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Cultural Cornerstones
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Share your opinions to help shape the future of Minneapolis parks

This week the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) wraps up months of community meetings held throughout the city to gather feedback on what may be the most comprehensive planning effort in its 130-year history.

Minneapolis’ neighborhood parks are at a critical juncture. Funding reductions have left a multi-million dollar gap in the resources needed to properly care for these highly-used, aging neighborhood assets.

“Closing the Gap: Investing in our Neighborhood Parks” is an MPRB initiative designed to learn more about Minneapolitans’ preferences on the best way to gather and dispense resources needed to program, operate, repair and improve these parks.

If you were unable to make any meetings this summer there are still two ways to get informed and weigh in on this major planning effort.

This short video offers a brief overview of Closing the Gap. After the video please take this 15-minute survey to help determine the future of neighborhood parks in Minneapolis.


MPRB is also hosting a public forum titled “Closing the Gap: Insider Insights for Park Funding” on Tuesday, September 29, 6-8:30 pm at the Walker Art Center. At the forum representatives from Seattle, Indianapolis, Portland and New York City will share how their cities tackled similar funding challenges.

The forum is free and open to the public, but advance registration is preferred as space is limited. Attendees may register by noon, September 28 by emailing name and number attending to or calling 612-313-7789.

It’s not too late to get involved and help influence the future of your favorite neighborhood park. Your input could have a real impact on the assets and services neighborhood parks provide over the next several decades.


An Easy Step to Increase Civic Engagement

By Jacob Frey, 3rd Ward City Council Member

The voter registration ordinance received unanimous support at the CDRS Committee. Assuming everything is smooth at the full council meeting, starting this March every tenant will receive voter registration info/forms whenever they move in to a new place. Like a mint on your hotel room pillow, new tenants will be greeted with the opportunity to participate in our democracy.

Here's a little background:

Did you know that almost 50 million eligible voters could not cast a ballot in the 2012 presidential election simply because they weren’t registered? In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of eligible voters who are not registered to vote is three times greater than the number of registered voters who choose to stay home and not participate.

The impact of opt-in registration disproportionately and negatively impacts young and first-time voters, highly mobile voters (including students and military families), lower-income voters and voters of color.

The U.S. is unique in the modern, industrialized world in requiring this two-step process: first, registration, and then casting a ballot. In almost every other modern democracy, the burden for registration rests upon the government — not the individual. The voter merely has to show up.

Registration has deep roots in efforts to stifle participation. It turns out that registration began after the Civil War, when African-American men were enfranchised under the 15th Amendment. And, of course, women in those times were pushing for full and equal citizenship rights. Up until that point, there was no such thing as voter registration. Thus, mandatory registration was an early tool not to enhance democracy, but to deny it.

As chair of the Minneapolis City Council’s Elections & Rules Committee, I am charged with improving voter turnout and engagement. That’s why I introduced an ordinance aimed at supporting new, first-time and highly mobile voting populations by requiring that building owners and landlords provide voter registration forms to their tenants. This measure is a practical, straightforward approach to increase the number of registered voters among populations that, historically, have been denied access to the ballot box due to registration challenges.

Moreover, many young people, particularly students, move almost annually, and with each move they are required to re-register to vote. With the stresses of moving, compounded by external stimuli from school to jobs, registering to vote can easily go overlooked. Why would we not enact a simple proposal to knock these unnecessary hurdles down?

The tentative plan is for the city to provide voter registration forms to landlords when they renew their licenses. All they would have to do is pass them on to new tenants. That’s it! There would be no obligation to collect or mail in voter registration forms, and once the form had been handed over, presumably along with a lease and other new-tenant information, the building owner or landlord would be done. How this simple “pass on” requirement would increase rents is beyond me.

Government exists to improve people’s lives, and this proposal would make it easier for the half of our city’s residents who rent to participate in our democracy. We want everyone — regardless of their background or age — to proudly vote on Election Day. We want to reduce barriers to civic participation. Our city aspires to be as inclusive and as inviting as possible to all of our neighbors.


Under the Franklin Ave Bridge - Our History to Be Demolished Yet Again?

Under the Franklin Ave. Bridge are the remnants of Mississippi River and Minneapolis history. The bridge piers of the 1889 bridge still remain. These remnants add interesting cultural and historic elements to the river and should be left in place.

As part of the rebuilding and repair of the bridge someone has made a decision that those beautiful and interesting artifacts have to be removed because someday someone might climb on them and be injured. I have asked the County to leave the piers as they are and to not remove them, but I was told MNDOT is requiring the removal as part of their permit process.

This doesn't make any sense to me.

With the closing of the upper lock, the piers have no impact on commercial navigation.

It will cost the county a significant amount of money to remove the piers.

It is also a very important history of the  stonework of bridge construction with the next bridge down river ( The RR bridge  at 27th) having interlocking stones that still support an existing bridge that  supports freight trains versus just a stacking of rocks that was built around  the same time, and is falling down.

The other pier in the river:

The current bridge:

Historic Profile: Connecting south and southeast Minneapolis, the Franklin Avenue Bridge was constructed between 1919 and 1923.  Two prominent Norwegian engineers, Frederick William Cappelen and Kristoffer Olsen Oustad were commissioned to plan, design, and construct a bridge that would cross the Mississippi River, a distance of over 1,000 feet. In order to convey a sense of permanence and beauty in the scenic surroundings, the engineers chose a steel reinforced arched concrete bridge. The Franklin Avenue Bridge gained notoriety at the time of its construction for including the longest concrete arch in the world. The total length of the bridge is 1054 feet with a vertical clearance of 88 feet. In 1971, the bridge was closed and reconditioned. When it re-opened it included four lanes of traffic and pedestrian walkways. Engineer Frederick William Cappelen died during the construction of the bridge, and as a memorial to his life and career, the bridge still bears his name.

It is frustrating to lose something of significant historical value because of a decision making process immune to cultural relevance.


Scott Vreeland

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Commissioner District # 3

( 612) 721-7892

© - Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.


Before the Mill District / Native American History on the Riverfront

Despite its shifting position in relation to the falls, Spirit Island (seen here in 1899) was long a constant presence in the Mississippi, the home of legend. Fredrikia Bremer, a Swedish novelist who visited Minnesota in 1850, recorded the oft-told Dakota saga that may well have given the island its name: Ampota Sampa was happy with her Dakota family of husband and two children. One day, however, the husband introduced a second wife into the family. Stricken with grief, Ampota Sampa placed the children into a canoe and piloted it over the edge of St. Anthony Falls. "Their bodies were never seen again," Bremer wrote, "but tradition says that on misty mornings the spirit of the Indian wife with the children folded into her bosom, is seen gliding in the canoe through the rising spray about the Spirit Island, and that the sound of her death-song is heard moaning in the wind and in the roar of the Falls of St. Anthony."

Though Spirit Island never had much commercial value, white settlement led to its dismemberment and destruction. In 1854 the federal government deed the island to George W. Allen, who two years later sold it for $1,000. At this time a rocky isle scattered with hemlock and spruce trees and occupies by a family of eagles, Spirit Island passed through many hands, ending up in the ownership of the St. Anthony Falls Water Power Company (Northern States Power's predecessor) in 1882. Mill-bound logs tumbling over the falls hacked away at the island's edge, and the quarrying of its limestone further reduced its height and length.

Northern States Power returned the island to the federal government in 1957. With the Minneapolis Upper Harbor Project under way in the late 1950s and early '60s, Spirit Island was blocking the approach of boats to the new St. Anthony Falls navigation dock. The Corps of Engineers completely removed the island from the river channel in 1960.

From "Lost Minnesota: Stories of Vanished Places"


Downtown Commons: An Extraordinary Opportunity

By Diane Hofstede

Iconic, wonderment, excitement, sense of WOW!

The future of our city is in our hands to give input on a new city park in heart of our downtown core. (Downtown East Commons). It is within a stone’s through of our nation’s most important bird fly over zone in the only National Park, on the mighty Mississippi River.  Several weeks ago we, the community, were invited to participate in planning, to give feedback and suggestions.  Typical of being Minneapolitans, most of us, followed directions and gave our feedback.  Our group focused our discussion on plastic rocks.  The most critical issue was where to place the porta potties as not to offend the naked eye or draw a devious sort to tip them over.

It was a great community experience.  In a controlled environment, with directions, it resulted in what planners might expect. (The name of the park may say it all).

That’s what I think we need to re think.  We need to create a park that gives us a sense of wonder, high expectations, beyond, the next new brew, delivering on the collective or individual experience that leads to discovery, the iconic!  The sense of WOW that only an extraordinary proposal will bring to our city. What will bring a visitor to this park, and when they leave, what will they remember as a dramatic life changing experience?  What will draw the photographer to snap hundreds of shots from all perspectives during our every changing weather?  What will children pose in front of, climb on, remember, and keep on their cell phones, or, on their wrists, or finger, to show to their friends? What will we be proud of, and what will Garrison add to his program, as a not to be missed experience, along with ketchup, and blueberry pie, that we will proudly claim as ours?  We have the Vikings Stadium, the Mall of America, the Spoon and Cherry, the Guthrie, the magnificent Mississippi river, and an extraordinary opportunity to create an iconic park that we, the community, will leave as a legacy, and proof that we care about all of us, not some of us.

Times a wasting.  Join in dreaming BIG.  Remember Governor Perpich, some called him Governor Goofy, but it was his BIG idea, the Mall of America. You do not have to love his idea, but grab the opportunity to dream big.

The charge, for us, is to reach for the extraordinary, as we can do!  On ward! Opportunities are wasted on those who wait!

Diane Hofstede is a community advocate and former Minneapolis City Council Member representing the 3rd Ward.

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