Exciting improvements coming to Folwell Park this year

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) Administration & Finance Committee have approved a construction contract for the Folwell Park Phase 1 Improvements project. The project’s scope was born from Folwell Park’s Master Plan under the North Service Area Master Plan (NSAMP). NSAMP lays out a 20 to 30-year vision for improvements, operations and management for 31 neighborhood parks and three regional trails in North Minneapolis, west of the Mississippi River and north of I-394.

At the time of writing, final approval by MPRB’s full board is expected to be received on February 19. This will clear the way for a number of long-anticipated improvements to take place this year that will both enhance the park’s existing infrastructure and bring new sports facilities to Folwell.

What are we getting for our money?
Phase 1 improvements for Folwell come with a price tag of $731,446. MPRB has assigned their contractor a completion date of September 4, 2020 for all elements of the project.  

*Tennis and pickleball: The existing (currently unusable) tennis courts will be refurbished to include pickleball striping. Not sure how pickleball works? See the link under Resources at the end of this article. Tennis programs for all ages and lessons for kids will be organized through the Folwell rec center.

*New athletic field lighting: Four 70’ light poles will be erected in the west athletic field located along Knox Avenue (a variance has already been approved for the higher-than-standard light poles.) Adequate athletic field lighting is needed to meet the growing demand for youth field sports, with the added benefit of making Folwell more attractive to sports teams and event organizers from outside the neighborhood.

*New ADA-compliant trail: The new accessible trail will go from 37th/Knox Avenue to the play area containers and rec center. The sidewalk will be extended on the east side of Knox Avenue to provide access to the revitalized tennis courts.

*More lighting: New and improved lighting will be installed along the ADA trail and in the parking lot.

*Surface repair to new play container: The already-funded new play area that was completed last fall has some minor surfacing irregularities that are expected to be repaired spring/summer 2020.

Lighting of “the hill” addressed
Last summer, Folwell Park experienced a higher than usual occurrence of youth violence, with large groups of unruly teenagers gathering at the park, frequently favoring the poorly-lit area near the restrooms known as “the hill.” Following presentations by concerned citizens during MPRB’s Open Time on September 4, that included a direct request for more lighting for the hill, a temporary floodlight was installed that vastly improved illumination of this troublesome spot. MPRB will be replacing the temporary floodlight with a permanent fixture and will also be adding some trail lights in the general area.

Community leadership key to better parks
As City residents and park users, we help form the decisions surrounding improvements to our parks. Leadership on the part of your neighborhood association board is key if City parks are to meet our changing needs. There are 70 neighborhood associations in the City of Minneapolis, including  Folwell’s FNA (Folwell Neighborhood Association.)

During the preplanning phase of an improvement project, MPRB engage in various community outreach efforts and work to identify local stakeholders, whether this be a neighborhood association board member, committee chair or energized resident. Utilizing City-funded communication tools to connect with residents on park issues and improvement planning is an effective way for a neighborhood association to maximize outreach endeavors and influence the outcome of the planning process in a way that most benefits the neighborhood.

Ultimately, neighborhood association boards that do not proactively engage and collaborate with MPRB in this process, and who have no park committee or established park liaison, run the risk of finding themselves out of the park improvement planning loop, thereby doing a disservice to the people they represent. We should hold our neighborhood associations accountable for participating in these important planning processes that impact development of community green spaces and associated sports and leisure programming.

While ensuring our voices are heard does take time (and a certain degree of tenacity on occasion!), in my experience, MPRB is open to listening and acting on citizen input, both as it relates to a park’s improvement plan and maintenance/facility issues. Attending MPRB community engagement meetings, inviting MPRB representatives to neighborhood gatherings and board meetings, and presenting at MPRB’s Open Time are among the most productive methods of communicating concerns and building relationships with MPRB staff. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, neighbors!


Folwell Park Phase 1 Improvements website page (sign up for park-related email updates): minneapolisparks.org/park_care__improvements/park_projects/current_projects/folwell_park_phase_1_improvements/#group_3_1643186

What the heck is pickleball? youtube.com/watch?v=kqLRRNOpe8U

NSAMP: minneapolisparks.org/project_updates/newly-adopted-master-plan-guides-long-term-development-of-north-minneapolis-neighborhood-parks/

MPRB board meetings and information about Open Time: minneapolisparks.org/about_us/leadership_and_structure/board_meetings/