Monthly Archives: May 2014

Minneapolis park system tops in nation

The following report was posted on KARE 11’s website on May 29, 2014.

Minneapolis park system tops in nation


(Photo: KARE)

Many residents of Minneapolis will tell you that the vast park system is the crown jewel of the city.

Well, the folks at The Trust for Public Land will back that up. The nonprofit organization’s 3rd annual ParkScore® index gave Minneapolis a perfect “5-park bench” rating, naming the Mini-Apple’s park system as the country’s best for the second straight year. New York, Boston, Portland, and San Francisco round out the top five.

“We’re thrilled to receive this prestigious honor from The Trust for Public Land a second time,” said Jayne Miller, Superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.. “When residents voted for an independent Park Board in 1883, they most likely didn’t envision a park system that would grow to 6,790 acres of parkland serving more than 21 million visits each year.”

The Trust for Public Land ParkScores are based equally on three factors: Park access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park (approximately ½-mile); Park size, which is based on a city’s median park size and the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks; and Services and investment, which combines the number of playgrounds per 10,000 city residents and per capita park spending. In addition to the national ranking, each city receives a “park bench” rating on a scale of zero to five.

With 94 percent of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park, Minneapolis received especially high marks for park access. The city’s strong parks budget also boosted its ParkScore rating. Second-place finisher New York fared slightly better on park access, with 97 percent of residents living with within a 10-minute walk of a park. However, New York was hurt by its low median park size, just 1.1 acres compared to Minneapolis’ 7.1-acre median.

According to The Trust for Public Land, the 10 highest-ranking city park systems in the United States are:

1. Minneapolis 5.0 park benches
2. New York 4.5 park benches
3. Boston (tie) 4.0 park benches
3. Portland (tie) 4.0 park benches
3. San Francisco (tie) 4.0 park benches
6. Washington, DC 4.0 park benches
7. Denver (tie) 4.0 park benches
7. Sacramento (tie) 4.0 park benches
9. San Diego 4.0 park benches
10. Virginia Beach (tie) 4.0 park benches
10. Aurora, CO (tie) 4.0 park benches DEBUT CITY

The 10 lowest-ranking city park systems are:

51. Jacksonville 2.0 park benches
52. Santa Ana 1.5 park benches DEBUT CITY
53. San Antonio (tie) 1.5 park benches
53. Memphis (tie) 1.5 park benches
55. Oklahoma City 1.5 park benches
56. Mesa, AZ 1.5 park benches
57. Charlotte 1.0 park benches
58. Indianapolis (tie) 1.0 park benches
58. Louisville (tie) 1.0 park benches
60. Fresno 1.0 park benches

Minneapolis Parks Rated No. 1 by National Group

The following item was reported on May 29, 2014 by Mike Binkley on WCCO-TV.  To view a video clip, go to


Just a week after being named the “fittest city” in the United States by the American College of Sports Medicine: another group is giving Minneapolis a top national ranking.

The Trust For Public Land: said Minneapolis has the best park system in the United States.  Continue reading

Minneapolis Park System Ranked Best In The U.S.

The following article by Laila Kearney for Reuters was published in the May 29, 2014 issue of the Huffington Post:

Minneapolis Park System Ranked Best In The U.S.


The Minneapolis parks system scored highest in the nation for the second straight year in a report ranking U.S. urban greenspace that was released on Thursday.    Continue reading

Park board: More study needed on Southwest light rail through Kenilworth

The following item by Laura Yuen was posted on MPR News on May 28, 2014.

Park board: More study needed on Southwest light rail through Kenilworth


Artist rendering of light rail over canal
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Council

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board says it will withhold support for the proposed Southwest light rail transit line, setting up yet another showdown.

Park board commissioners last week asked the Metropolitan Council to take a deeper look at sending the passenger trains through a tunnel beneath a water channel popular with bicyclists and kayakers. The council, however, approved a plan last month that calls for the trains to surface from shallow tunnels and cross a bridge over the Kenilworth Channel.

Federal law gives the park board the power to weigh in on transportation projects that affect parkland and historic sites, and it’s the board’s duty to protect the channel, said Park Board President Liz Wielinski.

“I don’t know that it would be veto power so much as another hurdle, and with every hurdle, it puts the project in peril,” she said. “It also delays implementation. And it is not the park board’s intention to delay this project.”

She called the channel area “an incredibly scenic portion of the city. If you walk down there, you can see just how special that area is.”

The park board is asking the Met Council to further study running the trains under the channel while the council seeks consent from Minneapolis and other cities. The resolution asks that the studies be done immediately “to prevent any unnecessary delay.”

The park board has also hired an engineering firm to identify the technical areas deserving closer examination, Wielinski said.

In a statement, the Met Council said the park board’s concerns aren’t new and that they’ll work with board officials “to resolve these issues at the appropriate point in that process.”

In March, Southwest project staff studied the idea to route the trains underneath the Kenilworth Channel and concluded that it was technically feasible but needed additional study. A few weeks later, a group of metro leaders recommended against the design concept, which light-rail planners determined would add a year to construction and raise the project’s cost by up to $85 million.

The Met Council agreed, and backed off the concept when it approved the project’s scope and budget.

Minneapolis and four additional cities touching the line need to reject or approve the plans for the 16-mile line to Eden Prairie by July 14.

Minneapolis lock closure a victory in invasive carp war

The following article by Don Davis was published in the May 27, 2014 issue of the Pioneer Press.  It is interesting to note that the MPRB was one of the first organizations to urge the closing of the locks and it reduced the use of the locks by SkipperLiner which helped show that the locks were not needed.  Also in the photo below (on the left) is Liz Wielinski, president of the MPRB.

Minneapolis lock closure a victory in invasive carp war


Abby Pieper, vice president of Madden’s resort near Brainerd, tells reporters Tuesday that potential customers do not appear worried about invasive carp, because they’re confident state and federal authorities are taking care of the situation, including closing the St. Anthony Falls lock in Minneapolis. Also at the news conference, at the lock, was Sen. Amy Klobuchar, right. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Fighting a war means taking victories where they come, similar to Minnesota’s attempt to stop invasive carp from getting a foothold in the state’s waters.

Minnesota leaders gathered Tuesday along the banks of the Mississippi River near the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam, which will be closed within a year. When the downtown Minneapolis lock is closed, it will be much harder for the carp to make their way upstream and into northern Minnesota waters.

The group celebrated legislation that President Barack Obama has said he soon will sign, which includes the rare provision to close the lock. Continue reading

SW Light Rail Public Hearing Thursday, May 29

The following announcement has been posted on the Metro Council website:

Public Hearing on Southwest Light Rail Transit (Green Line Extension) Physical Design Component of the Preliminary Design Plans, May 29

Date: 5/29/2014 5:00 PM –
Event Location: Hennepin County Government Center
300 South Sixth St., Minneapolis, MN Continue reading

Meeting June 3 to Gather Input on West Bank Interpretive Plan

The following announcement has been issued by the Park Board:

Meeting will focus on the West Bank Interpretive Plan by the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board

The St. Anthony Fall Heritage Board is currently conducting an interpretive study of the West Bank area of Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park.  There will be an advisory committee meeting on June 3, 2014 to gather input for this plan.  This West Bank effort is similar to the East Bank Interpretive Plan: completed last fall.  This plan is funded by the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board.  The meeting is open to the public. Please join us! Continue reading

Readers Comment on Minnpost Article on Downtown East Park

The following are comments by readers of the Minnpost article “Is the Vikings stadium park still public…”, recently posted here.

The original article, with these and further comments, can be viewed at

Ownership implies control

I’m sure it’s not an absolute rule, and I make no claims to being an attorney, but it seems a reasonable implication.

Ownership not only implies control, that implied control brings with it responsibilities, especially in this context of a park or plaza. If the Park Board owns it, but doesn’t control it, then I think what we have is yet another amenity for the privileged, paid for by those who are not. Let it be a “plaza.” If the “Sports Authority” or some other similar entity owns it, then they’re the ones responsible for maintenance and upkeep, and if it’s not truly a public park because the public can routinely be denied access in favor of the Vikings or the “Sports Authority,” then by all means let the “Sports Authority” take on that responsibility and that cost.

Mr. Wilf his political allies have already fleeced Minneapolis taxpayers enough. I’m not keen on the addition of a “park” over which the Park Board has only limited control, but all the maintenance responsibilities.

Continue reading

Is the Vikings stadium park still public if the Park Board doesn’t run it?

The following article by Karen Boros was published in the May 22, 2014 issue of Minnpost. Share on printShare on email:

Is the Vikings stadium park still public if the Park Board doesn’t run it?


Ryan Cos.

According to the deal, the Vikings have exclusive use of the entire park for up to 22 days a year, and the Sports Facilities Authority has exclusive use of the east block 40 days a year.

A citizens group claims it will be “very difficult” for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to develop and take over a planned park adjacent to the new Vikings stadium.

Minneapolis Park Watch reached that conclusion after attending the first Downtown East Park Committee meeting May 8. The committee is charged with working out development and operating plans for the nearly two-block park currently known as the Yard.

“The Vikings and the Sports Authority will have exclusive use of the Yard for about 80 days a year, and the Vikings and the Sports Authority, not the Park Board, get to choose those days,” Park Watch said on its website: /2014/05/14/a-park-watch-commentary-on-the-yard/ “So for 80 days a year, the Yard is private.”

According to the Star Tribune: , park operations could be contracted to a third-party conservancy or nonprofit consisting of city, park board and community representatives, plus the Vikings and developer Ryan Cos. Ryan is developing the $400 million Wells Fargo complex bordering the park, plus a parking ramp that serves Wells Fargo and the stadium. They bought the park site that will ultimately be conveyed to the Park Board.

Park Watch notes that Vikings and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Authority have design elements and standards in their contract with Ryan and the city that require the Park Board follow their lead.

According to the deal: , the Vikings have exclusive use of the entire park for up to 22 days a year, and the Sports Facilities Authority has exclusive use of the east block 40 days a year. They would control merchandising at the park on those days.

“It’s not going to be within the Park Board purview to scheduled it (the Yard) as it does for other parks,” Park Watch co-founder Arlene Fried says. “Other individuals are going to schedule it. When you own something, you should be able to control it.”

Concludes Fried, “When the park system does not have control, it’s not a public park. I think it’s not a public park. It’s a plaza.”

“The park is going to come with conditions,” acknowledges Park Board attorney Brian Rice. “That doesn’t mean we can’ t operate.”

Rice cites two current park properties operated with conditions imposed by others: the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker Sculpture Garden, which both occupy Park Board-owned land.

The MIA land was donated to the Park Board with the condition that a museum be built. Every year, the Park Board turns over to the museum proceeds from a Hennepin County tax, currently about $11 million, Rice says.

At the Sculpture Garden, the sculptures are the Walker Art Center’s property, but on Park Board-owned land.

(Rice also notes 400 acres at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport sit on Park Board property the state claimed in 1943.)

In response to a lawsuit filed last December, Hennepin District Court Judge Mel Dickstein ruled: that the Park Board is the only governing body that can own and operate parks in Minneapolis, as specified by the City Charter.

Park Watch contends that at the time of Dickstein’s ruling, it was not known that there would be stipulations that, in their view, would disqualify the Yard from being a Minneapolis park.

“I think the Park Board is fulfilling its obligations under the city charter,” said Rice, who adds that it is clear to him the Park Board has to own the land and make decisions about how park is operated, such as contracting with a third party.

Five concerned citizens founded Park Watch in 2004, including current Park Board President Liz Wielinski. They were determined to attend all Park Board meetings and post their notes online.

The woman that Wielinski now supervises, Parks Supt. Jayne Miller, says it would not be appropriate for her to comment on Park Watch’s claims.

“We are in the very early stages of discussions with the city,” Miller says, adding that the governments are “working through delicate issues.”’

Fried’s opinion is clear: “I think it would be better if the Park Board did not accept this gift.”

Private manager considered for downtown Minneapolis park

The following article by Alejandra and Eric Roper was published in the May 20, 2014 edition of the StarTribune.

Private manager considered for downtown Minneapolis park

City and Park Board officials in Minneapolis are considering giving control of the proposed “Yard” in Downtown East to a third-party entity.

Council Member Jacob Frey, who represents the area, said the two groups met Friday to discuss who will take control of operations and maintenance of the park, which will adjoin Wells Fargo’s new corporate campus near the Vikings stadium.

Although an agreement has not yet been signed, Frey said the city and Park Board are coming to a consensus that giving control to an outside entity, like a nonprofit or conservancy, is the best option. Frey said the Yard project is too big for the city or the Park Board to handle on its own.

“Sometimes the best decision as a public servant is recognizing that a public servant can’t do it alone,” Frey said. “I’m advocating for the conservancy.”

The third-party group would consist of city, Park Board and community representatives. Frey said there may be representatives from other groups as well, such as the Vikings or Ryan Companies, which is building the stadium.

Council President Barb Johnson and Park Board Superintendent Jayne Miller both disputed the assertion that they were nearing any agreement.

Continue reading