Downtown Voices

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October 20, 2003 // UPDATED 11:06 am - April 30, 2007
By: Terrell Brown
Terrell Brown

Park Board empire-building: fix what's broken instead

Did you have a chance to enjoy the Dandelion Fountain in Loring Park this summer? Yes, I know it is officially named after its donor, but methinks more people can identify with the Dandelion than with Berger.

Don't thank the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, though; they wanted to keep it boxed up and dry this year, along with the rest of the park system's fountains. Credit the group Friends of Loring Park; they and Citizens for a Loring Park Community raised the money required to operate the fountain this summer.

Neighbors also raised the money to keep the Seven Pools in Thomas Lowry Park operating this summer. Others have done the same.

The Park Board is the same group that when faced with a budget shortfall removed the toilets from what may be the most overused park system in the country. Yes, come to our parks, but make sure you use the restroom first.

Maintenance is not on the Park Board's list of favorite activities. The Friends restored Loring Park's statue of Ole Bull a couple of years ago. The Park Board doesn't recognize that statue; the listing for Loring Park on their Web site lists sculpture in the Sculpture Garden across the street and the Berger Fountain. Ole and his violin are forgotten.

It's a short jog from my home to Lake of the Isles where the pedestrian path deteriorated so much that at one point, the railing finally fell into the lake.

What the Park and Recreation Board likes to do is build. Back in Loring Park, they built a new "tot lot" located only a few hundred yards from another tot lot found on the Loring Greenway (which isn't considered to be a park). That in a neighborhood that the 2000 census tells us had all of 191 residents under the age of 15, down from 201 in 1990. Given the lack of parking in the area, one would expect that most of the users come from the neighborhood.

The Loring Park shelter house was just remodeled and expanded. Guess what? No money for programming. At one point, the neighborhood actually voiced opposition to the expansion.

Did I tell you that the Park Board recently bought and moved into new headquarters digs along the river?

Does anyone see a pattern here?

Now they want a marina. They want a marina across the street from the Taj MaHQ.

Do we need a marina? Should the Park and Recreation Board be in the business of owning and operating a marina? Are there maybe better uses for our resources?

In this case, we don't need a marina. There are other recreational marinas on the river within a few miles of Downtown. It might be nice to have, but it certainly isn't something we need. Every unit of government in the State of Minnesota is crying poverty and these folks want to build a marina?

Speaking of resources, do we have the resources to continue to maintain the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board as a separate unit of government? Do we really need their additional police department? In addition to the Minneapolis Police Department, Metro Transit Police, University of Minnesota Police and Hennepin County Sheriff, all of whom have been seen working in Minneapolis Parks?

Stating no interest in commenting and citing multiple units of government in Minneapolis alone, one city policymaker said, "We do not need a separate Park Board and system. It eats up admin, there is huge overlap and they have a parochial nature that is so bad for government during this very tough time financially."

Perhaps this latest proposal will again demonstrate that good public policy and empire-building don't go together. We need to adjust our government to 21st-century reality.

Terrell Brown lives in Loring Park and works Downtown. He can be reached at Letters to the editor may be sent to