“I hope to always be a tourist in this city. When I cross Hennepin Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River on my way to work, I often find myself in awe of the national landmark on our doorstep. Sometimes I stand next to the Grain Belt sign with the awareness that I’m walking across a national divide – from the Pillsbury side to the Gold Medal side over the natural wonder that helped grow the city I plan to call home for many years.”
– UP Sunrise event attendee, Minneapolis resident (1 year)
It’s easy to appreciate the Mississippi’s powerful force on foot over a bridge – the speed of the water and the pounding sound – but it’s also easy to forget that this river is the birthplace of the tiny frontier settlement that grew into the 422K-resident metropolis we know today. The river powered Minneapolis’ thriving milling and logging industries that contributed to the economic prosperity of our growing city through the late 1800s.
Today, the upper and lower St. Anthony Lock and Dam plants alone generate a combined 24 megawatts of electricity per hour. That’s enough to power over 17,000 homes.
For over a hundred years, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (formerly the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners) has worked to preserve access to the historical river. Today, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation and the Board strive to strengthen the Minneapolis community’s sense of stewardship and connection to the Mississippi and preserve the urban park spaces integral to mitigating the impacts of climate change in urban areas.
Sponsoring the Park Foundation’s annual Sunrise on the Mississippi event is just one way United Properties is creating deep roots in the Minneapolis community. The 5th annual event raised over $110,000 for the Minneapolis Parks Foundation’s work.
This year’s Sunrise was hosted at Boom Island Park on the unmistakably end-of-summer morning of Sept. 5. Attendees enjoyed mingling over hot coffee and tea under a fireplace pavilion before making their way under the tent for the program and breakfast overlooking the Mississippi.
Keynote speaker Paul Huttner, Chief Meteorologist at MPR, first woke the audience with stats highlighting the very real global impacts of climate change for perspective. Huttner then zeroed in on Minneapolis’ context and the importance of park space and preservation efforts in bracing for the impacts of climate change in metropolitan and riverside areas.
Data from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicate that the years 2014-2018 had the warmest global temperatures of any year since 1881. Since 1970, average temperatures in Minnesota have risen 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit; average temperatures in Minneapolis have risen 3.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’re younger than 34, you have not experienced a cooler-than-average month.
These numbers seem small, but ground-level ozone is more concentrated on hotter days, magnifying the impacts of heat stress. Warmer air also holds more moisture, so as the climate warms, heavier rains are projected to continue to increase the instance of flooding in urban areas.
Fortunately, parks can mitigate many of the issues associated with a warming world.
- Trees not only provide shade and filter pollutants, they perform evapotranspiration, a process by which evaporating water cools the surrounding air.
- Parks near rivers provide a buffer zone for floods so heavy rainfalls do not cripple a city’s economy.
- Green things in parks reflect more sunlight than dark urban rooftops, helping them achieve temperatures 5-10 degrees cooler than normal for a typical downtown.
Access Huttner’s full presentation here.
Minneapolis Park Board Superintendent Al Bangoura then recounted the influence of parks on his youth in Milwaukee and his journey to a role overseeing Minneapolis parks. He was elected in late 2018 after a national search and is proud to lead “the premier park system in the country.”
United Properties shares Bangoura’s belief in the ability of parks to transform human life and considers the benefits to our clients, our communities, and our planet as we continue to care for the roots that originated the great City of Minneapolis. Though these benefits are not immediately tangible, one thing’s for sure: You’ve got to know your city’s roots and aspirations for your roots to take hold, and there are few places better than the banks of the Mighty Miss at sunrise to contemplate that.