The Sierra Club’s priorities for Minneapolis Parks include: equity, environmental justice, reduction of carbon emissions, prevention of air and water pollution, protection and expansion of wildlife habitat, and improvement of transit and pedestrian opportunities to and within parks.
For more information about Northstar Chapter activities and priorities, please see http://www.sierraclub.org/minnesota
1. Why do you want to serve on the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board?
I want to grow a more sustainable, equitable, and engaged park system. I’m passionate about parks, land management, habitat restoration, and community empowerment.
2. What environmental efforts have you undertaken or achieved to improve the Minneapolis Park system or parks within your community?
I’ve recently been a member of the parks Urban Ag Implementation Team and a Co-chair of Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council. In both positions I’ve advocated successfully for policy changes that allow for food growing in parks, encourage pollinator protection, composting, soil health, and cleaner water. I’ve owned and operated an organic landscaping company for 13 years. My company focuses on pollinator gardens, rain gardens, food growing, community gardens, and organic lawn care. I understand and practice innovative methods for managing land without pesticides including the use of microscopes to analyze soil microbial communities. I’ve been a lifelong student of soil health and ecosystem health and as such I also educate folks on the best practices for protecting water, pollinators, and people in the landscape.
3. What do you see as the most pressing environmental issue facing Minneapolis parks? If you are (re-)elected as Park Commissioner, what specific policies or actions do you propose to address the Sierra Club priorities identified above?
Water protection is a key environmental issue in our parks. Most of our street sewer system empties into lakes, the river, and streams without any mitigation. We’re using so much salt on our roads that it’s choking our waterways with micro-pollutants that cause algal blooms and choke the water of air. I’d like to see the MPRB in conjunction with the City of Minneapolis and State of MN working together at developing water mitigation systems to handle all the street sewer water and filter it through macro-pollutant filters and micro-pollutant filtering water plant communities.
Habitat expansion and protection are also key. As a part of safe habitat protection we must eliminate pesticide use in our golf courses, ball fields, and parks. We must also find more areas where we currently mow which are underutilized by people in order to provide more pollinator habitat. We need to do better at managing invasive species, naturally, as such I’d like to work towards greater influence from grazing animals such as goats in our park wilderness areas in order to control invasive terrestrial plant species. Goats can graze during the day and plant prairies at night when properly managed, this is being done on a massive scale throughout many cities and states in the US, and I’d like to see us scale up our use of ruminant animals as a management strategy for wilderness areas.
We also have an opportunity to become leaders in soil carbon sequestration in the 6500 acres of Minneapolis Park land. I’ll work with the U of M and recognized climate and soil scientists from around the world to develop a system of soil carbon measuring and sequestration that can then be replicated by municipalities and private land owners around the US.
4. What steps will you take as a Park Commissioner to expand riverfront parks and to finish riverside pedestrian and bike paths in North and Northeast Minneapolis?
I’m fully supportive of the plans to expand parks and pedestrian and bike paths along the riverfront in North and Northeast Minneapolis. I’ll work with community groups to ensure that these expansions are done equitably and without gentrification of the surrounding neighborhoods.
I’ll work for a union jobs program and habitat restoration as a part of all new parkland development. We need new parks along the river in order to provide green space and a connection to the river for people in N and NE.
5. When, if ever, is it appropriate to privatize or sell public parkland? What is your position on the Hiawatha Golf Course?
I do not support any efforts to privatize park land, whatsoever. I will work to ensure that parks remain publicly owned and operated by union park employees. I am in a learning and listening phase regarding Hiawatha Golf Course. Any plans for the golf course space moving forward must meet a few tests for me, the space must remain a park, the space must begin to be used to protect and clean water. The space must provide safe and expanded habitat for wildlife, and all decisions about the space must be made with massive community input and support.
6. What is your position on the use of artificial turf in Minneapolis parks?
I am opposed to the use of artificial turf that utilizes shredded toxic tire waste as a part of it’s composition. I’m working to develop deep rooted, organically managed, pesticide free turf grass management strategies as a viable alternative to the use of artificial turf.
7. What specific steps will you take if (re-)elected to ensure that access to and quality of parks throughout the city—including upkeep of amenities like playgrounds, wading pools, tables, grills, etc.—are equitable across the city?
I will work with staff and commissioners to open a process of feedback gathering for developing more equitable park maintenance. I’ll put the parks Equity Matrix into greater use as a tool for developing equity. I’ll also work with Parks and Power, Juxtaposition Arts, and other community groups to receive guidance as a park system on where spending needs to occur in order to grow a more equitable park system.
8. The MPRB has a unique budget process. In what ways will you, if (re-)elected, work to bring greater integrity, fairness, and opportunity to the budgeting, procurement, and contracting processes?
I will work to make the park budget process an open and public involved process. I’d like to see the budgets for administration, mowing, pesticides, and police scrutinized more thoroughly in order to find savings that can be transferred to hiring more in-the-parks employees.
9. How will you ensure that parks are well-connected to the city’s bikeways?
I’ll work with the Bicycle Advisory Committee and Our Streets as well as long time park bicycle activists to learn how we can promote better connection between city and park bikeways.
10. What is your position on Crown Hydro?
I am against the placement of Crown Hydro’s turbines and electrical plant in and adjacent to the Mississippi. I am a huge supporter of solar and wind energy and will work to make sure 100% of our park energy is purchased through community wind and solar farms. Additionally I’ll work to use more geothermal energy in our park buildings as they are redeveloped.
11. Minneapolis parks include hundreds of miles of shoreline. How do you propose to improve litter collection in our parks to ensure that less trash pollutes our lakes and rivers?
I’ll work with our mowing staff to encourage them do sweeps of the parks for trash prior to mowing. Most trash in our waterways come from our street sewer systems. I’ll work to divert 100% of our street sewer run-off into mitigation systems that can collect macro and micro pollutants.
12. If you are (re-)elected, how will you develop stronger partnerships and collaboration with schools? Include ideas for coordination on after school access and programming, as well as partnering on environmental education opportunities, if applicable.
Kids need safe and engaging parks. I’ll work to collaborate directly with Minneapolis Public Schools to expand youth programming and environmental education opportunities. I’ll work to develop a nature education program that trains and promotes youth as nature educators who can then be paid to lead plant, soils, and clean water walks through the parks.
13. What should the role of the Park Police be?
I believe the role of the Park Police should be one of creating justice, safety, and community connection in our parks. In order to grow more justice, safety, and community connection I believe we must begin implementing restorative justice programs for people who receive misdemeanor charges in parks and that we must retrain police to become much more like park rangers. I’ve heard many stories from voters about abuses suffered due to overreach of authority by Park Police. I’d like to begin a truth and reconciliation process for community and Park Police to begin working through issues and developing a more just, fair, and engaged park police system.