Thoughts on the Minneapolis Park Board Comprehensive Plan

The Minneapolis Park Board is working on a “Comprehensive Plan” that will shape
the direction of park developments, trails, trees & landscaping, rec
centers, and more for the next 13 years. That’s kind of a big deal.
So get your butt to a meeting where you can weigh in on the direction
Minneapolis parks are heading.

A lot has changed in how people use the parks, exercise, and socialize outside
since the last time the MPB took a step back to evaluate such behaviors. For
example, check out the following stats from the draft
Comprehensive Plan:

Demographic shifts The number of households with
individuals living alone has increased from 27.6% in 1960 to 40% in 2000.
During the same time period, the number of households with children has
declined from 34.8 % to 25% of households. The city has also become more
diverse and home to an increasing number of foreign-born residents.

Recreation trends Adults, especially Baby Boomers,
are staying active longer. Young adults raised on youth athletics are seeking
to maintain active lifestyles. In addition, interest in non-traditional and
self-directed recreation is rising.

Health trends Nationally, research shows
obesity and related health concerns are rising along with health care costs.
Parks and recreation play an important role in supporting the active
lifestyles that can reduce health concerns and bolster preventative care.

Those are some fairly significant changes. How should the Minneapolis Park Board
adjust their priorities in order best serve Minneapolis residents and visitors?

In my opinion, the three changes listed above point toward a large increase in
trail use. People are participating in more individual sports like running,
walking, rollerblading, and biking, and joining less organized sports like
softball, hockey, or football. Soccer may be an exception to this based on it’s
increase popularity as a high school sport and the popularity of the sport among
new immigrants to Minneapolis. And Lacrosse is a growing sport at the high
school level.

The draft report recognizes this:

Interest in traditional sports, including
baseball, softball, golf, and football, is declining while interest in
non-traditional sports such as skateboarding, mountain biking, disc golf,
lacrosse, and cricket is increasing.

In my opinion, we need more trails, and probably a few less outdoor ice rinks.

As I look at the trail situation I see trails that are not being maintained on a
regular enough basis to be usable for some forms of recreation. For example,
West River Road’s trails should not have been allowed to fall into the disrepair
they’re in today (and will be in for at least 3 more years based on their
planned improvement schedule).

It’s good to see the improvements to the Above the Falls area of the river, with
newly build or improved parks, especially along the West side of the river. I’m
glad to see that there is a plan to deal with the disconnect along the East side
of the Mississippi River trail between the U of MN and St. Anthony Main. And the
Northeast part of the Grand Rounds is receiving attention as well:

Minneapolis Future Parkland and Facility Study Areas and Adopted Plans

That leaves a few significant holes, but greatly improves upon where we are
today.

Trails also need to be rethought as they’re being used for a wider variety of
recreational activities. Walkers, Runners, recreational rollerbladers,
speedskating rollerbladers, recreational bikers, racing bikers, and roller
skiers don’t mix. There needs to be at least two unique trails for pedestrians
and wheeled travelers, but should probably be three with one for over 12 MPH and
one for under. Or, the wheel specific trails need to be significantly wider
(probably twice as wide as they are today) to make passing safer. The Midtown
Greenway is a good example of this.

What’s important to you in the parks? Do you think the MPB is on the right track here? Do you think they’ll pay attention to this report once it’s finalized?

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Minneapolis Park Board Comprehensive Plan”

  1. Very interesting topic and really relevant to those of us “stuck” in the city with no green space (please note sarcasm my suburbian friends).

    Anyhow – I agree that the park has to acknowledge the trends in use. But, I also think it’s important that they build flexible spaces – whether it be fields, trails, etc. These spaces are, I’m sure, not cheap to build. And, given that trends are, by definition, not permanent in nature, I’d rather have something that’s good quality but which, perhaps, sacrifices on being a specific use area. For example, instead of putting in a softball field…put in a nice quality, well draining field that can be used for a variety of sports. It won’t make be exactly what everyone wants, but I think it’ll be better for the whole.

    And, I agree with you on trails – those babies need to be better for all wheels, including rollerblades (or skates, if that’s your bag). I’d actually rather see more money go towards a wider paved bike trail that can handle more wheeled traffic, and less paved walking trails. Afterall, most of us runners want crushed limestone anyway – can’t we spare some cost on the ped trails and spend more on better bike trails? This is especially necessary given the ridiculously crazy road-raging drivers that want to run bikers off parkways when they have to “share” the road and sometimes (hold your breath) go 21 in a 25 MPH zone for sometimes up to 3 blocks. Can you believe the audicity of these bikers wanting to use the road with drivers given the smooth “bike” trails on the W. River Road. Geez.

  2. Well, first, thanks for posting this information. I have ignored politics for many years because I lack patience, but maybe I have grown up enough to be of service to my community.

    So, then I checked the link and scoped out the July meeting locations and there are none downtown or near the river where I spend most of my recreational time…sigh.

    Basically I agree with your comments and Kyle’s addendum. The W River Road bike lane between Lake and Franklin is bone shatteringly rough (no way would I want to rollerski or skate on that section of trail) and the parkway road itself is so narrow as to be a bike death trap.

    Additional concerns I have relate to the bike route street cleanliness lacking, specifically bad is where W River Rd ends and one is dumped onto the industrial 2nd St N. In that section alone, I flatted there last fall, my friend Sean flatted there last week, and I’ve seen two other cyclists fixing flats there in the past 5-6 months…hardly a extensive study of course, but that seems to be a bit much.

    Lastly, I have a curiosity about how the overall comprehensive park planning is done. Especially now that the drive is for more trails, so how would all these trails be coordinated so as to be available beyond the Mpls city boundaries. Is this Hennepin County issue, Met Council, and / or some state body that needs to address overall coordination of trail system development and maintenance? Source of that concern comes from last fall’s ride where we encountered about 3-4 separate trail construction areas and detours until we finally were dumped out in Chaska without any signage to direct us back to the trail and we ended up having to cut off our tour early and return home.

  3. Of course the park board is not going to listen to what people say. The Minneapolis Park Board is a place for little “jesse venturas” to manipulate things for their aggrandizement and bennefit.

    They love building trails because every one is a photo op and gets in the news.
    They refuse to do any maintenance because that isn’t news worthy.
    Has anyone ever seen a Minneapolis trail that has been sealcoated? For the park board, it is better to let it deteriorate then pay much more to rebuild it after years of neglece and disuse by people.

    That is the attitude that finaly killed off their wasteful partner, the library board.

    I think that the same thing should happen to the Minneapolis park board, close it down and merge with the Three Rivers Park District. TRPD actually knows how to make parks and trails work for the users.

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