The new Logan Park pavilion in Minneapolis was erected on a summer morning by a dozen Edison High School football players lifting an old-fashioned ropes and pulley system as spectators cheered from the sidewalk.
The boys needed a community service project to earn their college letters. The Logan Park Neighborhood Association – which had raised $ 85,000 from its own coffers, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation and GiveMN to build the lodge – needed some muscle.
“Our hope, starting next year, is kind of a multicultural performance series,” said Pat Vogel, board member of a neighborhood association. “This is our dream.”
Improving the park was the number 1 priority for residents in association surveys, she said. The results ended up exceeding the plans of the Minneapolis Park board of directors because the community came together.
The park council manages 6,800 acres of park and water and cannot fund everything residents want as quickly as demanded. The park council is planning system-wide upgrades as part of a rigid capital improvement program that takes into account a six-year financial outlook. Nearly $ 125 million in work is planned through 2026, ranging from $ 355,000 for a playground refurbishment in Currie Park to $ 3.8 million for accessibility improvements in the whole system. Limited funds coupled with pressure to correct historical disparities means the agency also follows a complex equity matrix when allocating funding.
“People love their parks and they want to play a role in making them better,” said Tom Evers, executive director of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. “One obstacle to making this easy to do is [that] the infrastructure in the fleet system is updated in the context of the whole system. So even if there is a need … there’s not much they can do every year. “
But frustrated with the collapsing neighborhood park features, residents sometimes take it upon themselves to fundraise and make repairs.
The agency is grateful, said Superintendent Al Bangoura.
“For more than a century, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the people it serves have benefited from generous donations from community members and organizations,” he said. “Civic engagement, collaborative partnerships and financial contributions have improved the park system in countless, wonderful and meaningful ways. “
Thomas Lowry Park, in the affluent Kenwood neighborhood, ranks second to last for neighborhood park funding. So when her century-old Seven Pools water feature began to crack and leak, park staff offered to fill it with sand because the repairs would have cost more than a million dollars, said Elizabeth Shaffer of the Friends of Thomas Lowry Park, and a Park Board candidate for the November Election.
Neighbors supported the Park Board’s priorities and appreciated being able to raise $ 630,000 to replace the pools and repave the park path, she said. The park council has allocated matching funds. Construction crews have been working all summer and the project is expected to be unveiled in a two-day celebration at the end of September.
“It’s in a good enough location to be the backyard for a lot of people,” Shaffer said of the park. “Especially our senior community, they know it’s a quiet place where they can just go and sit on a bench and listen to the water and meet other people passing by with their dogs.”
The Morgan tennis courts, nestled in a wooded bend in Minnehaha Creek, celebrated an inaugural Sunday thanks to local tennis fans.
After years of deferred maintenance, the surface had dried out in patches in part due to an invasion of weeds. And the Washburn High School tennis teams, which once used Morgan as their playground, began carpools to Bloomington after a player was injured a few years ago.
Washburn tennis mom Beth Gyllstrom called on Ellen Doll of Support the Courts, a nonprofit aimed at resurfacing all Minneapolis tennis courts in need. They helped the Park Board raise $ 335,000 from Hennepin County, the United States Tennis Association, the Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association, the Washburn Foundation and individual donors, including students, who donated the proceeds to ‘a tomato stand.
Since 2009, Support the Courts has raised approximately $ 1.5 million to help repair 29 courts in Minneapolis. Loring Park is next.
“The Park Board had shrinking budgets and little to no money for tennis court renovations, and they were calling for many courts to be reduced or removed,” Doll said. “We wanted to save the important youth programming that was happening.”
On the North Side, community members are spurring an ambitious plan to transform the North Commons Recreation Center into a leading regional center for youth sports by helping persuade state lawmakers to invest $ 5 million in the state bond last year.
“It’s well documented the lack of bond dollars that have come in for the Minneapolis Park projects, period,” said Brett Buckner, a longtime community activist. “In the end, we had a project that resonated not only with downtown Democrats, but Minnesota Republicans statewide as well.”
The recreation center is in the early stages of planning and the community has yet to influence the design. The Park Board has allocated $ 1.8 million and will seek an additional $ 6 million from the state for a project estimated to cost more than $ 20 million.
With recreation centers still closed to the public for general use under COVID-19 restrictions, more than 60 North Side community groups and businesses have formed the Seeds to Harvest coalition to deliver programs for youth in response to the pandemic and the social unrest that took place after the murder of George Floyd.
Last month, it hosted the City of Lakes Community Summer Games at North Commons Park, which was a three-week multi-sport party registering hundreds of the city’s youth in more than a dozen games under the direction of local coaches. Several world record attempts have been made.
“The goal is to have a place where children can play and be safe,” said Tatiana Freeman, chief of staff at Seeds to Harvest. “We really wanted to make sure that we took into account not only the importance of the park, but also how it supports the community as a whole.”