The company got what it wanted 15 years ago. Now it’s time to honor its commitment for an easement.
Graco Inc. is taking advantage of a quickly approaching funding deadline to manipulate the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to sell riverfront parkland or risk losing the funding for a much-needed and long-awaited trail connection. In his Feb. 18 commentary (“Graco is happy to negotiate on land Park Board wants for trail”) defending Graco’s bullying of the Park Board and the community, Bill Blazar of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce suggests we look at history.
In 2000, Graco was granted special permission to build its headquarters right on the Mississippi River, very close to the water. In exchange, Graco was asked to provide an easement for a pedestrian and bicycle trail behind the building. In a letter on Aug. 4, 2000, Robert M. Mattison, Graco’s vice president, general counsel and secretary, said:
“Graco hereby undertakes to work with the city of Minneapolis and/or the Minneapolis Park Board to locate a corridor and grant an easement for a parkway, including bicycle/pedestrian path and vehicle road, on the property of Graco west of the Riverside facility. This easement will be granted for such a corridor to run under the Broadway bridge next to the Mississippi River, and will be granted when the city of Minneapolis and/or the Minneapolis Park Board is ready to proceed with the construction of such a path/road….”Even Blazar’s article concedes that “[Graco] has said on numerous occasions that it is willing to provide an easement.” He neglects to mention that it has never before tried to attach any requirements to purchase parkland to expand its headquarters.
For 130 years, the Park Board has been working to create and protect our shore land and waterways as public amenities. In Minneapolis, there are very few private properties on shore land. The Park Board buys up shore properties and creates parks, as properties become available, focusing on certain areas for planning and development.