NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Thursday October 19th 2017

Keep citizen journalism alive!

Donatebutton_narrow

Archives

Cedar Field: History, Requests, and Changes

LOCATION AND HISTORY

Cedar Avenue Field sits on a portion of a block between Cedar and 18th Avenues in the East Phillips neighborhood. Immediately to the north is the Little Earth Residents Association (LERA) building and the Little Earth of United Tribes Community is located across Cedar Avenue to the east. Cedar Avenue serves as the primary public park for the Little Earth Community.

In the summer of 1916 MPRB received petitions from area residents for a neighborhood park. MPRB reached out to David Stewart of St. Albans, Maine, who had previously donated land and funds to create Stewart Park farther west. In October of 1916 Stewart donated 1.89 acres of land (about one-half block) across 25th Street from the original South High School.

In response to requests for improving the land in 1919, the park board authorized spending up to $1,000 to improve the empty ground for a small combination baseball and football field. The action came in response to several requests, including one from the coach at South High School for his teams to be able to use the field. This was part of an overall plan for the park, featured in the 1919 annual report, which included a playground for children, a small shelter and wading pool. The estimated cost of the plan was $30,000, which would have been assessed against property owners in the area. The park is named for the street that runs alongside it.

Without assessment, the park board could only implement the ballfield, so in 1920 the field was graded and a backstop and benches were installed, as well as a sandbox for children. Playground equipment was installed in 1921.

In 1973, the 212-unit housing development Little Earth was constructed east of Cedar Avenue and on the land occupied by the original South High School. Little Earth is the only American Indian preference project-based Section 8 rental assistance community in the United States.

Cedar Avenue Field was upgraded in 1969 with the installation of playground equipment and creation of a hard-surfaced play area. The park was renovated again in 2003 with new playground equipment, a basketball court, and landscaping improvements. The hard courts were resurfaced in 2011.

EXISTING CONDITIONS AND CHARACTER

Cedar Field currently contains a play area, a basketball court with two back-to-back hoops, and an informal open field that is used for baseball practice and other lawn activities. Pathways wander through the park, with benches and picnic tables scattered throughout. The park is protected from busy Cedar Avenue by a low berm and fence. Additional fencing along the southern edge of the park separates it from housing and an alley. Yet another fence defines the northern boundary of the park and creates a separation between the Little Earth buildings and the park.  Near the northeastern corner of the park, a pedestrian bridge with switchback ramps allows pedestrians to cross over Cedar Avenue to other areas of Little Earth.

During the community engagement process for Cedar Avenue Field, safety concerns were frequently expressed.  Specifically stated was the fact that the park may be serving as a “safe haven” for illegal activity. As described repeatedly by community members, the Little Earth Community, being private, can patrol for and evict trespassers anywhere—until they enter the public land of the park. An ongoing discussion about making the park more safe, potentially through involvement by Little Earth, is warranted.

Overall, the park is a shady greenspace within a dense urban community. It is only a few blocks from East Phillips Park but has a much different user group and a much different feel. Cedar Avenue Field seems more relaxed and passive than East Phillips—more casual and cool. The amenities within the park are in moderate condition, though several safety concerns were raised related to specific park assets. The community notes regular sale of illegal drugs from cars parked for extensive periods of time along 18th Avenue. Those drugs are often used immediately in the park, on the benches and tables along 18th, and paraphernalia is often disposed of in the playground sand. Children and parents regularly find needles and other materials in the playground, and currently MPRB’s maintenance staff sift the sand regularly to remove them. The benches and tables are in very poor condition and the playground surfacing should be reconsidered.

THE PROPOSED DESIGN

The design for Cedar Avenue Field is meant to improve safety in the park while also bringing new and unique amenities for a larger age range of youth in the neighborhood. The playground is retained in its same general location—though refurbished at the end of its useful life.  The playground area has a full resilient rubber surface (or equivalent), which will prevent the disposal of drug paraphernalia. As this is a critical concern for the community, it would be possible and recommended to replace the surfacing in the short term, even if the playground equipment itself is not immediately replaced.  Another change meant to improve safety is the removal of all seating on the 18th Avenue side of the park. A new picnic area, with tables, grills, and a small open-air shelter, is located in the northeast corner of the park. This area—though closer to Cedar Avenue—will allow for the desired use of the park for picnicking, but create less of a convenient grounds for drug purchase and use. In addition, MPRB should work with the city and community to advocate for restricted parking along 18th Avenue, to prevent long- term staging of drug sale vehicles.

Overall the park features a curving path with more active uses on one side and open green space on the other. The green space accommodates a practice baseball field with backstop but can also be used for pick-up soccer, kite-flying, lawn games, gatherings, and other uses. The active side includes the playground, a new full-court basketball court (which could include multiple baskets at varying heights along the sidelines for multi-age play) and a paved volleyball court. A “skate trail” snakes along the eastern edge of the park, between the courts and the Cedar Avenue fence. This linear skate facility will attract a variety of age groups to the park and improve safety through increased activity. The trail should be hard surfaced and include a variety of banked curves, jumps, rails, and other exciting features.

At the northern end of the park, adjacent to the Little Earth buildings, the design breaks down the barrier between park and Little Earth, in order to facilitate more deliberate use of the park by youth and adults in the community. A new plaza stretches from the southern building entrance into the park. The plaza could feature large tables for games and homework, permanent ping-pong tables, large-scale chess and checkers, and other fun ideas for play. This space is meant to be very flexible, to be used for outdoor classes, kids hanging out, families having lunch together, formal ceremonies, and whatever else the community can think of. To the side of this is a small water-jet play area. This feature will help activate the plaza, provide a lovely backdrop for the park as a whole, and also offer a small scale water play zone.  The jets can be turned off and the area converted to a small stage for performances, gatherings, and ceremonies. The programming of the plaza and water play spaces should be considered an open discussion with the Little Earth Community and larger neighborhood.  Regular involvement in and use of the park by the immediately adjacent community will increase safety in the park and make it more fun for all users. MPRB should continue discussions with the community about management and programming of the space, for the mutual benefit of community youth and MPRB maintenance and public safety staff.

Throughout the discussions of the design concepts, the community had many suggestions and ideas related to lighting and fencing. These discussions should be continued during detailed design. Lighting in the park is important for safety reasons, and permanent cameras should be considered. Fencing along 18th Avenue is not recommended, except where necessary for the baseball diamond. Fencing along Cedar Avenue and the southern property line is retained, but the northern fencing between the park and Little Earth is removed to allow improved connectivity.

KNOWN LAND USE AND COORDINATION ISSUES

Coordination with Little Earth of United Tribes will be necessary during implementation of the northern plaza space, as it will cross the MPRB property line. Little Earth was involved in the master planning process and community members endorse this concept.

Coordination with the City of Minneapolis and advocacy from the East Phillips Improvement Coalition (EPIC) and Little Earth will be necessary to implement parking restrictions along 18th Avenue.

Share this with your friends:
  • email
  • Print
  • PDF
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks

Leave a Reply