Candidate Forum – MPRB

MPRB Candidates

The Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis, Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds and the Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary sent the following questionnaire to all the Minneapolis MPRB candidates –

MPRB Candidate Questionnaire

1.  How would you rate the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s current efforts to preserve, protect, maintain, and enhance natural resources in the Minneapolis park system? What can the MPRB do better as a steward of our natural resources?

2.  Where do environmental concerns fit in the range of challenges facing the park system? What are your top three environmental priorities if you are elected to the MPRB?

3.  The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park is an Important Bird Area, meaning that it’s considered very important for the conservation of bird populations. Recent projects in Wirth Park and master plans for Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet do not mention this status and do not provide for protecting bird habitat in these areas. As a Park Board Commissioner, what would you do to preserve and enhance bird habitat?

4.  Research shows that millions of birds are killed annually by building collisions in the U.S. Would you support a policy that requires bird-friendly building design in all new buildings and renovations on parkland? Why or why not?

5.  Do you support a transition to a pesticide-free Minneapolis Park system? Why or why not?

6.  Recent research refers to a “nature deficit disorder” meaning that human beings, especially children, are spending less unstructured time outdoors, contributing to a wide range of behavioral problems. What will you do as a Park Board Commissioner to protect the remaining undeveloped natural areas that provide city residents with experiences in Nature?

Here are their responses in order received –

Russ Henry – At-Large

1.  How would you rate the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’scurrent efforts to preserve, protect, maintain, and enhance natural resources in the Minneapolis park system? What can the MPRB do better as a steward of our natural resources?

The MPRB has made significant strides towards preserving, protecting, and maintaining the ecosystems of Minneapolis.  There are still many areas of improvement that can be made.  I’d like to see the MPRB work with the State of MN and watershed districts to severely reduce the inflow of polluted water into local lakes, creeks, and the river by diverting street sewer systems into macro-pollutant traps as well as mitigation channels and wetlands before the water enters lakes, creeks, and the river.  

I’ll work for reduced mowing in many mostly unused areas of parks so that we can use less petroleum in our parks and reestablish native prairie landscapes throughout the city.  I’ll also work for elimination of pesticides and a transition to soil microbiology management so we can grow healthy ecosystems from the ground up.  

I’m working towards the creation of a parks Zero Waste Plan that will include elimination of the use of throw away plates and dishes by our park vendors by creating a central dish washing facility which can supply, deliver, and wash all the MPRB vendor and event dishes.

I believe it is also time to reintroduce ruminant animals in the form of goat herds, in the wilderness areas of our park system including the river gorge, Theodore Wirth Park, and along the creeks in Minneapolis as a way of controlling buckthorn and other shrubby species in order to further the invasive species control as well as the prairie and meadow restoration work that MPRB has engaged in.  

We can and must do more as a park system to encourage and support the local food system as well.  I’m ready to work with Minneapolis Public Schools and local food entrepreneurs to grow more opportunities for the local food system to thrive in our parks.  Fruit trees in parks, pollinator habitat, urban farms and community gardens on empty city lots, more robust community kitchens, and further partnerships with local food businesses and activists are all part of a stronger local food system in our parks.

2.  Where do environmental concerns fit in the range of challenges facing the park system? What are your top three environmental priorities if you are elected to the MPRB? 

The top concerns facing the MPRB are in the areas of environment, equity, and a fair, safe work place.  My top environmental priorities are:

1.  Eliminate pesticide use at Minneapolis Parks.

2.  Cleaning street sewer water and other forms of run-off before they enter local bodies of water.

3.  Reestablishing and revitalizing native landscapes in Minneapolis by reduced mowing, establishing management with ruminant animals, and replanting of native species.

3.  The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park is an Important Bird Area, meaning that it’s considered very important for the conservation of bird populations. Recent projects in Wirth Park and master plans for Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet do not mention this status and do not provide for protecting bird habitat in these areas. As a Park Board Commissioner, what would you do to preserve and enhance bird habitat?

First, any new building or building revamp in our parks must include bird safe glass.  I’d like to work with local universities on bird population studies throughout our park system so we can see what type of birds are doing well in the various environments we offer.  I’m also a proponent of eliminating pesticides.  All pesticides kill insects which means less food for birds.  An herbicide the MPRB commonly uses on ball fields and golf courses, 2-4-d is often mistaken for seed by birds and eaten which kills the birds who ingest it.  I’ve been working for an elimination of pesticides to protect people and wildlife.  

It’s time for Minneapolis parks to become a nationally recognized leader in bird habitat preservation and creation.  If we do it right, we can teach other park systems, municipalities, and land owners how to manage spaces to protect birds. 

  1. Research shows that millions of birds are killed annually by building collisions in the U.S. Would you support a policy that requires bird-friendly building design in all new buildings and renovations on parkland? Why or why not?

Yes, 100%.  I was dismayed to learn that the current park board has voted to not force one of their partners to build with bird safe glass in Theodore Wirth Park.  The Park Board also passed on the opportunity they had to force the Viking’s Stadium to use bird safe glass.  This is an abdication of responsibility to protect habitat, wildlife, and create a better space for people.  

  1. Do you support a transition to a pesticide-free Minneapolis Park system? Why or why not?

Yes, 100%.  For 13 years I’ve owned and operated a landscaping company that has never used a drop of pesticides on our clients properties.  I am confident that with the right training we can transition to a pesticide free park system.  Pesticides are toxic to people, soil microbes, insects, birds, and wild animals.  Pesticides are manufactured by some of the most polluting, inequitable, and dangerous companies on Earth.  

We can manage our parks without pesticides once we receive the proper training, I’ll work to bring in nationally recognized leaders in pesticide free management so we can eliminate pesticides in our park system.

  1. Recent research refers to a “nature deficit disorder” meaning that human beings, especially children, are spending less unstructured time outdoors, contributing to a wide range of behavioral problems. What will you do as a Park Board Commissioner to protect the remaining undeveloped natural areas that provide city residents with experiences in Nature?

I’ll work to set up a nature ambassadors program that teaches youth how to be ambassadors to the natural world for Minneapolis residents.  We need to educate and empower residents and park visitors to find the inherent importance of protecting natural ecosystems.  I’ll work to set aside more land as habitat and work to protect waterways with every decision I make.  

I’ll never vote to sell park land.  I’ll work to reduce the negative impacts of many of our land management strategies.   I’ll continue to fight for health, happiness, and engagement for Minneapolis residents in our parks!

Bob Fine – District 6

1.    How would you rate the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s current efforts to preserve, protect, maintain, and enhance natural resources in the Minneapolis park system? What can the MPRB do better as a steward of our natural resources?

Rating something requires the basis for which to make the comparison with.  Although, I have not served on the Park Board the past nearly four years but having served the previous 16 years,  I can say that I am happy with the efforts of the Park Board over the last two decades to preserve and enhance natural resources.  This includes my representation of the Board as a member of Clean Water Partnership to establish wetlands protecting our lakes and waters; my membership on task force of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to deal with invasive species among other matters; and my time as Commissioner on the MIssissippi Watershed Management Organization to deal with many issues.  This is besides efforts made by the entire Board..  Can they do better?  Yes, as various issues of protecting our natural resourc es, we must continue to be on the forefront and deal with the many issues confronting the system, as a whole.

2.  Where do environmental concerns fit in the range of challenges facing the park system? What are your top three environmental priorities if you are elected to the MPRB?

This is a major concern in the challenges facing our great system.  We must continue to preserve our natural environment and not let up.  The top three environmental priorities, not necessarily in this order is to preserve our natural water system and continue to closely monitor the wetlands and look towards whatever improvements are necessary;  we must protect our urban forest, with when considering cutbacks in staff by current board must be brought back to preserve the urban forest and the challenges it will continue to face with diseases, etc.; and to protect the land; which should not have the effect of ignoring the many issues like continuing to acquire more parkland especially along the River.

3.  The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park is an Important Bird Area, meaning that it’s considered very important for the conservation of bird populations. Recent projects in Wirth Park and master plans for Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet do not mention this status and do not provide for protecting bird habitat in these areas. As a Park Board Commissioner, what would you do to preserve and enhance bird habitat?

It is important to protect the birds and their habitat as an important element of the natural system.  As a Commissioner, I opposed the suggestion of other Commissioners attempting to disrupt habitat in establishing a dog park which would damage the environment and affect fly over areas.  I would continue to protect bird habitat and have a personal reason, as I have raised chickens in my yard for over six years.  My personal affinity is towards birds and have an affinity toward any types of birds.  I am a close follower of the Audubon Society for which I have held membership for a long time.

4.  Research shows that millions of birds are killed annually by building collisions in the U.S. Would you support a policy that requires bird-friendly building design in all new buildings and renovations on parkland? Why or why not?

Yes.  We need to consider design in buildings, but am not a supporter of buildings on park land.

5.  Do you support a transition to a pesticide-free Minneapolis Park system? Why or why not?

Yes.  We have made great inroads in the last two decades towards being pesticide free.  We need to consult with environmental staff on the limited pesticide use.   In the past, some pesticide use was directed at some invasive species, such as buckthorn, which is so difficult to remove and is counter to the natural system we are trying to maintain.

6.  Recent research refers to a “nature deficit disorder” meaning that human beings, especially children, are spending less unstructured time outdoors, contributing to a wide range of behavioral problems. What will you do as a Park Board Commissioner to protect the remaining undeveloped natural areas that provide city residents with experiences in Nature?

First of all, there is a concern of children spending less unstructured time outdoors.  I have been involved for over forty years in coaching children in our parks. My focus has been in building positive use of time, while encouraging their spending time outdoors.  As a Commissioner, I will continue to protect and expand undeveloped natural areas that provide city residents with experiencing nature.  I was instrumental in bringing the nature center in North Mississippi area.  I have also been seriously involved in negotiating acquisition of land along the Mississippi River.  But more important I made the transaction with the airport when we acquired what is 40 acres of what is now called Solomon Park, an undeveloped area that is available. My experience has been not to just give lip service to these ideas, but to actually complete and acquire.  I intend, on using my background in real estate law, to continue to expand the park land, which is meant mostly for passive use.

Tom Nordyke – District 4 

1.  How would you rate the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s current efforts to preserve, protect, maintain, and enhance natural resources in the Minneapolis park system?

 I would rate it pretty high. My experience with the Park Board, having served as its President, is that there will always be a tension between protecting and enhancing the natural resources of the system with the demands of a system in a built urban environment and the demands of recreation, transportation and uses that the public expects of the system. But, in general I do think the Park Board does a good job in this regard.

1a.  What can the MPRB do better as a steward of our natural resources?

There are many, but I would very much like to see the MPRB redouble its efforts at improving water quality throughout the system.  Clean water is the foundation for a healthy and diverse ecosystem and while the MPRB, City and County have made a lot of progress over the past several decades there is much more we could do.

 2.  Where do environmental concerns fit in the range of challenges facing the park system?

As I stated above, our park system operates within a heavily built urban environment. The demands that are put on the system, particularly regarding recreation, are not always compatible with our goals of an environmentally sustainable system and protecting our natural resources. For me, the environmental concerns need to come first. If we ignore the environmental concerns, the system itself will fail and not be acceptable for anyone.

 2a.  What are your top three environmental priorities if you are elected to the MPRB?

Improved water quality, preservation of undeveloped natural areas and expand and preserve our wetlands.

 3.  The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park is an Important Bird Area, meaning that it’s considered very important for the conservation of bird populations. Recent projects in Wirth Park and master plans for Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet do not mention this status and do not provide for protecting bird habitat in these areas. As a Park Board Commissioner, what would you do to preserve and enhance bird habitat?

I would support including the preservation and enhancement of bird habitat as a metric in the MPRB Planning process.

 4.  Research shows that millions of birds are killed annually by building collisions in the U.S. Would you support a policy that requires bird-friendly building design in all new buildings and renovations on parkland? Why or why not?

I would. This consideration is already part of the building code in the City of Minneapolis and should be part of the MPRB as well.

 5.  Do you support a transition to a pesticide-free Minneapolis Park system? Why or why not?

I do not support an immediate transition, no. We simply do not have options for dealing with some of the invasive species other than our current use of pesticides and herbicides, which the MPRB uses very sparingly. I do support the idea of moving toward a pesticide/herbicide free MPRB as technology and resources allow.

 6.  Recent research refers to a “nature deficit disorder” meaning that human beings, especially children, are spending less unstructured time outdoors, contributing to a wide range of behavioral problems. What will you do as a Park Board Commissioner to protect the remaining undeveloped natural areas that provide city residents with experiences in Nature?

I am a firm believer in the Nature Deficit Disorder research and clearly the MPRB has a role to play in addressing it within our community. I will always work for the preservation of the undeveloped natural areas within the MPRB System.

Devin Hogan – At-Large

1.     How would you rate the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s current efforts to preserve, protect, maintain, and enhance natural resources in the Minneapolis park system? What can the MPRB do better as a steward of our natural resources?

The MPRB must recognize it exists on stolen Dakota land. We must ground our public stewardship in the understanding of – and partnership with – those who were stewards of the land for millennia before us.

I would rate the MPRB’s current efforts well. They have partnered on two major district stormwater investments — The Sculpture Garden and Towerside in Prospect Park — while opening up to practical solutions like goats and partially banning glyphosate (Roundup). The Ecological System Plan and Urban Agriculture Activity Plan offer new opportunities to grow equity in the parks. The MPRB has also made strategic investments in asset management and environmental data, which will provide for better-informed decisions to build the wealth of our natural resources. These are all good first steps.

It’s time for the Minneapolis, Hennepin County, and the Met Council to get serious about the MPRB’s role in combatting climate change. Actively working to build carbon-negative parks best plays to our strengths as a system. This means decreasing our carbon footprint while increasing our carbon sequestration handprint. We must look for integrated solutions, such as taking on the municipal Organics Recycling program, which would provide the resources to build soil by composting at scale. We can likewise reduce carbon footprints by understanding how our parks can be part of creating healthy, walkable neighborhoods.

2.     Where do environmental concerns fit in the range of challenges facing the park system? What are your top three environmental priorities if you are elected to the MPRB?

Environmental concerns are human concerns and vice versa. Many pressing racial and socioeconomic issues intersect in Human Ecology. Fortunately, fifteen percent (15%) of the land and water in Minneapolis is under public control via the independently-elected Park Board. We can marshall the power of government and nature to achieve environmental justice for both flora/fauna and human society together. I would like the Park Board and Minneapolis Public Schools to mutually expand their ecological education. The Mississippi Watershed Management Organization has already partnered with Edison High School and Northeast Middle School in this fashion, and I believe that is something we can build on throughout Minneapolis.

Devin for Parks Environmental Priorities:

  1. Tree cover – The Park Board is responsible for 600,000 trees. The urban canopy is the only public infrastructure that increases in value over time. Properly investing in trees from the start minimizes their long-term maintenance. We must replenish the Tree Preservation and Reforestation Fund, and work to get more trees on public non-MPRB land (MNDOT, Minneapolis/Hennepin County) while developing a staffing plan to grow this investment sustainably.

  2. Aquatic Invasive Species – Millfoil is a continuing problem in the Chain of Lakes, and a zebra mussel was recently found in Lake Harriet. I recognize the wider importance of this issue while admittedly having an incomplete understanding of the solutions. I am glad we have had our great Park Board staff working on this for many years.

  3. Regional Watershed Issues – I am familiar with two complex watershed issues within Minneapolis – Basset Creek/Spring Lake/Chain of Lakes and Minnehaha Creek/Lake Hiawatha/Lake Nokomis/Mother Lake. The MPRB must understand these matters are about more than just the Southwest Light Rail and Hiawatha Golf Course respectively, and think BIG about solutions like they’ve done for the riverfront.

3.     The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park is an Important Bird Area, meaning that it’s considered very important for the conservation of bird populations. Recent projects in Wirth Park and master plans for Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet do not mention this status and do not provide for protecting bird habitat in these areas. As a Park Board Commissioner, what would you do to preserve and enhance bird habitat?

The Chain of Lakes, Theodore Wirth Park, and the Mississippi riverfront are the only Important Bird Areas in Minneapolis. We can use the Ecological System Plan to examine and build on the role the Grand Rounds and parkways can play in creating new bird habitat, especially as this system connects all 6 Regional Parks and major waterways. We should also continue to grow our urban canopy citywide, and look at constructing complementary habitats that can be paid for with new NPP20 money such as bird feeders and bat houses in neighborhood parks.

4.     Research shows that millions of birds are killed annually by building collisions in the U.S. Would you support a policy that requires bird-friendly building design in all new buildings and renovations on parkland? Why or why not?

 YES! Especially in flyways/Important Bird Areas. A policy requiring bird-friendly building design needs to be done at the state level.

The new downtown football stadium and the outsourced Trailhead building in Theodore Wirth Park both sit in a national flyway yet these “public” buildings don’t have bird safe glass. The corporate vision of Public-Private Partnerships and “the market” decided the birds just aren’t worth it.

5.     Do you support a transition to a pesticide-free Minneapolis Park system? Why or why not?

YES! This is just the first step to get to carbon negative parks. Decrease the carbon footprint of petrochemical solutions while increasing the carbon sequestration handprint of composting to build soil and stronger ecosystems.

6.     Recent research refers to a “nature deficit disorder” meaning that human beings, especially children, are spending less unstructured time outdoors, contributing to a wide range of behavioral problems. What will you do as a Park Board Commissioner to protect the remaining undeveloped natural areas that provide city residents with experiences in Nature?

Let kids be kids!! The DNR is sitting on piles of recreation money designated for getting more people out in nature and on the water. I would like the Park Board to tap into this funding in a more strategic way, and teach kids low-impact sporting activities like hiking and geocaching, plus long-term healthy habits like how to fish and grow food. I would also like the Park Board, National Park Service, and Audubon Society to partner in developing a range of birding-specific activities including education and habitat building throughout Minneapolis.

The Roberts and Eloise Butler sanctuaries plus Coldwater Spring on the Mississippi are true undeveloped treasures and we must provide for more unstructured access for these spaces in ways that preserve and enhance their mission. Most of the remaining undeveloped areas in Minneapolis are industrial uses along the North/Northeast riverfront. Unless the Park Board advocates for the City of Minneapolis to address our greater affordable housing crisis, improving these river amenities can and will price out families that have lived in North Minneapolis for years. “Green space” for its own sake is bad for the Earth if it prevents walkability and bikeability in an urban setting. The city and its parks belong to all of us, and we must strike the right balance to serve everyone well. Urbanism is environmentalism.

 Jono Cowgill – District 4


1. How would you rate the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s current efforts to preserve, protect, maintain,and enhance natural resources in the Minneapolis park system?

The Park Board has done a laudable job of preserving and enhancing the natural resources of the park system. From the Integrated Pest Management Plan and restoration of wetland spaces along the river to sustainable Buckthorn management practices using goats, the Park Board has shown itself to be responsive in the need to continuously improve its approach to natural resource stewardship.


1a.  What can the MPRB do better as a steward of our natural resources?

A changing, living, breathing city like this one requires constant innovation in how we steward our open spaces. Being responsive to new best practices, and leading the way on collaborative processes with neighborhoods, the City and County, and local environmental organizations like Metro Blooms and Womens Environemtal Institute, are a few ways
the MPRB can improve in creating a more sustainable and natural park system.


2. Where do environmental concerns fit in the range of challenges facing the park system? What are your top three environmental priorities if you are elected to the MPRB?

1. Severely reducing, and potentially ending, pesticide use in our parks.
2. Reducing the amount of mowable land in our parks.
3. Developing an integrated composting program to reduce waste and pollution in collaboration with the City of Minneapolis.
3. The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park is an Important Bird Area, meaning that it’s considered very important for the conservation of bird populations. Recent projects in Wirth Park and master plans for Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet do not mention this status and do not provide for protecting bird habitat in these areas.

3.  As a Park Board Commissioner, what would you do to preserve and enhance bird habitat?

I would incorporate this Important Bird Area status into all development and maintenance planning: identifying practices, plantings, and other tactics that will best ensure that birds thrive within the chain of lakes and throughout the park system. I would also take recommendations from leading conservation organizations regarding improved policies and procedures to help our bird populations thrive. Finally, I support reducing mowable land and creating enhanced habitat for birds and other animals.


4. Research shows that millions of birds are killed annually by building collisions in the U.S. Would you support a policy that requires bird-friendly building design in all new buildings and renovations on parkland? Why or why not?

Yes, I would support policy that would ensure that bird-friendliness be a primary design consideration for new buildings built on park land. I believe that our parks function as an urban habitat for many species and we have a responsibility to ensure that our infrastructure does not pose unneeded danger to the animals who call our parks home.

5. Do you support a transition to a pesticide-free Minneapolis Park system? Why or why not?

Yes, I do. I have been talking about this issue since I began my campaign. I think it is important because pesticides and herbicides are dangerous for everyone, especially our wildlife, pets, and children. Moving towards a pesticide-free system is in fact an attainable goal that could be an example to the entire midwest region.

6. Recent research refers to a “nature deficit disorder” meaning that human beings, especially children, are spending less unstructured time outdoors, contributing to a wide range of behavioral problems. What will you do as a Park Board Commissioner to protect the remaining undeveloped natural areas that provide city residents with experiences in Nature?

I support preserving all of our park land as public park land in perpetuity. I also support increasing the amount of park land that has natural features. FInally, I will advocate for more nature programming, using partnerships with Minneapolis Public Schools and nonprofit organizations like MetroBlooms.

Meg Forney – At-Large

1.  How would you rate the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s current efforts to preserve, protect, maintain, and enhance natural resources in the Minneapolis park system? What can the MPRB do better as a steward of our natural resources?

 For an urban park system, quite good but needs greater protection.  The recently formed Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) Regional Park Racial Equity Matrix weighs heaviest on natural aspects to preserve and to protect.  The matrix seeks to quantifiably evaluate regional parks and trails and ensure that investments are equitably targeted.  The Natural Resource Asset Condition will weigh three characteristics: remnant native plant communities, tree canopy and water quality.  MPRB’s priorities will be to protect those areas of highest quality before restoring new areas.  Specifically the scoring will indicate presence or absence of the three characteristics. These resources and related recreation are the primary purpose of the regional park system.

 The exciting aspect of the proposed matrix is the inclusion of Opportunity Facilities where there are incomplete pedestrian and bicycle connections to and between other regional parks like the Above the Falls and the Grand Rounds Missing Link. I am grateful to our staff for leading in this first ever initiative.  Our staff are rock stars.

 MPRB’s 2018 budget development will be set with this matrix’s lens.

2.  Where do environmental concerns fit in the range of challenges facing the park system?  What are your top three environmental priorities if you are elected to the MPRB?

 MPRB shall continue to seek

  • Sustainable, renewable infrastructure installed whether new or renovated,

  • Accessibility to our natural resources for all,

  • Environmental quality of air, soil and water sustained or improved.

3.  The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park is an Important Bird Area, meaning that it’s considered very important for the conservation of bird populations. Recent projects in Wirth Park and master plans for Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet do not mention this status and do not provide for protecting bird habitat in these areas. As a Park Board Commissioner, what would you do to preserve and enhance bird habitat?

I am advocating for a bird-safe glass policy in conjunction with the Minneapolis Audubon Chapter.  Presently, the City of Minneapolis’s only policy relevant to the bird protection is regarding any new skyways.  MPRB needs to lead with a broad based policy incorporating:

  • Limiting the risk in the built environment for birds.

  • Sustaining and conserving existing site features during construction for biodiversity, viable species and richness on the site and restore the area damage by construction to sustain water, soil and plant cover functions.

  • Reducing light pollution, improving night sky access, and reducing development impact on nocturnal environments.

  • Reducing heat islands to minimize impact to human and wildlife habitat.

  • Minimizing the development’s footprint, avoiding sites whose natural features and functions are valuable to fragile soil, water and flora/fauna.

4.  Research shows that millions of birds are killed annually by building collisions in the U.S. Would you support a policy that requires bird-friendly building design in all new buildings and renovations on parkland?  Why or why not?

 Yes as indicated above.

 5.  Do you support a transition to a pesticide-free Minneapolis Park system? Why or why not?

 Yes, our integrated pest management policy has pro-actively reduced use annually.  I am excited to continue the use of alternative methods like goats for invasive species control.  We have 2,800 acres of the park system as natural areas, which include upland and lowland forests, woodlands, shrublands, grasslands, wetlands and lakes.  In instances where non-native vegetation encroaches or crowds out native vegetation, management interventions focusing on prevention, cultural, mechanical and biological methods of control are often necessary.  All parkland must as well be managed in accordance with the Minnesota Noxious Weed Law.

6.  Recent research refers to a “nature deficit disorder” meaning that human beings, especially children, are spending less unstructured time outdoors, contributing to a wide range of behavioral problems.  What will you do as a Park Board Commissioner to protect the remaining undeveloped natural areas that provide city residents with experiences in Nature?

I treasure my mother’s encouragement of our “unstructured” time outdoors in the woods and grieve the diminished access to natural open spaces for our growing urban youth population.  Our Regional Park Racial Equity Matrix will set a course for protections of MPRB’s natural areas.  MPRB’s goal to restore Hall’s Island in the Mississippi River for new habitat and restored ecological function will transform currently low habitat‐value segments of the river corridor through this island and shoreline restoration.  The opportunity to reestablish this area along a major bird migration and flyway zone needs to also limit pedestrian access as a means of protecting the habitat.  Attention to shoreline restoration at the Upper Harbor Terminal is equally critical in establishing a quality water habitat on, in and above the Mississippi.

Charles Exner – District 3

1.  How would you rate the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s current efforts to preserve, protect, maintain, and enhance natural resources in the Minneapolis park system? What can the MPRB do better as a steward of our natural resources?

The intentions of the current MPRB seem to be genuine as far as environmental stewardship.  However, they are clearly lacking in a naturalist background and a holistic perspective.  Even the smallest parks seem to need gazebos and pavilions instead of open green space. Placards on trees denoting their age and species would foster a greater respect for our nonhuman neighbors. With my academic background in Environmental Studies and career history as an environmental consultant, I can guide the MPRB in a way that is more in tune with nature.

2.  Where do environmental concerns fit in the range of challenges facing the park system? What are your top three environmental priorities if you are elected to the MPRB?

Environmental concerns

1-     The MPRB has been under fire from former employees and activist groups about their poor environmental justice efforts.  The MPRB has washed their hands of any issues relating to biased staffing and outreach.  We need a board-appointed Environmental Justice Officer to make ensure that the superintendent, the park police, and the board itself follow an EJ Framework in all decisions.

2-     The amount of concrete and asphalt in our parks is shameful.  I would propose we transition to resin-bound permeable pavement to stop the urban runoff that causes algal blooms in our lakes and devastates the ecosystems therein.

3-     Holistic planning—we can use our parks to create a pollinator’s path through the city for our migratory friends, and plan ahead in new buildings to ensure that they will be able to bear the weight of solar panels in the future.

3.  The Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park is an Important Bird Area, meaning that it’s considered very important for the conservation of bird populations. Recent projects in Wirth Park and master plans for Bde Maka Ska and Lake Harriet do not mention this status and do not provide for protecting bird habitat in these areas. As a Park Board Commissioner, what would you do to preserve and enhance bird habitat?

It’s my belief that we need to take our nonhuman neighbors into consideration, and not just have them in the periphery.  Nonhuman communities should be included in the initial planning stages for all new projects: how will it affect their populations? Will it attract pollinators? Is it stable for migratory species? I support building wood duck houses, bat houses, and making sure our park plantings are focused on the ecosystems they interact not, not solely based on pleasing human eyes.

Riparian sedge and grass plantings should be decided based on what is the typical preference for nest construction for birds.  The current MPRB cares more about developers, contractors, and hypothetical new residents than our current communities—human and nonhuman.  We also need pollinator-friendly plants: milkweed, echnicaea, and black-eyed susan, in every single park.

4.  Research shows that millions of birds are killed annually by building collisions in the U.S. Would you support a policy that requires bird-friendly building design in all new buildings and renovations on parkland? Why or why not?

I was greatly disturbed this summer when I learned that the new staff building would not require bird-safe glass.  The MPRB is the only government office that is directly accountable to the nonhuman residents of our city—plant and animal—and making our city into an ecosystem where animals are considered, instead of just a human domicilie where animals are pests.  I would always support for new buildings to be bird friendly and only support third-party contracts with construction companies that have successfully integrated birdsafe designs in previous construction projects.

5.  Do you support a transition to a pesticide-free Minneapolis Park system? Why or why not?

While I served on the Environmental Stewardship Committee at Augsburg College, we discussed the various efforts led our groundskeeper at Murphy Square.  Murphy Square, although a Minneapolis Park, is managed by Augsburg.  I think I could work with the staff there on starting a pesticide-free pilot program and envisioning ways to cut back on pesticides and eventually eliminate them. We can begin by replacing some of the Bermuda grass with alternative turfs and take it from there.

6.  Recent research refers to a “nature deficit disorder” meaning that human beings, especially children, are spending less unstructured time outdoors, contributing to a wide range of behavioral problems. What will you do as a Park Board Commissioner to protect the remaining undeveloped natural areas that provide city residents with experiences in Nature? 

 I am a fond disciple of Richard Louv and have integrated my belief in Vitamin N to various speeches and statements I have made in the past.  One of the biggest problems the MPRB has is the seemingly unrestricted urge to place impermeable pavements down in every park, pop up metal and plastic playgrounds, and put so many gazebos and pavilions down that there is no natural space left.  For playground construction, we should follow the Berlin Model and create playgrounds that celebrate, not inhibit, critical thinking in youth.  We can also endeavor to natural, wooden play structures as much as possible in our playgrounds.

After going on a 10-day canoe trip down the Mississippi, I became a big fan of “adventure education” which I think the MPRB could promote.  Currently there is log-rolling at the lakes for adults, and we could similar activities for all ages.

 

The following Candidates for MPRB have not responded –

Bob Sullentrop

Londel French

Mike Derus

Charlie Casserly

LaTrisha Vetaw

Jonathan Honerbrink

Billy Menz

Mohamed Issa Barre

Chris Meyer

Mike Talley Tate

Kale Severson

AK Hassan

Abdi Gurhan Mohamed

Bill Shroyer

Steffanie Musich

Andrea Fahrenkrug

Jennifer Zielinski

Brad Bourn

Robert Schlosser