Tell me about Minneapolis' Parks
May 17, 2013 3:54 PM   Subscribe

Do you live in Minneapolis? Have you lived there in the past? What can you tell me about the Parks system there?

I was recently contacted by a recruiter to apply for a job with the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board. This is a pretty high-level position, and falls well within the realm of "dream job" for me. So, I'm looking for information, anecdotal and otherwise, about the park system there.
Everything I've read and heard tells me that the citizens support the MPRB very strongly, and that it's a great system. I'm also given to understand that much of the operating budget comes from a special taxing district that's dedicated to the MPRB, which is a pretty cool deal.

So please, tell me your stories about the parks there. Do you use them? What do you love? What do you hate? What's your impression of the political climate there surrounding Parks and Recreation issues?

posted by Shohn to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hi! I actually recently interviewed for a (non sworn) position with the Minneapolis Park Police, the agency controlled by the MPRB. From everything I've seen, it's an extremely professional, well supported board. The Minneapolis Park system is massive, with many tens of miles of biking and walking trails, several lakes, several smaller parks, and numerous events scheduled in various places literally every weekend through the spring, summer, and fall. I have never seen a poorly-attended concert at the lake harriet bandshell, I've never seen any of the lakes or trails be anything other than packed when it's nice out, I run lake Calhoun several days a week myself, etc. I've lived in a few other places (Madison WI, upstate NY, central FL) and nothing has compared. They're a really special part of living in the twin cities.
posted by kavasa at 4:08 PM on May 17, 2013

Best answer: I love the parks here. I live in Minneapolis and grew up here. I cross-country ski at Wirth and Hiawatha in the Winter, and run, bike, and walk along Minnehaha Creek in the summer. My daughter started her dance lessons at Linden Hills Park (later switching to a private studio), both my older kids play soccer through the park system, and my middle daughter goes to a preschool located at the park building next to Lake Nokomis. We picnic at the park for some family events and held parties to celebrate the baptisms of two our children at rented locations in the parks. My brother was married at Boom Island Park along the Mississippi. I grew up near Lake Nokomis, and spent many Summer afternoons at the beach there. My kids play in wading pools at the parks during hot days.

I have no idea what it is like working there, but as a resident the park system is a very important part of my life.
posted by Area Man at 4:14 PM on May 17, 2013

I used to live in the Twin Cities. As a resident, I can attest that the Mpls park system is large, diverse and well-loved. One of my favorite unique things about the parks there is how many of them have "warming huts," so people can enjoy them in the cold winters!
posted by lunasol at 4:17 PM on May 17, 2013

Best answer: TPT (our local PBS affiliate) created "Parks for the People" specifically about Minneapolis parks! Watch it free and legal here.

I loved going to a free movie and concert at the Lake Harriet bandshell last summer. And the Theodore Wirth park is FANTASTIC. Such beautiful green space. If you are interested in cycling and whatnot, Minneapolis is really on the cutting edge of implementing more bike trails and bikeways.

Here's a pdf with specific details about each Minneapolis park: here.
posted by jillithd at 4:28 PM on May 17, 2013

And in that film, they interview David C. Smith a lot who has an active blog called Minneapolis Park History here.
posted by jillithd at 4:37 PM on May 17, 2013

We use some aspect of the park system pretty much daily, whether one of the trails or just my kids running around the corner to swing at the playground for a little while to blow off steam. We skate on one nearby lake all winter and lie on the beach at another one all summer and paddle on both of them from ice out to ice in.
posted by padraigin at 5:14 PM on May 17, 2013

Best answer: I lived in an apartment right on Lake Harriet for a couple years, and another year a half block off Lake of the Isles. As the neighborhood newspaper stated this past week, Minneapolis residents know how to circumnavigate a lake. It's totally normal to meet up with a friend for a walk around the lake instead of (or in addition to) meeting up for coffee or drinks. And those trails are PACKED. The concerts at the Lake Harriet bandshell are great, especially the music and movie nights. There's an interesting trend in park concession stands morphing into gourmet restaurants, which I think is both good (delicious and often local food) and bad (more expensive, long waits for food, too fancy when your kid/grandpa/unadventurous middle aged father really just wants a simple hot dog).

I absolutely loved being able to walk with my cross country skis down the block, ski across three lakes (via 1 lagoon and 1 tunnel) and a highway overpass (!!!), and end up miles away in Theodore Wirth Park. Where else in the world can you do that? The Loppet is not to be missed.

Now I live across the street from a neighborhood park (alas, without a lake), and it is constantly full of kids and adults playing city-league soccer, baseball, tennis, and track & field. The little wading pool is packed in the summer, and the basketball court is home to pick-up basketball games of all kinds. It boggles my mind that the recreation center building is open until 9:00 on weeknights for teens and preteens to hang out there with their friends - growing up in the suburbs, we were lucky if the park warming house bathrooms were unlocked during the day. The recreation center also hosts before- and after-school daycare that I hope to utilize with my own kids. We moved to our house specifically because the park is such a great place for kids.

My favorite bike path is the Cedar Lake/Kenilworth trail from the Midtown Greenway north to the Mississippi River. Where else can you watch hippies heading to/from Hidden Beach; dodge deer, coyotes, and snapping turtles for a couple of miles; bike under a major league baseball stadium; and then pop out at the falls of the Mississippi River? I was looking for a photo to link to and came across this bike trail blog post with another person's bike trail opinions.

I have mixed feelings about the park police because I mostly saw them cruising my old neighborhood writing tickets for expired license tabs - not exactly protecting the parks and its visitors... But last summer the Minneapolis police rolled out a ridiculous online fireworks complaint form in lieu of actually responding to complaints. Some kids were setting off fireworks late at night in the park, and when I called the non-emergency police line to complain, the park police were there in minutes. So it can be nice having an additional police force in the neighborhood.

Obviously I have lots of opinions about Minneapolis parks and municipal services, feel free to memail if you'd like. But regarding politics and park management, there's a group called Minneapolis Park Watch, which is a fascinating group of activists with way more opinions about the parks than me.
posted by Maarika at 7:45 PM on May 17, 2013

Best answer: If you're going to be working with the Park Board, Theodore Wirth himself is worth reading about. As Wikipedia says,
His goal provided for a playground within a quarter-mile of every child and a complete recreation center within a half-mile of every family.
That's pretty ambitious for the early 1900s. But Minneapolis really does have a heckuva lot of parkland, distributed pretty evenly throughout the city. Wirth was apparently hard to work with, but there's no doubt he was visionary.

The other cool thing about his plan is that the vast majority of lakes in Minneapolis are publicly owned and completely surrounded by parkland. Almost every inch of shoreline is directly accessible by the public. That is also pretty rare.

A few years ago, there was a proposal to make the Park Board less independent, but the proposal was shot down by public disapproval. PDF, PDF. Minneapolitans generally place high value on, and are very proud of, our parks.
posted by jiawen at 9:19 AM on May 18, 2013

Note that Park Board Commissioners are up for election this November (this means I may finally get a responsive Park Commissioner) and this could impact the future direction of the Park System.

I have a favorable impression of the Park Board, and I have met and interacted with Jayne Miller, the (newer) Superintendent and found her focused and professional. Like any bureaucracy, it can take ages to get things done but when they are complete the projects tend to engage the public for ideas, professionally planned, and competently completed.
posted by lstanley at 7:59 AM on May 29, 2013

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