University students study Riverside Park

Humphrey students find lack of knowledge an issue.

Riverside Park has been receiving attention from Cedar Humphrey Action Neighborhood Collaborative Engagement class members. Thursday, Holly Aprea and Desiree Culpitt presented their community based research after a semester of work with the Riverside Park Neighborhood Task Force and the West Bank Community Coalition to determine actions that could be taken to improve the park. Main issues identified by Aprea and Culpitt were underuse of the park, concerns about safety and an invasive plant called buckthorn. Safety concerns and buckthorn are actually intertwined. The plant is large and obstructs vision in the park, according to Aprea and CulpittâÄôs presentation. Aprea and Culpitt also found many people do not know there is an upper or lower section to the park, something Andrew Lee, Riverside Park Neighborhood Taskforce Chair and coalition board member said could possibly be attributed to buckthorn. âÄúBuckthorn shades out everything else, it kind of becomes a secluded place that you donâÄôt know that you can get up there,âÄù Lee said. âÄúNefarious things can happen there at night.âÄù Aprea and Culpitt surveyed 220 community members, interviewed 18 institutional, community and local government leaders as well as identifying potential partners and places for funding. Through their research, they identified seven key themes, including improving access to a community resource, building strategic partnerships with funders and volunteers and collaborating with those with competing interests to manage parks in the neighborhood. The park, 40 acres situated north of Highway 94, near West River Parkway, 8th Street and 27th Avenue South, is one of the oldest in the neighborhood. Amenities include a basketball court, baseball field and a wading pool, according to the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board Website. The task force and Friends of the Mississippi River will use Aprea and CulpittâÄôs research after an ecological plan is developed for the park. The plan is expected to be done by early fall. In the meantime, the taskforce will continue talking to the park board as much as they can, Lee, said. Sophia Ginis, coalition board member, said that a lot of people know about Riverside Park, but do not know that they actually know about it. âÄúThere is a great need in this community for green space,âÄù Ginis said. âÄúOne of the concerns weâÄôve heard at the WBCC is that elders and children need facilities.âÄù Aprea and Culpitt included members of the Cedar Riverside Youth Council to determine needs of youth, but Culpitt said that one of the challenges they faced in doing their research was language. âÄúBecause this neighborhood is so diverse, there are a lot of other languages that are more prevalent,âÄù she said. The pair was going to find translators to help deliver the survey to people who do not speak English, but due to time constraints did not. Aprea and Culpitt tested volunteer interest on earth day, when members of the community, including students living in Middlebrook Hall, turned out to help clean up the park. Aprea said in their presentation that she thought finding volunteer interest was going to be one of the easiest things to accomplish. Greg Lindsey, associate dean and University professor, said there were five other projects going on this particular project based course. Each project consults with an external client and that in this particular course the projects were focused on a neighborhood. Presentations given in the last week of class are their final project.