Chris Steller Date: Jul 21
Once again, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is barring people who come to the central riverfront to watch Aquatennial fireworks from a public park facility: the Nicollet Island Park Pavilion, its parking lot and its patio.
This time, police tape is strung all around the pavilion area, keeping people off parkland, off trails, and off the popular deck with benches and picnic tables at the island’s south tip—prime viewing spots on public land reserved for a private party. Ordinarily, even when private events spill out of the pavilion, the path along the riverbank, including the deck area, remains open to the public.
All this violates specific contract language reserving the pavilion for the public on Aquatennial fireworks night: “Until further notice, the MPRB hereby perpetually reserves December 30, December 31, January 1, July 4, the last Saturday of Aquatennial in July, and three additional date to be determined by the MPRB each year for events sponsored by MPRB” (from page 2, “CATERING AGREEMENT for NICOLLET ISLAND PAVILION BETWEEN MINNEAPOLIS PARK AND RECREATION BOARD AND MINTAHOE HOSPITALITY GROUP,” dated Oct. 20, 2004).
I posted about this problem to Mpls-Issues in 2010: http://tinyurl.com/c5pqts4 That year there was no police tape, but a park police officer guarding the private event told me that—despite thousands of people in the area for Aquatennial fireworks—the public couldn’t use the pavilion’s toilets and would have to go ask at bars and restaurants on Main Street.
What it is about its own contracts guaranteeing citizens and taxpayers a mere eight days of access per year to the Nicollet Island Park Pavilion—including Aquatennial fireworks night—that the park board still doesn’t understand?
Liz Wielinski Date: Jul 21
Due to the concerns brought forward by Chris Steller I went to the trouble of contacting the MPRB lead staff at home to see what this was all about. According to both our permitting staff, our acting superintendent and the park police this area is roped off because it is the fall out area for the fireworks being shot off of the 3rd AV Bridge. Any event goers at the Pavilion are to remain either in the tent or the building during the fireworks show for safety purposes. This was not closing off the island to the general public in favor of people renting the pavilion.
As to the MPRB having access to the building for events at the pavilion on the specific holidays listed, we working on it. Many events were discontinued by the MPRB during the years when the state cut LGA. I was not on the board at that time. This year the MPRB brought back park board sponsored events for the 4th of July. There were activities for families, a concert and a movie in the park, as well as the fireworks. Constituents of mine on the island were excited to see activity there again for the 4th. I can only hope that as we work to rebuild more programming in the parks that soon we will need to have the pavilion for all of the days we have listed in the contract.
Hope everyone had a great Aquatenniel!
Liz Wielinski Columbia Park VP and Commissioner District 1 ( including Nicollet Island)
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
Chris Steller Date: July 22
Thank you, Commissioner Wielinski. I haven’t seen police tape at the Nicollet Island Park Pavilion in past years—only police officers who said the area was closed for private events. The police tape did allow people to get very close to the riverbank (and the Third Ave. bridge) on the more public, amphitheater side of the island’s south tip but not on the more private Pavilion patio/deck side, but I guess that’s because of where the fireworks fall.
But none of those precautions precluded public access to the pavilion building Saturday as guaranteed in the contract between the park board and the catering company that in practice controls the pavilion for 357 days of the year. No special LGA-funded programming necessary—the pavilion building has restrooms and a drinking fountain, air conditioning, shade and a roof in case of rain—all of which the public is supposed to be able to enjoy on Aquatennial fireworks night, under the very specific language of the contract. The public could have entered the pavilion building from the Power Street/parking lot doors, just as the private eventgoers were doing, without crossing a police line.
The park board is simply allowing private businesses to make money off of property that by contract the park board is supposed to control in the public’s interest. Another recent example is the parking lot in front of DeLaSalle High School, which under another contract with the park board is supposed to be open for public use every Fourth of July. Instead, this July 4, the school had its own signs out and collected $10 per vehicle. Again—no programming or LGA funds necessary to make this right. Just stick to the deal and let the public have the access when they’re supposed to have it.
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