown Hydro, LLC, the company that wants to build a hydroelectric facility above St. Anthony Falls, sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Aug. 25 saying it believes Gov. Mark Dayton will call another special session this fall and that GOP leadership has committed to passing a bill to allow for the project.

Although it was granted a 50-year license in 1999, Crown Hydro received a letter from FERC in May saying that the commission needed proof that Crown Hydro was still making progress, or else FERC would terminate the company’s hydroelectric license.

The letter came after weeks of negotiations between Crown Hydro and the Park Board over a lease agreement that ultimately went nowhere.

Crown Hydro, in the Aug. 25 letter, said it was “exploring the development of the facility within the licensed area that would allow the development of the facility without the requirement of (Park Board) consents and entitlements.”

Brownie Lake C A C to be Appointed

The following information is from a press release circulated by the the Park Board:


The Park Board is planning to improve trail safety and protect natural resources at Brownie Lake.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is developing an Area Plan for Brownie Lake and establishing a Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) to inform the process. The CAC, which will be appointed by Park Board commissioners, other elected officials, and community groups, will help gather ideas and concerns from park users, neighbors, and other constituents and develop recommendations to be forwarded to the Board. The Area Plan will provide direction for the design of improvements around the lake.

Brownie Lake is a lovely, secluded water body surrounded by steep wooded slopes, located at the north end of the Chain of Lakes. This natural area is enjoyed by hikers, canoeists, and an occasional fisherperson. The MPRB in conjunction with the community has already addressed some of the environmental issues around Brownie Lake, but additional work is needed.

The section of the Cedar Lake Parkway bike and pedestrian trail that runs along the east rim above Brownie Lake is a key link in a network of regional trails and receives over 370,000 visits per year. Built in 1976 as a combined-use trail, its six-foot width does not meet the current Grand Rounds standards.

Closer to the lake itself, a proliferation over the last decade of unplanned paths are contributing to erosion that, along with invasive species such as buckthorn and unmanaged stormwater runoff, pose a threat to the lake’s character as well as its water quality. The CAC process will provide an opportunity to discuss the best ways to protect this getaway within the city.

“Improving Brownie Lake,” said 4th Park District Commissioner Anita Tabb, “is not about development. It is about protecting the area so that it can be used and enjoyed for generations to come.”

The planning process will begin with an inventory of the site, its natural resources, and current use patterns. The program for the park may include environmental restoration as well as recreational amenities. Alternative plan options will be discussed and a final plan for the area prepared. Amenities will support activities such as hiking, skiing, fishing, and boating, as well as cycling along Cedar Lake Parkway. Environmental restoration may include invasive species removal, habitat improvements, slope stabilization, and erosion control.

The plan will encompass areas surrounding Brownie Lake bounded by Cedar Lake Parkway on the east, BNSF railroad tracks and N. Cedar Lake Regional Trail on the south, Target offices and parking on the west, and S. Wayzata Boulevard on the north. Funding for the Brownie Lake Area Plan and Site Improvements was made possible through the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment passed by Minnesota voters in 2008. The amendment increased the general sales and use tax rate by three-eighths percent, and 14.25 % of the revenue generated by this increased sales tax is dedicated to the Parks and Trails Fund to support parks and trails of regional significance. Funds for the bike and pedestrian trail along Cedar Lake Parkway are provided by the federal Transportation Enhancement Act.

The Board’s charge to the CAC is as follows: The CAC shall advise staff, technical advisory committees, and consultants on regional park visitor interests in the development of a schematic plan for Brownie Lake regarding trails and connections, environmental improvements, recreation activities, and maintenance. The recommendations shall be informed by previous planning efforts, studies, and reports that affect Brownie Lake and its surrounding parklands and trails.

CAC members will represent the range of park user groups. In addition to appointments by park commissioners and other elected officials, the CAC will include an appointment each by the Cedar Lake Park Association, the Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association, the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association, and the Kenwood Isles Area Association. Interested community members may apply for an appointment to the CAC by completing an application online at, or to have an application mailed or faxed, call 612-230-6472. The application deadline is Tuesday, October 11.

Appointments to the CAC are expected to be made by October 19, and the first meeting held the evening of Tuesday, October 25. Meetings are scheduled approximately four weeks apart with the last meeting tentatively scheduled for mid-February of 2012. Upon completion of its study, the CAC’s recommendations will be presented to the Board.

For more information about the project, please visit the project page at or call 612-230-6438. To sign up for email project updates, please visit and click on the red envelope at the bottom of left menu bar. The public is welcome at all CAC meetings. The CAC meeting schedule is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday evenings from 6:30-8:30 at Kenwood Community Center:

October 25

November 29

January 3

January 24

(February 14)

Heads-Up for the September 21, 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.

Probably the highlight of the meeting is 10.1 on the Innovation & Development committee agenda, which has the memo from Superintendent Miller indicating that she is eliminating the Assistant Superintendent of Enterprise’s position which has been held by Don Siggelkow. However, there will be a vote on a one-year Professional Services Agreement for a maximum of $80,000 that is being offered Siggelkow. Park Board professional services agreements are consulting agreements with no benefits. Here’s an excerpt from Resolution 2011-185:

“After thirteen years with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, serving as Assistant Superintendent, General Manager and again as Assistant Superintendent, Don Siggelkow has decided to enter private business and end his full-time employment with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board effective October 7, 1011.”

Other agenda items of interest are the following:

4.3 on the regular meeting agenda which is the resolution approving an agreement with the Minneapolis Parks Foundation and the establishment of a non-appointed CAC for preliminary visioning and implementation study of the former Fuji-ya site, which is now being referred to as the Waterworks site.

4.1 on the Planning Committee agenda which is the hiring of SRF for the Brownie Lake Area Trails Plan.

The Mayor’s 2012 recommended budget which is a study item on the Finance & Administration Committee agenda.

The Loring Park Conservancy Framework which is a study/report item on the Innovation & Development Committee agenda.

Also of interest and now available to the commissioners and the public are the monthly reports that Superintendent Miller has initiated for construction permits and for Planning Department projects. They are listed under Petitions and Communications at the first MPRB meeting of the month.

The complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, September 21, 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

Parade Parkway Set for Reconstruction on Existing Footprint

The following article by Nick Halter was published in the September 5, 2011 issue of the Southwest Journal:


Many call it Parade Parkway. Others aren’t sure what to call it, so they say it’s what Emerson Avenue would be if it continued north. Google’s maps refer to it as Stadium Parkway. The official city maps have it named Parade Stadium Drive.

On Aug. 17, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board decided that, whatever you call the roughly 1,500-foot stretch of road that runs through Parade Park, it’s time to fix it. Park Board staff say the road’s pavement is well beyond its lifetime and certain places are at a “point of failure.”

The idea to rebuild the road is not a new one; the topic has been discussed for two years, and last year the Park Board set aside $400,000 in its 2011 capital program for Parade Parkway.

Park Board staff had prepared two options for reconstructing the road. The first was to essentially rebuild the road exactly where the existing road sits. A second option would have moved it slightly east, relocating some parking stalls and improving storm water runoff.

But a few days before the Park Board was set to hold a public meeting to discuss the options, Park Board commissioners got into a heated debate about the road.

Commissioner Bob Fine proposed that a third option be considered: That the Park Board move the road dramatically and have it run in between the baseball field and the soccer field.

Commissioner Jon Olson doubted the merits of spending money on a road that he said is more of an access into a park than a thoroughfare. He raised the idea of instead investing the money into air conditioners for about a dozen Minneapolis recreation centers that don’t have them and so closed for a couple weeks this summer when temperatures soared.

But a contingent of commissioners — John Erwin, Anita Tabb, Brad Bourn and Liz Wielinski — said the debate had gone on too long and decided it was time to move forward with the first option: to keep the road where it has always been at a price tag of $350,000–$400,000. Moving it slightly east would have cost $881,000.

The contingent passed a motion to take their preferred plan to an Aug. 22 public meeting and gather input on how to best design the road, with the understanding that the road’s placement would not change.

According to traffic counts conducted over one week in late spring by the Park Board’s contracted engineer Stonebrook Engineering, about 4,500 vehicles use the road every day.