A little park history


On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Camden Community News, a glimpse back in time is imperative.

When the City of Minneapolis was incorporated in 1856, it was already a noted city of importance, ranking 16th in the nation for population and commercial importance. It was only one year later, on July 17, 1857, that Edward Murphy donated two small city blocks, which would become our first park – Murphy Park. This was a progressive act at the time, happening 24 years before the establishment of the Minneapolis Park and Rec Board (MPRB) and remarkably one year ahead of New York City in its establishment of Central Park. At a time when wild and natural lands seemed abundant, this was truly a forward thinking act of philanthropy. Indeed the land was used as a cow pasture for many years, before Edward Murphy worked out a $500 deal with the City to fence and plant trees around the land, making it a true park. In the end Mayor Ames would not sign the agreement and Murphy paid for the improvements. It wasn’t until 1883 that our park board was established and it didn’t happen without resistance. The city council was against the establishment of an independent park board, but on April 3, 1883 a vote of the citizens of Minneapolis was held and the independent park board was established taking 58 percent of the vote. The Evening Journal, which had just the day before predicted an easy defeat reported, “The parks are triumphant. It was a glorious victory.”

Fast forward to 2016 and the MPRB is being honored as the # 1 park system in America by the Trust for Public Land’s for the fourth year in a row. Additionally the MPRB is a finalist for the 2016 National Gold Medal Awards in Parks and Recreation. The MPRB continues to be a forerunner in establishing and protecting public lands for all people.

The 20 Year Neighborhood Park Plan is another example of the MPRB working against odds to secure our parks as a national treasure for future generations. The park board persisted in working out the best deal for our parks, even when they did not have the full agreement of our mayor. The $11 million in annual funding will secure funding for increased rehabilitation, and all aspects of maintenance and improvements, with an emphasis on ADA improvements and a rubric that focuses on creating racial equity in the distribution of resources.

In another recent development the MPRB has taken over full responsibility for operations of the Kroening Interpretive Center.  The North Mississippi Regional Park was made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Three Rivers Park District (TRPD) and the MPRB. The Kroening Interpretive Center opened in 2002 and since that time MPRB has provided for the operations and maintenance of the facility and the TRPD was responsible for the programming. Starting June 13, the MRPB took responsibility for the complete operation of the Kroening Interpretive Center and will have naturalists on site to provide customer service.  TRPD will continue to provide Free Family Fun Days on Saturdays, support of summer school programs, and school field trips into the fall.  By late summer the MPRB will be the primary provider of all programs at the center.  The MPRB owns the land from the Camden boat launch north to 53rd Ave.,  and TRPD owns the land north of 53rd Ave. to Interstate 694.

The natural swimming pool (NSP) at Webber Park is an example of progressive risk-taking in regards to the offerings of the MPRB. The NSP at Webber Park is presently open every day, except Mondays.  The MPRB is still planning a grand opening and it is slated to happen on July 23.  The MPRB will be providing more information as the date nears. The Camden Lions are encouraging families to sign up for swimming lessons. They have contributed to scholarships for families who qualify. The lessons cost $55/person, but if you qualify you may only have to pay $5. The Camden Lions will contribute the remaining $50.  Contact Webber Pool for an application.

Our parks have a rich history and we are the benefactors of the forward thinking people who created a tradition of “Parks for the People” and land preservation. Get out while the sun is shining and enjoy our beautiful parks.