Downtown parks commissioner Mason will leave Park Board

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February 21, 2005 // UPDATED 1:52 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Vivian Mason, a two-term Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board member who represents Downtown, will not seek reelection. She is endorsing her friend Tracy Nordstrom for the District 4 seat.

"This is long enough," said Mason, who has been at odds with the Park Board majority on various issues over the years. "It is time for some fresh faces, new blood and new ideas. I hope the Board will have a lot of new people."

Nordstrom, 38, is professional gardener. She ran for the Park Board in 2001, losing to District 6 incumbent Bob Fine 8,810-8,322. Redistricting after the 2000 census moved Nordstrom's East Calhoun neighborhood from Fine's District 6 to Mason's District 4.

(Some, including Mason, saw political overtones in the new map. Redistricting officials included former Park Board member and Fine ally Scott Neiman.)

The new District 4 includes all or parts of Downtown's Loring Park, Elliot Park and North Loop, plus Southwest's East Calhoun, East Isles, Lowry Hill, Lowry Hill East, Kenwood, Bryn Mawr, CIDNA, Whittier, Stevens Square and the North Side's Harrison and Sumner-Glenwood neighborhoods.

Nordstrom, who lives in East Calhoun, said she is more interested than ever in serving on the Park Board.

"I think the original mission of the Park Board was to protect, preserve and maintain," she said. "I think the current Board has gotten away from that a little bit. The main responsibility of the Park Board is to look after our green spaces, and that includes our lakes and our forests and our open spaces. We need to focus inward again."

Downtown has "a huge opportunity" to add more trees, including along Portland Avenue near the river, she said.

Nordstrom said she as been frustrated at how Park Board Commissioners interact with each other and the Board's lack neighborhood outreach. As one example, she said the Board did a poor job of communicating with East Calhoun about budget-cutting plans that closed a swimming beach.

"We didn't know any of the circumstances about why this beach was getting chosen," she said. "Everyone was going, 'What's going on?'"

(The beach eventually got reopened but with limited hours.)

Nordstrom said she thought the Board dynamics would improve because "I think the Board is going to change."

Nordstrom said she would seek DFL endorsement. She has served on the East Calhoun Community Organization (ECCO) Board and promoted the new Lake Calhoun tot lot. She worked with Mayor R.T. Rybak in trying to promote more tree planting. She is a member of the Heritage Preservation Commission and the Minneapolis Tree Advisory Commission, which recently issued a report calling the resurgence of Dutch elm disease a crisis.

Mason was appointed to the Board in early 1997 after Commissioner Patty Baker died. She then won elections in 1997 and 2001.

In recent years, she opposed buying the Park Board's new riverfront headquarters building. She complained Commissioner Fine was trying to promote a new plan for Bryn Mawr Meadows field near North Loop - a project in her district, without informing her. Fine said he had been working on the project for five years and was just trying to improve the city.

Mason said her conflicts over Board decorum and policy did not play a major role in her decision to step down. Her husband Jack died in 2002. She said it made her realize she still had a lot of things she wanted to do. She recently accepted two new board positions, one for the state Board of Law Examiners, which includes two public members, and one with a group called Books for Africa.

Mason said one of her last initiatives would be to work with Downtown's Skyway Senior Center to get more of its users involved in park activities.