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A Vision for Wirth Park

A Vision for Wirth Park

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Published by Nicole Norfleet

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Published by: Nicole Norfleet on Nov 01, 2011
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04/30/2012

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1
A Vision for Theodore Wirth Park
Submitted to the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board by the City of Lakes Nordic SkiFoundationDecember, 2010
(Annotated by the Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3)September, 2011
The purpose of this annotated version of the original “Vision” document is to correct some
impressions given about golf, golfers, and the Theodore Wirth Par 3 by the City of LakesNordic Ski Foundation. Notwithstanding the fact that the Nordic Ski Foundation has issued amore recent document nominally modifying its position it is still important that we provide this
response. Since the original “Vision” Document was addressed to the MPRB we feel it is
necessary to provide our response to all board members as well as the Theodore Wirth
Citizen’s Advisory Committee.
At the outset we must say that this is not a criticism of skiers or a condemnation of theirFoundation. The City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation is well know for its success stimulatingthe growth of cross-country skiing and other winter sports activities within the Minneapolispark system. They have contributed expertise and establish programs and activities involvingschool and neighborhood groups, youth and adults, and have helped make the City ofMinneapolis prominent as a location for regional and national events for these sports. Theyhave been successful at raising funds for their own programs, for activities programs facilitiesand equipment for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and for various individuals.
(below we will italicize the portions of the original vision document which are of particular concern)
I. Introduction
 The Park Board is poised to start a new citizen
s advisory committee process forTheodore Wirth Park, with the charge of improving the winter recreation facilities, adding activesports facilities, consolidating operations facilities and improving trails. The City of Lakes NordicSki Foundation has partnered with the Park Board to improve and promote use of the park for thepast eight years. (See appendix).
 
This document provides the Nordic Ski Foundation
s vision forWirth Park
 –
a vision that we believe is in line with the Park Board
s charge to the advisorycommittee. The Foundation hopes that the Park Board formally adopts this vision asits overall framework in shaping the park through the advisory committee process.
II. Executive Summary
 While the strengths of Theodore Wirth Park are trails and silent contemplation thisdocument focuses on trails. Hiking trails, walking trails, trails leading to quiet spaces, ski trails,mountain bike trails and asphalt bike trails
 –
Wirth Park is built on trails. Wirth Park
s strength isalso its weakness. In general, the trails are not signed or marked, they run through brambles of
 
2buckthorn, they are often in a dilapidated state and there is no infrastructure
 –
like coordinatedand adequate maintenance facilities and a public building with related concessions
 –
to supportthe trail network. In fact, dilapidated is the common theme of the entire park. Rather thanspend precious resources analyzing a dartboard full of disparate ideas, the Park Board should, tocoin a new phrase, un-dilapidate the park and invest in making trail experiences better for all.Investing in trails makes sense for several reasons. Over the past 30 years, with littleplanning and almost no investment trails use in Wirth Park has skyrocketed:
(see Assumptions in the Appendix)
Cross country skiers now make approximately 55,000 trips to the park, logging morethan 500,000 kilometers
 –
or 310,000 miles
 –
over little more than a 60 day season
Conservatively, mountain bikers make some 50,000 trips to the park, logging some250,000 miles.
Everyday bikers make more than 250,000 trips through the park, logging more than onemillion miles each year.
Runners: 25,000 trips and more than 100,000 miles
Walkers and hikers, including birder and nature watchers, make more than 75,000 tripsand log more than 150,000 miles
In-line skaters, roller-skiers and other like users make some 10,000 trips, logging morethan 40,000 miles.Trail use by young people in particular has increased dramatically. (See Appendix)
.
From asocietal perspective, Wirth Park
s trails are more important than ever. Sedentary lifestyles andobesity are at epidemic proportions.
This is particularly true in North Minneapolis, where low- income and minority populations have the greatest health problems in the city.
 The readershould check with members of the North Minneapolis neighborhood community to seehow they feel about this statement.Because Wirth Park is North Minneapolis
largest park,Wirth should be a place that helps inspire an active lifestyle throughout the year. Despite yearsof neglect Wirth Park
s trails have been doing that. With a little investment and un-dilapidating,Wirth Park
s trail infrastructure can inspire more and more people to stay active throughout theyear.
III. Vision
 The Minneapolis parks system has lakes and riverfronts with asphalt walking and bikingtrails. It has dramatic features like Minnehaha Falls. It has pocket parks within reach of mostcitizens. It has soccer parks and baseball fields, and hockey rinks and ice arenas. What it doesnot have is a park devoted to
lifetime activities 
 –
also known as active or silent sports 
. Thenorthern portion of Theodore Wirth should be that park.Throughout this document, and in others produced by the Nordic Ski Foundation, andothers that are byproducts of their message, you will see references to lifetime, active and silentsports. These terms are often accompanied by a list of sports. The lists always exclude golf, asthough golf is not a lifetime activity, or as though carrying a golf bag or playing 9 or 18 holes is not
 
3really being active. Whatever the original definition of silent sports, the terms lifetime, active orsilent, in this document are being used to ignore or diminish golf in comparison to the sportsfavored by the Foundation. This is common propaganda technique designed to redefine the
reader’s thinking. When you see lifetime, active or silent in this document it is meant to
com
municate that the author’s sports are better than the excluded sports.
The idea is to create a central location for silent sports like cross country skiing,mountain biking, trail running, disc golf,
cyclo-cross 
, hiking and perhaps
BMX bike riding 
.Thesecyclo-cross and BMX ideas also appeared in the subsequent North Wirth Park Study Team Report.Both the City of Minneapolis Nordic Ski Foundation and the Minneapolis Off road CyclingAdvocates were represented in this Study Team. But in subsequent documents the MOCA, theorganization that maintains the mountain biking paths in North Wirth Park, has made it clear thatthey did not propose and do not support establishing cyclo-cross, BMX or pump track facilities inNorth Wirth Park and in particular do not support displacing the Par 3 with these facilities.Therefore there is serious doubt as to the authority with which the Nordic Ski Foundation can speakto or identify the needs of the cycling community.The central location would act as a hub forthese activities, with
a central building 
, parking lot, and facilities catering to the silent sportscommunity. For instance, the building would contain a great room for meetings, a bike and skishop (a North Minneapolis version of the Midtown Bike Station), office space for organizationsdevoted to increasing all, but especially youth participation in these activities, and a restaurantor coffee shop.The proposal for a new facility of this kind is discussed later in this documentand will be commented upon at that point.The trailheads for the various activities would all emanate from this central location. Overtime, this central location would help solidify this community and help young people develop apassion for lifetime sports. Non-profit organizations would run programming designed toencourage activity in North Minneapolis residents. This has already been happening to somedegree
 –
with organizations like the Nordic Ski Foundation (see appendix), V3 (a NorthMinneapolis based triathlon training club) and Trips for Kids all working with youth in Wirth Parkon a regular basis. Other organizations, like Bolder Options and Big Brothers/Big Sisters, haveexpressed interest in further development at Wirth Park as well.There is significant momentum for this idea. Cross country skiing, trail running andmountain biking have blossomed over the past several years. The golf operation recently addeda disc golf course,
cyclo-cross is a growing sport with a presence in Wirth 
, and there are strongproponents of adding a BMX course to the park system generally. Other cities, like Portland,Oregon and Boulder, Colorado, have added silent sports centers already.We have been told that successful cyclo-cross events have been held at Theodore Wirth Park for sometime. Thereis no indication that they have been done on the golf course or at the expense of any other of theactivities at the park. It seems as if a cyclo-cross course and a pump track are depicted in theNorth Wirth Park Study Team Report on the current 17
th
hole just to help justify the Nordic Skidesire to displace that hole in favor of permanent winter sports facilities. In any case, if better cyclo-cross course or pump track facilities are needed we would like to hear from a cycling organizationabout that and not the Nordic Ski Foundation.

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