Category Archives: Bluff Street Park



5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. Committee meetings to follow. The meetings 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.

This meeting is the last meeting that David Fisher will be attending as Superintendent. His four month stint as interim superintendent ends on October 31. We are grateful that he accepted the invitation to come to Minneapolis to fill this position.

This meeting is a meeting with many significant agenda items. The most important item on the agenda is the vote to approve the employment agreement with Jayne Miller, who–at the last meeting–was selected by a unanimous vote to be the new MPRB Superintendent.

Some highlights of the meetings that will be voted on :

The I-35 Bridge Memorial.
The concession agreement with Bread & Pickle at Lake Harriet.
The reconvening of the CAC for the Wirth Beach Project III.
The non-appointed CACs for two playgrounds at Lake Harriet.

There will be a presentation of the Superintendent’s 2011 Recommended Budget. This is a report item and will not be voted on at this time.

The following is the link to the complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting of Wednesday, October 20:

MPRB 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 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

Arlene Fried, Co-founder of Park Watch


Dear Friends of Bluff Street Park,

You are welcome to join us in celebrating the establishment of Bluff Street Park! We will be planting native grasses and wild flowers on this precious Mississippi River Bluff Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009 from 10 am to 1:30 pm, with a special time for photos and speakers at noon.





For more info contact us at 612.339.8255 x 222

Please RSVP – if possible – by emailing us at

Sponsored by:

the west bank community coalition

the bluff street park task force

Groundwork Minneapolis

CHANCE – Cedar-Humphrey Action for Neighborhood Collaborative Engagement

Selling Mississippi River bluff parkland tempts local towns big and small

As originally printed in the Minnesota Monitor Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 6:50:00 AM

by: Chris Steller

As state funding to local government shrinks, raising cash by selling off Mississipi River bluff parkland for development has proved tempting for both the metro’s biggest city and one of its smallest urban entities.

Despite sizable resident opposition, the city council in Lilliputian Lilydale, Minn. (pop. 736) voted last week to allow single-family residential development on its last vestige of undeveloped bluff, a 0.85-acre parcel donated for parkland more than 30 years ago. Lilydale’s intention: to erase debt of $230,000 built up during the city’s recent reign as Minnesota’s highest per capita user of tax increment financing.

Legislation that might have preserved the park by providing state aid to the tax base-impaired city fell short at the Capitol this week, as did a similar sales tax proposal last session. If expected sign-offs from the Metropolitan Council and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are forthcoming, Lilydale could find out just how bad the market is for new construction of what would only be Lilydale’s sixth single-family house. (Almost everyone there lives in apartments or condos.)

Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, another parcel of river bluff parkland remains in limbo between past industrial use and neighborhood residents’ visions of a planned public green space. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has moved to sell the land twice this decade; Rosemary Knutson, a local leader in the campaign to build a new Bluff Street Park in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, fears that a housing market rebound could negate recent assurances that no sale is imminent. The fact that the Bluff Street Park site now serves as the Flatiron Corporation’s I-35W bridge-building headquarters further clouds the picture. Knutson said the site won’t benefit from the landscape improvements planned around the new bridge, so the park’s immediate future depends on the condition in which Flatiron leaves the land when the company leaves town.

Both parcels — and, in fact, the entire city of Lilydale — lie within a zone of the metro Mississippi River that a state law called the Critical Areas Act is supposed to protect from “negative impacts” environmentally. But it’s an aging and obscure area of law that suffers as cities lose institutional memory through staff attrition, according to Steve Johnson of the National Park Service’s Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. A new DNR study mandated by the state Legislature will help lawmakers determine whether the act is doing what it’s supposed to. State Rep. Rick Hansen, who represents Lilydale, expects to jump-start that effort later this year.

Minneapolis Parks Comprehensive Plan Public Forum Dates and Info

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) invites city residents and park visitors of all ages to attend one of six town meetings to be held throughout the city in September. The town meetings kick off the Park Board’s efforts to gather information from the community as the MPRB develops its long-term comprehensive plan for the park system.

The MPRB wants to know what the community values about the park system, what it sees as the park system’s strengths, and how the MPRB can best serve the public’s park and recreation needs. The information gathered at the town meetings, along with information gathered from questionnaires, focus groups, a phone survey and community leader workshops, will guide the development of the comprehensive plan.

The six town meetings are scheduled as follows:

11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16
Folwell Park Community Center, 1615 Dowling Ave. N.

6:30 – 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 19
Van Cleve Park Community Center, 901 15th Ave. SE

6:30 – 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21
Powderhorn Park Community Center, 3400 15th Ave. S.

11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23
Lynnhurst Park Community Center, 1345 W. Minnehaha Pkwy

6:30 – 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 26
Whittier Park Community Center, 425 W. 26th Street

11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30
Nokomis Park Community Center, 2401 E. Minnehaha Pkwy

Children and teens are also invited to the town meetings. MPRB staff will provide fun, engaging, age-appropriate activities designed to capture kids’ thoughts and ideas about today’s and future parks.

Community members and park visitors are also encouraged to complete a brief MPRB questionnaire. The questionnaire will be available online at and at all 49 MPRB recreation centers from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. In early September, all Minneapolis households will be mailed an informational map about the park system that features the questionnaire and town meeting dates.

In order to tap into the broadest spectrum of community perspectives, the MPRB will conduct focus groups once the town meetings have concluded. These will include a wide variety of groups, particularly those that experience language, cultural, or physical barriers to traditional community participation formats. In addition, the nine Park Board Commissioners will each appoint three people to participate in a series of community leader workshops this fall. Residents interested in being considered for an appointment to the community leader group may submit an application by August 16. Applications are available at or by calling 612-230-6400.

The common themes identified through the questionnaires and at the meetings, focus groups and workshops will form the basis for questions to be asked in a residential phone survey scheduled for November.

Minneapolis parks serve more than 15 million visitors each year, so it’s no secret that Minneapolis residents love their parks. Understanding why Minneapolitans love their parks will help the MPRB build on success. The Minneapolis park system enjoys a national reputation as one of the finest park systems in the country. This is the result of the visionary leadership, thoughtful planning, and public support it has received throughout its 123-year history. In recent decades, much of what has been accomplished has been driven by findings of a 1965 comprehensive analysis of the park system known as The Brightbill Study. Today, the city is much different than in 1965. Communities are far more racially diverse, technology has exploded, new sports have gained prominence, public expectations have changed, and the funding climate has grown more challenging.

The comprehensive plan, scheduled to be completed by late 2007, will be grounded in the needs of the community. It will define priorities for the allocation of resources and delivery of services to create a park system alert to the needs of the community and integral to a thriving city. In laying the groundwork for the plan, MPRB staff has been inventorying infrastructure and services, assessing sustainability practices, and studying the city’s demographics. Now it is time to hear from city residents and park users.

For a recorded message about public input opportunities, call the Comp Plan hotline at 612-230-6597. To learn more about the comprehensive plan, find out about opportunities to participate, or fill out an online questionnaire (beginning mid-September) go to the MPRB website at

The Bridge: From broken bottles to butterflies and birds

In a March 29, 2006 article subtitled “Adopted bluff park may become a home for native wildlife” journalist Cyn Collins writes:

» An abandoned and neglected parcel of Mississippi River bluff near the West Bank may soon be nurtured back to life.

The Bluff Street Task Force is applying with the Adopt-a-Park program at the recommendation of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) staff. If accepted, this program would allow them to fulfill their dream of cleaning up and restoring Bluff Street Park. The Adopt-a-Park plan was recommended by MPRB staff to Karen Swenson of Groundworks, an organization that has selected the Bluff Street Park as one of its park cleanup projects. «

Read the entire article at The Bridge web site.

Star Tribune Commentary: Charles Birnbaum: Park Board isn't staying true to Wirth's vision

In an October 28 Star Tribune Commentary, Charles A. Birnbaum, founder and president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, D.C., writes about how the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is considering privatizing, selling off and even giving away precious Minneapolis public park property:

» From Atlanta to Seattle, our nation’s legacy of urban parks are under siege from a variety of threats — expansions by neighboring institutions, new parking lots and new “destination features.” Minneapolis is no exception.

In the age of video games and attention deficit disorder, “open space” has become a dirty word. Parks are seen as a void that must be filled, “programmed” to amuse all comers.

Who decided that strolling under a canopy of trees is not a sufficient experience in its own right? Have we stopped valuing the humanizing scale and tactile marvels of nature? Do we still appreciate our history and public gardens?

This national trend to clutter park grounds with activity-oriented “focal points” is lamentable and perplexing because park users themselves are not demanding change. According to surveys conducted over the past two decades, the majority of Americans visit parks specifically for passive, reflective experiences.

Within an emotional and politically charged atmosphere, small but vocal groups are taking control of the public debate to advance their own narrow agendas — resulting in ill-conceived park redesigns. Democratic spaces are being privatized with partial closing of parks for special events, construction of additions, long-term leases to special interests and private concessions — changing the character of the landscape irrevocably.

These formulaic alterations to our parks have their own needs for long-term maintenance with more parking and more pavement. Strip away the historic. Make way for special interests (this is often the real objective). Today “green” too seldom means a generous sweep of trees and lawn with the songs of birds, and too often means dollars and the ching-ching-ching of cash registers.

Minneapolis is a city blessed with one of the nation’s premier systems of parks and boulevards, yet based on current proposals that I saw on my trip to the Twin Cities last week, it appears that elected park commissioners and their appointed superintendents are today considering privatizing, selling off and even giving away precious public park property. «

Read the rest of the commentary on the Star Tribune web site.

The State of the Parks


Here’s an update on what’s happening to our public parks. Chunks of our parks and parklands are being sold off or rented away. The concept of public parks is being eroded. Here are some examples:

Residents in Cedar-Riverside have been working on a plan to convert Gasworks Bluff on the West Bank into a park. The Park Board staff has, according to residents, been uncooperative. There are rumors that the Park Board is preparing to sell off all or part of the eight-acre site to developers, claiming that the site is too polluted for a park. Such a sale would be a loss to the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood as well as to the city.

Then there’s the Nicollet Island Pavillion. It is now a privately leased commercial enterprise, an event center that only deep pockets can afford to use. Not only is the Pavillion off limits to the non-paying public, but the adjacent parking lot is posted with signs that warn the public that they will be towed.

Because the Nicollet Island Pavillion’s parking lot is no longer available to the public, the Nicollet Island Amphitheater is no longer used for public concerts. It has become obsolete–another loss.

This pocket-park is the target of a new rumor that’s been circulating. According to this rumor, the park is destined for the chopping block.

Now here’s an interesting example of the majority coalition’s willingness to reduce our Park Board inventory. DeLaSalle and the Park Board want to close off historic Grove Street, give DeLaSalle the land under the tennis courts and seal the deal with a legal vehicle called a reciprocal use agreement. This clear-as-mud deal certainly looks like a receipe for another Park Board disaster.

And now the Park Board is deciding whether to commercialize the Stone Arch Bridge. It is considering a staff proposal to rent it out to those who can afford to pay to use it. A tentative figure of $1,000 per event has been suggested.

Here is a concluding thought. Maybe it’s time to consider giving the MPRB a new name. Maybe the name should be shortened to reflect this trend to reduce public space for public use. Maybe a fitting new name would be the Minneapolis Parks Wreckreation Board.

City Pages: A Bluff on the River

Is the Minneapolis Park Board considering selling a prime parcel on the Mississippi?

An article by Mike Mosedale, September 7, 2005

« As Rosemary Knutson surveys the neglected parcel of land that lies just east of her West Bank condominium, she imagines the possibilities. There could be a butterfly garden here, new trees and grasses, even a secluded picnic grounds. “This is probably the choicest piece of undeveloped real estate in the metro area,” Knutson muses, a little loudly, as she strains to be heard above the steady hum from the traffic on the nearby 35W bridge.

It’s not much to look at right now. Goldenrod and weeds sprout up through the gaps in a field of crumbling concrete. Beer cans, ruined bicycles, and other such detritus are scattered about. But with some effort and about $45,000 in private contributions, Knutson contends, the eight-acre plot could become a welcome addition to the Minneapolis park system. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has owned it for more than 20 years–but rumor has it the board is looking to unload it. »

Entire article here at City Pages web site.

In Defense of Open Spaces

The Sept./Oct. issue of Preservation magazine from the National Trust for Historic Preservation has an essay called “In Defense of Open Spaces.” Some excerpts:

« In the age of video games and attention deficit disorder, “open space” has become a dirty term. Open space in America’s parks is being wiped out, revised, or populated by new structures and parking lots. Municipal officials tend to see such space as a void that must be filled, “programmed” to amuse all corners.

This national trend — the cluttering of reposeful park grounds with activity-oriented “focal points” — is lamentable and perplexing, not least because park users themselves aren’t demanding change. According to surveys conducted over the past two decades, between 70 and 80 percent of American park users visit them specifically for passive, reflective experiences, not for entertainment. …

In Seattle, Occidental [Square] is an open, European-style square with a Jones & Jones-designed glass pavilion — now used mainly by transients — and cobblestone paving. The Project for Public Spaces would like to overhaul the space completely, removing its trees and the glass structure and painting the facades of surrounding historic buildings. The group has even proposed replacing the uneven cobblestones with Astroturf! …

Other public spaces are in effect being privatized. This can be seen in the partial closing of Manhattan’s Bryant Park for two months a year due to special events — for example, the Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week and a car show — and in construction of new additions elsewhere … When such additions appear in previously open parkland, the character of the whole landscape is changed irrevocably.

All are associated with more parking and more pavement, all adorned and embellished with off-the-shelf outdoor furniture and lights. Strip away the historic. Make way for special interests (this is often the real objective).

In many urban settings today, fractured communities abut public landscapes where old and young, rich and poor must coexist. These spaces can work. … People who live near and play in these cities’ parks have become their greatest defenders.

Those of us who value continuity are increasingly cast as “standing in the way of progress” or “out of touch.” Imagine that we didn’t use such labels. Imagine that we built a common foundation of knowledge to guide the planning process before new designs were given form. »

The essay is by Charles A. Birnbaum, a landscape architect, who is the coordinator of the national Park Service Historic landscape Initiative and the founder of the Cultural Landscape Foundation.

Link to full article at National Trust web site.

How can you show your support for Bluff Street Park?

Attend the Park Board meeting Wednesday Sept. 7

What: presentation to the Minneapolis Park Board by the WBCC Bluff Street park task force

When: Wednesday, September 7, 2005, 6pm, during the Park Board meeting open forum

Where: MPRB administrative offices, 2117 West River Rd, board room suite 255 (just north of broadway pizza)

Why: we need your support! There is strength in numbers! Please come to this meeting to show the Park Board that the will of the community will be heard in this matter.

The Minneapolis Park Board is considering selling a Mississippi River bluff, Bluff Street park – also known as gasworks bluff, to high-rise condominium developers.

This is the bluff on the west bank of the river, on the bend in the river between downtown and the university, between the 35w bridge and the railroad pedestrian bridge, appoximately 8 acres.

The neighborhood association for Cedar/Riverside, the West Bank community coalition, has a task force that has been working for over a year to create a plan to preserve this precious open space. The U of M Metropolitan Design Center has created a design for the park based on results of a stake holder survey they conducted at the WBCC annual meeting in October, 2004. The virtually unanimous neighborhood concensus is to preserve this bluff as a natural, native habitat for wildlife, with paths for walking, biking, etc.

What is, after all, the mission of the Park Board?
Questions? 612-332-4706