Over the past few years the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board has been developing and formalizing a series of master plans for the parks under their purview. When visiting any number of parks you can find a sign letting you know that “This Park is being Planned!” that will have some links to resources for further project information. Master plans aren’t necessarily filled with prescriptive details, and they don’t provide firm timelines or funding schemes but they are powerful documents for the long term vision of the parks. When the Park Board is evaluating park improvements, these master plans can provide guidance on the kinds of features and amenities that gain priority for certain parks and the communities they serve.
Two parks in the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes are currently undergoing the master plan development process — Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles — and I was able to attend a recent open house to find out more about the Park Board’s current preferred concept design. The open house was held outdoors at the trail entry near Euclid Avenue. It consisted mostly of a kiosk with different maps of the preferred concept that demonstrated different themes: amenities, traffic circulation, water quality/land use improvements. The open house was staffed by some supremely helpful Park Board employees who both answered questions and took feedback and comments — many of which were transferred to sticky notes and placed on the displays. They also provided snacks. Who doesn’t love snacks?
I’ve lived in the area for a long time and have been keeping track of the plan development process since it was announced in 2019 — so naturally I had a lot of questions for the open house staff. I found the initial draft plans for the parks to be interesting and ambitious — and provided feedback as best I could for my thoughts on them.
The current preferred concept is much more scaled back. The proposed Isles boardwalk is gone, all proposed permanent structures have been eliminated, any inkling of a possible parkway vehicle traffic closure — permanent or temporary — has been removed and the proposed two-direction bikeway around Isles has been reduced to a couple of sections. When I asked about these changes in the design, the response was simply that the changes reflect the input they have received so far. The most vocal group of residents giving input does not want new structures, they do not want picnic pavilions, and they do not want music or classroom venues. There were also some concerns that a full expansion of the bike trail to allow two-way traffic could narrow the parkway, eliminate some street parking, and lead to tree loss. I will say that some input being given that day — and not just by me — was that permanent, improved, year-round restroom facilities are something that the park users want and need.
The open house staff were great about answering questions and taking the many comments from my wife and me, but they did have one ask of us — get some more feedback. Both Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles are regional parks, and they are positioned in such a way that neighbors from all over the city and visitors to the city should be drawn to them. They are already relatively accessible via public transit but will be even more so when the Green Line extension is complete. The shape of this project should not be limited by the input received from those of us who happen to live nearby — this plan should be shaped by all of us.
What kind of amenities would make these parks more inviting to you? Things like permanent restrooms, picnic pavilions or activity hubs seem like natural choices to me — but they are receiving opposition from a relatively narrow slice of potential park visitors.
The window for public comment is closing, but there is still time to let your voice be heard. Taking the Cedar-Isles Master Plan Survey is probably the best and easiest way to give your input, but you can also visit the project page for more details and contact info for the project leads. Also, you should absolutely contact the park board and let them know what priorities you have for an inclusive, sustainable future for these parks.