Many Northside Minneapolis park and rec changes underway


A million here, a million there, $3 million and so on, pretty soon we’re talking real money and real change in North Minneapolis parks.

There’s been major digging at North Commons, Farview’s field is about to go under the knife, and the biggest of them all, Theodore Wirth Park, is close to having a completed master plan, waiting on some internal review steps, according to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) planner in charge, Andrea Weber.

“That means it’s stuck on my desk” said assistant superintendent for planning, Bruce Chamberlain. “It’s a big park, and a massive document,” he said of the months and years that have gone into the process so far.

Theodore Wirth Park

This spring, the park board inked an agreement with the City of Lakes Loppet Foundation that allows the foundation to raise $3 million to donate to MPRB in exchange for the rights to lease and operate a new welcome center near a new “silent sports” facility on Theodore Wirth Parkway. The terms of that lease are not spelled out, and if the project cost exceeds $3 million it will have to be re-worked and re-bid.

The agreement is also contingent on the parks making plans for reworking the 17th and 18th holes on their main golf course to accommodate an open field as a starting area for mountain biking.

They are on a deadline coming up (in September), and Chamberlain said they are working on it. John Munger of the Foundation was on vacation this past week and could not be reached for comment.

Park users will, however, see many not-insignificant changes throughout Wirth’s many amenities. Looking at and talking with Weber, we find:

Crews have continued seeding and other storm damage recovery steps at the south end of the lake. They’ll be managing vegetation for at least another year.

CM Construction is renovating the pavilion, including complete makeover of the teaching kitchen and restrooms. “Building systems will be updated; wiring, plumbing, fire protection and sanitary sewer connections. New storm windows, insulation, heating and air conditioning, along with a functioning fireplace will keep the building comfortable. New tables and chairs will make this space flexible for different group set-ups,” according to the website.

Consultants led workshops for planning the natural surface pedestrian trails and the off-road bicycle connection in South Wirth as well as planning and design of the event trail loop in North Wirth, and the trail rehab is now out for bids, Weber said.

She added that there may be a donor interested in helping with replacing the boardwalk and bridge system in the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden wetland area, something more “elegant” and permanent than what is there now, in a multi-phased project.

There will be an erosion control project along Bassett Creek and in late September, a volunteer tree planting effort that the Loppet Foundation manages.

“Maintenance planning has been less defined” than the public amenities in the master plan, Weber said, but it was still time to do something about the “cart barn” or golf maintenance and winter storage shed, so they have demolished it and are putting in a new building that should not significantly affect or be affected by the master plan.

About that master plan: Once Chamberlain and others finish their internal reviews, it will go to the park board, which will start a 45-day public comment period. Weber said they hope to have it approved yet this year.

Also affecting Wirth Park, though Weber said it will not necessarily impact the master plan: The Bottineau Transitway light rail station planning. A document of that process can be found at www.minneapolisparks. org/default.asp?PageID=1423

North Commons and Farview

Reconstruction of the softball field in the southwest corner of North Commons Park is underway. The field is expected to be complete, weather permitting, by mid-September. Crews have already re-seeded damaged areas, and put down erosion control fabric.

The new field at North Commons Park will serve baseball, softball and other youth and community recreation activities.

At Farview Park, where a replica of Nicollet Field will be built, the multi-purpose fields will serve baseball, softball, football, soccer and other activities.The project needs an administrative review by the city. It should start after Labor Day, said Cliff Swenson of the park board, and continue through the fall.

The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation led the effort, joined by the Edward J. Phillips Family Foundation, the Pohlad Family Foundation and the Minnesota Twins Community Fund.

“We are thrilled to honor our father’s legacy by combining three of his great passions; baseball, kids and North Minneapolis. This project is an example of the cooperation that makes our community so remarkable, and we are grateful to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, the Pohlad family and the wonderful residents of North Minneapolis whose support made it all possible,” said Dean Phillips in the initial announcement news release.

The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation uses baseball- and softball-themed programs to help build character and teach critical life lessons to underserved youth residing in America’s most distressed communities. Founded in 2001 by family members in memory of their patriarch, Cal, Sr., the Foundation works to create programs that positively impact at-risk youth through active community partnerships with America’s most successful youth service organizations. The Ripken Foundation uses the baseball and softball field to help teach life’s critical lessons such as perseverance, loyalty, nutrition, hard work and leadership to young people residing in disadvantaged communities, the release states.

The fields are closed during construction. For information about changes in programming during the construction period, contact the respective recreation centers linked at

For more project information, visit the project page

Webber Park

Groundbreaking for improvements at Webber Park occurred Wednesday, Aug. 14, as the MPRB begins construction of the first public natural filtration pool in the United States. Other park improvements include a new “bathhouse” pool building, connecting park trails, a regeneration pond and expansion of the existing parking lot near the recreation center and athletic fields.

From an MPRB news release: “Remarks about the landmark renovations for Webber Park and the benefits to the community were given by MPRB District 2 Commissioner Jon Olson representing North Minneapolis, MPRB President John Erwin, Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson, Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins, Chair of the Webber-Camden Neighborhood Association Board Pastor Linda Koelman and CEO of BioNova Global Rainer Grafinger. Also in attendance at the groundbreaking were Minnesota Senator Bobby Joe Champion, MPRB Vice-President and District 1 Commissioner Liz Wielinski, Webber-Camden and Folwell Neighborhood Director Roberta Englund and Vice-President of Landform Construction Bob Schunicht.

“I am very excited that the improvements are underway to increase the community’s value of Webber Park—in 2014 we can look forward to bringing free swimming back to this neighborhood gem,” said Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner Jon Olson, who represents North Minneapolis. “We had so many families and community members actively participating in the planning process. Because of their input, this park will bring equity of summer lake-type activities to this neighborhood and the region for generations to come.”

BioNova Natural Pools and Landform, in conjunction with the MPRB, will be providing the design and consulting work for the Webber pool project, scheduled for completion in summer 2014. Webber will be the site of the first public swimming pool in the United States with a natural filtration system; natural filtration pools have been built in several locations throughout Europe. Featuring BioNova’s patented biological filtration system, the pool is designed to use plants in a nearby regeneration pond instead of chemicals to treat the water.

The new pool design includes a 4,500 square-foot wading area with a maximum depth of 39 inches and a 16,800 square foot swimming area and lap pool that features five swimming lap lanes and a diving area with a maximum depth of approximately 13 feet. The new pool will offer triple the recreation space of the park’s aging concrete pool and wading pool that was removed in 2010. Additionally the new pool will include three sanded beach areas and a small walk bridge.

Major renovations within the construction zone will begin the week of Sept. 3 including the removal of paths and trails, pond drainage and construction, picnic area removal, swimming pool and bath house construction and doubling the size of the parking lot adjacent to the recreation center to accommodate park use and bus access and turnaround. The Webber Park Recreation Center, playground and tennis courts will remain open throughout the construction phase.

For further information about the Webber Park Master Plan, visit www.minneapolis and select “Webber Park” to see the project webpage.

Editor’s Note: Parts of this compilation will be on the website with clickable links to project graphics and other information.