Monthly Archives: November 2011

Schedule for December M P R B Meetings

The following item was just issued by the MPRB:


The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s (MPRB) regular December meeting will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7 in the Board Room at MPRB headquarters, 2117 West River Road. The Dec. 21 regular meeting has been cancelled. On Dec. 14, the Board will meet at City Hall and adopt its 2012 budget following a public hearing at Council Chambers Room 317, City Hall, 350 South 5th Street, Minneapolis, at 6 p.m.

The Dec. 7 regular Board meeting agenda and related information will be posted on two business days prior to the meeting. MPRB regular board meetings are broadcast 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 rebroadcast on Channel 79 on Saturdays at 11 a.m., Sundays at 9 a.m. and on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 5 p.m.

Webcasts of MPRB regular board meetings are posted on the MPRB website two to five business days after the meeting and are available for viewing, along with Webcasts for the recent two months, at – Commissioners – Webcast Archives.

ParkWatch is Still Watching…


On November 24 and 25, 2011 there was an exchange of comments on the Issues List: by Connie Sullivan and Shawne FitzGerald (5th and 7th posts on this topic, titled “MPRB: Consultants Gone Wild”) The following post highlights Connie’s comment; it is followed by Shawne’s detailed response.

CONNIE: “We must question, especially now that Park Watch is no longer, and we can express thanks to Commissioner Wielinski (formerly of Park Watch)for answering our questions.”

SHAWNE: “Mpls ParkWatch is still watching the Park Board. See I’ll start posting the ParkWatch HeadsUp! for MPRB meetings and other key announcements to this list. One role of Park Watch has always been sharing information with community members struggling to react to or influence Park Board decisions. PW knows how the system works and we either have data, or know where to find it, or know how to request it. By sharing information, we empower community members who know an issue better than we do to advocate for themselves.

This year, we provided research and information to residents concerned about the proposed Sculpture Garden-Loring conservancy, the North Wirth Park plan, the Sixth District Dog Park, and less controversial issues. PW remains committed to helping residents locate the information they need to understand and advocate for Park Board decisions.

Feel free to contact me off-list or e-mail via the PW website if you have a park concern and want more information about how to resolve the concern.

Thanks to many list members who are also watching the Park Board. The Park Board Commissioners are very familiar with the opinions of PW folks. When the issues are raised by others on this list, I think the Commissioners are more likely to pay attention and to listen. So I encourage list members to keep raising park issues. I am immensely grateful to the current crop of Commissioners who have made the MPRB incredibly more transparent and who are committed to transparency.

When ParkWatch started, the Park Board was not promptly adopting meeting minutes. Today, minutes are posted online and are text searchable with Google site search. When ParkWatch started, MPRB agendas were available on the Monday before the Wednesday meeting except when Monday was a holiday. Then, the agendas were released on the Tuesday before the Wednesday meeting. PW fought this and after a year or so, the agendas and Board packets were released on Friday before the Wednesday meetings (when sent to Commissioners and so, were public).

But the MPRB wouldn’t put these online. So, for years, three dedicated volunteers including now Comm. Liz W. went to Park Board HQ on Friday after 3 pm to get agendas and related documents in person. One volunteer scanned these and we spent weekends reading documents – posting alerts here as we could. This is how ridiculous the old system was! This is gone, in the past. Agendas and staff reports are available on-line. (Not perfectly–changes made after the initial release should be uploaded.) When Park Watch started, Park Board meetings were not televised. They were not available on the internet. Today, we have this access including staff reports attached to the agendas. The quality of staff reports have improved tremendously this year!

Another recent change (TY!) is that Park Board meetings not on the cable tv schedule are now available on the internet – like last Tuesday’s meeting. (We have asked that the Park Board designate a repository and retain digital meeting recordings. Maybe this will get done next year, in the meantime, a Park Watcher maintains a library of MPRB meetings going back several years.)Thanks to this Park Board for hiring an interim superintendent and for our new Supt. Jayne Miller, both committed to sharing information and answering the public’s questions. They have changed the culture,removing the need for most data practices requests. In general, just ask for the info you are seeking and the appropriate MPRB employee should provide it. MPRB General Info 612-230-6400. Applause! Applause!

Earlier this month, the Park Board passed a revised citizen participation ordinance and a new citizen engagement policy
–see Formal Citizen Advisory Committees (CACs) are still required for major capital projects. The exciting piece is the new policy that requires MPRB staff to reach out to the community, and in some cases, work with community advisers, on any significant changes to a park -from capital projects to program changes. Remember when the Park Board used to do this? It’s back! Please share this with neighborhood organizations, rec councils, booster groups, school teams, environmental organizations, and all stakeholders – this is your chance to advise on changes at the parks you love.

This Park Board has approved reorganization so that the head of Finance is now an assistant supt. and answers only to the MPRB Supt. This is a great move for Finance is no longer influenced to make their bosses look good (& I’ve seen enough expenses move around to suspect this was happening). Instead, accountants now rule! Next month, the MPRB will approve new financial policies: This is not a stick-it-in-the-budget with no time for discussion. Rather, Comm. Scott Vreeland and Finance staff have struggled to align MPRB policies with standard government accounting procedures, state and city laws, and MPRB past practices and current needs. The policies may need some future tweaking or political changes – but hats off! to a tremendous effort resulting in logical policies.

The changes in budget transparency are incredible! I remember attending my first MPRB budget presentation in the mid-2000s and the only info available was a fold-out brochure. Then, there were a few years of drowning-in-paper – attaching financial policies and the comp plan to the budget, all done last minute. This year, thanks to Supt. Miller and MPRB finance staff, it is a different world. The MPRB budget is actually readable and, new this year, staff has taken questions from Commissioners and published the answers: Reporting.

The MPRB Commissioners now receive quarterly year-to-date spending reports. Compared to prior year. A vast improvement! (Even better…it would be nice to link these reports to a webpage rather than requiring folks to search through Board meeting agendas/minutes.) This means our elected officials might have enough data to make changes mid-year or 3rdQ for, if a category is underspent and all else is inline, there might be a chance to amend the budget. Without such data, our elected officials could ask – but only MPRB staff could locate possible sources of funds. So, it was political….but now with YTD data, the elected Commissioners are back in charge.

I became involved in PW after reading a newspaper report about liens being filed against an MPRB property. This was a wake-up call that something was very wrong at the MPRB. Once involved in PW, I discovered that the MPRB was in terrible shape – totally ignoring many, many good government practices that we take for granted.

I was once in the non-profit sector so let me tell you, the MPRB would not have qualified as a United Way agency. I am not sure that it would qualify today. There is a greater need for knowing who the MPRB is serving and at what cost as well as knowing who the MPRB is not serving for these households pay for parks via property taxes. Equity is an MPRB goal. Thanks to major steps forward, good government practices are coming back to the MPRB. Getting the basics back into place and integrating these with new technologies that weren’t available in the pre-Gurban years, is a major effort. When this is done – and assuming the MPRB remains firmly grounded in transparency and citizen access and participation – there will no longer be a need for ParkWatch. We will all have the tools to watch our independently elected park board & the system. Then we can just argue the politics.”

Shawne FitzGerald

Member of Mpls ParkWatch

Next Brownie Lake C A C Meeting on 11/29

The following notice was issued by the MPRB. CAC meetings are open to the public.


The second Brownie Lake Area Plan Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting will be held November 29 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Kenwood Community Center, 2101 W Franklin Ave.

The meeting agenda will include:

• a review of comments received to date

• discussion of potential projects; prioritization of improvements including trails, trail connections, recreational amenities, utility infrastructure access and improvements; and natural resource enhancements

• next steps.

For further information regarding this project, be sure to check out the Brownie Lake project page:

Links to newly posted information:

November 29 CAC Meeting Agenda:

Comments collected as of November 21:

Mapped comments from CAC meeting #1:

Survey report:

Brownie Lake Water Quality – Response to Citizen Questions:

Lyndale Farmstead Dog Park Advances

The following article by Nicole Norfleet was published in the Star Tribune on November 23, 2011:


The Park Board committee approved the use of part of a parking lot as an off-leash area. The full board must still give it a paws up.

In February, Park Board Commissioner Brad Bourn, center gave his reaction to the original proposal of creating a dog park in Martin Luther King Park.

Finding a place for Fido to run freely in a certain area of south Minneapolis has been a challenge for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

But a portion of the board may have finally settled on a suitable spot.

On Tuesday night, the Park Board’s planning committee voted 4-1 to approve converting a portion of the board’s South Side operations center parking lot in the west corner of Lyndale Farmstead Park into an off-leash dog park.

The full nine-member board still must give its approval.

The vote comes more than a year after controversy erupted over a proposal to create an off-leash dog park in Martin Luther King Park, about a mile away. A large number of black residents thought a dog park would dishonor King’s memory.

During Tuesday’s meeting, some commissioners voiced support for the parking lot site. “This is going to be a linchpin in the community,” said Brad Bourn, the commissioner for the sixth park district.

However, Commissioner Bob Fine said he was concerned with the potential cost of developing the site.

During a public hearing, people were generally supportive of the site.

“We would like people to become ex-strangers,” said Ben Harris, a member of the citizen advisory committee that recommended the location and design of the dog park. He later added, “Real community happens in dog parks. Dog parks are not just for the dogs but for the people.”

Tuesday’s meeting had the potential to be controversial. The citizen advisory committee that had recommended the parking lot location also offered an alternative site, south of the operations center wall along Kings Highway, west of the Theodore Wirth home, a site historical preservationists oppose.

A stormwater pond within the chosen site would not be accessible to dogs or the public.

Park workers have said they’re concerned that using that site would reduce parking for employees and make space more cramped for park machinery.

If the site gets final approval, staff would develop a relocation plan for the equipment and material currently stored at that location.

“We know that we have to redesign the site in order to make it work,” said Bruce Chamberlain, assistant superintendent for planning.

Final approval of the resolution would also direct staff to begin development of a system-wide off-leash recreation area master plan in the years to come.

The budget for the project is a little more than $132,000, and the baseline estimated cost for the project is $96,210. The vote by the full board is expected to occur in December.

Park Board Finally Has Its Sights Set on Southwest Dog Park

The following article by Nick Halter was posted online at the Southwest Journal website on November 23, 2011:


After 13 years of debate, a Minneapolis parks committee has finally chosen a site to build an off-leash dog area in the Park Board’s Sixth District.

The Park Board’s Planning Committee on Nov. 22 took a citizen’s advisory committee recommendation and chose what is now a parking lot in Lyndale Farmstead Park near the Park Board’s Southside Operations Center — known by neighbors as “Site 32.”

Only Commissioner Bob Fine (at-large) voted against that site, but judging by comments from the other eight commissioners, Site 32 should pass easily when it gets to the full Park Board.

Public Engagement Manager Jennifer Ringold said she expects, pending full board approval, that site improvements will go out to bid by spring 2012 so that construction can begin in the summer.

The Park Board has already approved $132,500 for the project. Initial Park Board estimates have the total cost pegged somewhere between $96,000 and $185,000, depending on how fancy it gets.

Commissioner Brad Bourn (Sixth District) said he’s already working to start fundraising efforts that would provide for amenities above the $132,5000 threshold. He said improvements could be made in phases after the initial construction.

Bourn applauded the decision, though he recognized that Lyndale Farmstead was not the perfect place, but the place that represented the best compromise.

“We met a lot of needs and really protected a lot of things that needed protecting,” said Bourn, referring to another proposed site in Lyndale Farmstead that many community members felt would encroach on the historic nature of the Theodore Wirth Home

But for many of those in attendance, the decision was music to their ears.

David Brauer was on the most recent citizen’s committee that recommended the Lyndale Farmstead site, and his wife Sarah Duniway was part of group charged with finding a site 13 years ago. Both said they were happy with the site and plan to take their dog there frequently.

The big question now is when and where the Park Board will find it’s next site.

Two years ago, a group of mostly Kingfield, Regina and Bryant neighbors approached the Park Board with hopes of building a dog area in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. That proposal fell through a year ago after strong opposition from the black community.

For many of them, the Lyndale Farmstead site is welcome addition, but isn’t within walking distance like MLK park would have been.

As a part of the Park Board’s resolution to approve Site 32, it also will create a master plan for Minneapolis dog parks in 2013 or 2014.

That means a dog park in south central Minneapolis — in the neighborhoods surrounding 35W — might not happen for at least a few years

“We still don’t have many dog parks in the middle part of the city,” said Fine, who also raised concerns over drainage at Site 32.

Letter from the N P S re Theodore Wirth Home and Proposed Dog Park


The following letter was submitted via e-mail to the MPRB by Dena Sanford, Architectural Historian with the National Park Service, Midwest Region, National Register Programs:


Monday, November 21, 2011 11:06 AM

To the members of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board:

I was provided your names from Joan Berthiaume, regarding discussions on the establishment of a dog park in Minneapolis. I have previously provided thoughts to members of the Park and Recreation Board regarding the potential of dedicating park land adjacent to the Theodore Wirth House as for use as a dog park. I am taking the opportunity to repeat them again, prior to your November 22 meeting.

As you are aware, the Theodore Wirth Home and Administration Building, and the surrounding landscape, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Mrs. Berthiaume and the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society approached me about a year ago regarding the potential of that property for its eligibility for listing as a National Historic Landmark. As a result of that contact, I spoke to the Minneapolis Park Board about such designation, and what that entailed.

National Historic Landmarks possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Today, fewer than 2,500 historic places bear this national distinction. Their numbers include such well-known properties as the White House, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Carnegie hall in New York, and the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. They also include the James J. Hill House, the Mayo Clinic, Split Rock Light Station, the Charles A. Lindbergh House and the Washburn A Mill (Mill City Museum) in Minnesota.

As you may be aware, the Theodore Wirth House is historically significant to the history of park development in the Minneapolis Park System (which is widely acclaimed in its own right), and is listed on the National Register at a state level of significance. However, Theodore Wirth was a nationally-recognized person who promoted a form of park development that encouraged public access and use in a way very different from earlier parks, a concept described as the “local park movement.” This concept also directly influenced the design ethic of his son, Conrad Wirth. As the location of both his home and his office, the Wirth House represents the focus of where Theodore Wirth developed and carried out his concepts of landscape design and public use.

Conrad Wirth, who grew up in the house and would have been intimately familiar with his father’s design philosophy, also became a landscape architect, and a national figure in the National Park Service. Conrad Wirth was a key administrator in the planning and design of the Civilian Conservation Corps program of the 1930s, and later brought about a sea change in NPS perceptions about providing the public with access into the National Parks– very different from that espoused at the beginning of the 20th century.

The landscape surrounding the house, with its open lawn setting interspersed with vegetation and trees, is an integral component of the National Register nomination. Both the house and landscape are highly intact, which greatly assists in conveying the importance of the property associated with both Wirth men.

Should the National Historic Landmark nomination proceed, retaining a very high level of integrity is an important element in the evaluation process. As stewards of such an important resource, I am confident that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is taking into account the importance of sensitive treatment and preservation of the property. Placement of a dog park that is not within the National Register boundary would ensure that the landscape associated with these nationally important men remains intact. In this way, the citizens of Minneapolis, the state of Minnesota, and the greater American public can appreciate and learn from this irreplaceable resource, and the role that Minneapolis played in the national evolution of public park landscape design.

Thank you,

Dena Sanford

E H F N A Letter Re: 6th District Dog Park Proposal


The following letter from the East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association (EHFNA) is one of several that were received by MPRB commissioners and staff in support of a Sixth District dog park on the Operations Center parking lot.

From: Adam Faitek

Date: Wed, Nov 16, 2011 at 9:13 PM

To: Miller, Jayne S.

Subject: Proposal for off-leash recreation area in Lyndale Farmstead Park

Dear Superintendent Miller,

The East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association (EHFNA) recently reaffirmed its commitment to the preservation of the Wirth House and the historic designated area within which it resides. It did so in reaction to the 6th District Off-leash Recreation Area Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) recommendation to use part of this historic designated area as a dog park in the event the primary choice of the parking lot in the Operations Center located at the Lyndale Farmstead Park was not selected by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB).

This reaffirmation reflects a long standing and active commitment by EHFNA to preserve the Wirth House and make the historic landmark more accessible to the public. Several years ago the MPRB approached EHFNA for input on a proposal to demolish the house. Through outreach conducted by EHFNA, neighborhood residents voiced their strong attachment to the house as a neighborhood landmark. In response, EHFNA was instrumental in the effort to save the house. EHFNA has funded lighting along the pathways around the house to increase the safety and accessibility of the area. The association has also been involved in efforts to fund a historically accurate fireplace in the building.

EHFNA has partnered with the MPRB and other organizations to make the house more available to the public by hosting tours of the house. The tours of the Wirth House are a featured attraction at RoseFest, the neighborhood’s annual summer festival that draws attendees from all over southwest and beyond.

The application for historic designation specifically included the surrounding landscape because it is considered significant and worthy of special protections. Theodore Wirth had a unique and special vision for public parks. The parcel of land behind the Wirth House preserves a small sample of his grand vision. This Wirth designed landscape has been essentially unchanged from his original design. This area is particularly effective at demonstrating Wirth’s impact on our notions of landscape design and parks. His workshop where he spent most of his design time is located with a view of the sledding hill, diagonal trail, and trees, giving visitors to the site a tangible connection to what inspired him when he was creating the wonderful parks that we enjoy today. Changing the tree populated portion of that landscape from a passive-use open area to a fenced single purpose area is considered by many to be fundamentally inconsistent with the historic designation that was bestowed upon the property just a few years ago.

Pressures to use the Wirth House and the historic designated area which it resides in for other purposes are not new. EHFNA’s stewardship of the home and surrounding land has been ongoing for as long as the organization has existed. This responsibility is not limited to the neighborhood or even the region; it is a national one. Preservation of the historic designated district area, not just the house, remains a high priority for the neighborhood organization. We hope the MPRB shares this same commitment to preserving the historic landscape design, including its open, general-use characteristic as it considers options for a 6th District Off-leash Recreation Area.
Thank you for your consideration.


Adam Faitek

Chair, EHFNA

Heads-Up for the November 22, 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.

6:30 P.M. PUBLIC HEARING. The Sixth District Dog Park

Some agenda items of interest are the following:

–Findings of the Sixth District Dog Park CAC.

–Discussion and Public Comment on the Superintendent’s recommended 2012 Budget.

–Permit Application Procedures.

–The MPRB’s Financial Management Policies.

–3rd Quarter MPRB Financial Status Report.

–A 12-month Professional Services Contract for Organizational Efforts to Develop Work Process, Efficiency and Performance Improvements.

–Partnering with the Downtown Improvement District and providing $25,000 toward hiring a Consultant to Conduct a Study to Determine the Feasibility for Creating Downtown Greenspaces.

–Agreement with First Avenue to Produce A Two Day Music Festival at Parade Baseball Field in 2012 with a Five Year Term. This item has multiple concerns. Many approvals that the Park Board should have are missing from the proposal. It would seem appropriate that the MPRB seek advice early on from the Walker Art Center that has concert experience with its Rock the Garden summer event.

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.

The availability of these reports is one of the important changes instituted by Superintendent Miller. Look for the links to these reports under Petitions and Communications in the agenda for the first Regular Meeting of the month.

The complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, November 22, 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

Theo. Wirth Changes to Affect Golf, Par 3 and Winter Sports

The following article by Damon Struyk, Golden Valley Appointee to the Wirth CAC was published November 17, 2011 on the Golden Valley Patch website:


Tuesday night was another long yet fairly productive Citizens Advisory Committee (‘CAC’) meeting for Theodore Wirth Park. Thank you to those of you who could attend. The primary focus this time was on north Wirth (north of Hwy. 55). The directives from the design charrette (held in early November) with which we continued are not final decisions, but they do give us some idea of what we’ll potentially see (or not see) in the park. They form the basis for a working concept plan.

The basic charrette design idea for north Wirth favored by the CAC is the ‘Outcrop’ This will redesign the golf courses a bit (moving one hole on the par-3, relocating holes 17 and 18 on the main course, and perhaps reversing play on some of the holes). Room will be made for a Nordic ski stadium (basically an open field) and a “multi-use welcome and training and educational center” near the location of the current par-3 building, which will be removed. The new building will house the par-3 clubhouse and other non-winter activities, as well as consolidated winter recreation activities.

All of these changes are to be accomplished with minimal impact on existing trees, and only in ways that respect the historical character of the landscape. Golf will not encroach on the meadow area of the ‘Back 40,’ as two of the charrette’s ideas had suggested.

Some of you may recall the charrette experts’ idea to redesign the parkway out in front of the chalet, making it more historically accurate. That will not happen (the CAC felt it was a needless expense), although the entry to the existing parking lot could be redesigned for better entry from the parkway and Plymouth Avenue. In addition, the existing maintenance building (‘Tool Shed’) is to remain (as possibly historically significant) and may be rehabilitated, depending on need and cost, for other uses.

The CAC also approved a directive that would designate a free sledding hill in north Wirth (as opposed to its tubing hill, for which there is a usage fee on most days). I’m optimistic and pleased that at some point in the near future kids will be able to go to Wirth and use a hill, snow and gravity free of charge.

The one sticking point for the CAC Tuesday night was what is to become of the current 17th hole of the main golf course. That’s more or less currently the valley that heads north from the par-3 parking lot.

In the winter, snowboarding may be removed entirely from this area. In the summer, golf wishes to use this area for a 12-stall driving range and learning center, but others (e.g., off-road cyclers, runners, hikers, orienteerers etc.) want to use the unique terrain of this area for events and other open recreation in conjunction with the new welcome center.

This issue was tabled until the next CAC meeting, which I am told will not occur until January or February. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday’s meeting did touch upon south Wirth insofar as the CAC approved directives for ‘learning corridors’ with enhanced trail connections, signage and interpretation between the Bog, Eloise Butler and J.D. Gardens, as well as alternatives for year-round programming near the par-3.

Finally, I’d like to take a moment to tip my hat to the other CAC members and the Minneapolis Park Board Staff. We’ve been clicking these past two meetings, and it’s refreshing to see us reach agreement on reasonable decisions for the park. Perhaps the charrette worked, or perhaps we’ve just found common ground. In any event, I’m grateful to be a part of the process. Thank you.