Ever wonder how the buildings around stay looking so nice? Or how Theo Wirth Park’s trails got their lighting? Or how the Minneapolis Park Board came by a portable stage, even when they—like all local government agencies, it seems—are perennially scrimping and saving to keep tax rates down?
As it turns out, they doesn’t have much to do with the Park Board at all—they’re all projects of the nonprofit People for Parks, and they’re turning 35 this year.
Back in 1978, said PFP board president Jeff Winter, the city’s urban forest was reeling from Dutch Elm Disease, and the Park Board was facing a staggering bill to replace all the dying trees that lined most of the city’s sidewalks.
“This was the end of the world for people accustomed to tree cover,” Winter said.
To funnel the outcry and outpouring of donations from average citizens and companies like General Mills, People for Parks was set up. Since then, the grassroots organization has diversified their support for the Park Board and for the city's parks. Over the last 35 years, they've funding large projects like the 2011 repairs to the Women’s Ordinary at Lake Harriet, or small projects requested by individual neighborhoods, like chess tables at Logan Park in Northeast Minneapolis. Most of their efforts, Winter said, are small, so that the all-volunteer organization can “get their heads around” them. Most of the time, they partner with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
"Their enthusiastic participation with us in projects has been critical to our joint long term success since 1978," Winter said. Still, “it’s a grassroots organization. If you have a project, we’ll help you make it happen.”
Updated 4:26 p.m. 3/9/12: The article was updated to clarify that People for Parks did not participate in the 1995-2002 rebuilding of the Women's Ordinary. Its 2011 project was aimed at needed repairs and upkeep.