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Published July 21, 2024

Updates to Witch’s Hat Tower, emergency services, Valhalla Clinic in Prospect Park

The Prospect Park community shares thoughts and concerns with local leaders about neighborhood policing, the Witch’s Hat Tower and the Valhalla Clinic.
Image by Gabrielle Erenstein
Park Board Commissioner Billy Menz and Council Member Robin Wonsley listen to residents during a Prospect Park community meeting at the Luxton Park Recreation Center on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. The Prospect Park Association gathered residents and leaders on Tuesday to discuss recent updates and concerns.

The Prospect Park Association (PPA) held a community meeting Tuesday evening where local leaders and residents discussed emergency response calls, changes to a nearby medical clinic and an update to the Witch’s Hat Tower. 

Minneapolis City Council member Robin Wonsley (Ward 2) led the meeting with PPA Vice President Britt Howell, PPA Secretary David Frank and Commissioner Billy Menz from the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board. The focus of the meeting was the reopening of the Witch’s Hat Tower, policing in Prospect Park and the Valhalla Clinic.

The Witch’s Hat Tower

The historic Witch’s Hat Tower is set to be re-opened either fall 2024 or spring 2025, according to Wonsley. Around $350,000 will be allocated to the Tower for repairs, which will start this year. 

Wonsley said an agreement regarding maintenance, jurisdiction, liability and more would also be established before the Tower’s re-opening. The City Council and the city’s Parks and Recreation Board are currently working on the agreement. 

The Witch’s Hat Tower is located in Tower Hill Park within the Prospect Park neighborhood and has been a community staple for decades. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tower was closed and fell into disrepair. 

Many community members, such as Joe Ring, have noticed the lack of maintenance and attention to the Tower. In the meeting on Tuesday evening, Ring said he has heard complaints from visitors about the untamed trees at the base of the Tower blocking the view of Minneapolis. 

“A few weeks ago I met people from Dubai and they were there with three children. They were here scoping out the University of Minnesota for their kids to go to school and they were very, very disappointed,” Ring said. “There is a real issue on how the maintenance has been done on the foliage.” 

Policing in Minneapolis

Second Precinct Inspector Nicholas Torborg and Crime Prevention Specialist Teila Zoller spoke with residents at the PPA meeting and received multiple questions about the community’s trust with Minneapolis policing and the differences between calling 911 and 311. 

Zoller said the city’s 311 call number is for non-emergency, suspicious activity the police should be aware of and added if you witness something that does not seem safe or believe something dangerous could happen, call 911. 

“Just call 911,” Zoller said. “The worst thing they can say is, ‘Sorry, we’re not going to do anything with this, call 311.’”

Prospect Park resident Mary Britton said she hesitates to call the police because of the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) use of force. 

“What changes have taken place where I can feel like I’m not putting somebody’s life in danger when I don’t know what they’re doing?” Britton said.

Torborg said MPD has credibility issues and referenced the death of Justine Damond in 2017 as unacceptable behavior the department is seeking to correct. According to Torborg, notable changes to MPD include the hiring of Police Chief Brian O’Hara in 2022, a whole new command staff and a stricter policy on body cameras. 

“The sanctity of life is clearly our number one priority now on calls,” Torborg said. “We do our best and that’s emphasized.”

Valhalla Clinic/Behavioral Health Group 

Regional Director of Behavioral Health Group Debbie Gray said the clinic now offers free Narcan and walk-in appointments with their care physicians. Gray added the clinic is re-branding from Valhalla Clinic to Behavioral Health Group. 

Prospect Park resident Kate Needleman said she is concerned about security in the residential neighborhood where the clinic operates. Resident Kari Simonson added Needleman’s property is next to a vacant lot near the clinic and gets littered with used needles. 

“So will you then provide security? Will you branch out into the neighborhood to kind of become a better neighbor?” Needleman said. 

Gray said they have security guards on site but since they do not own the building, she is not sure they can make the area safer. Gray encouraged the community to share ideas with her about how to help them feel safer. 

“The biggest thing too is people need help and I think if they feel cared for, hopefully some of that behavior will get better,” Gray said “But in reality, probably, it is hard.” 

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  • Kari Simonson
    Mar 2, 2024 at 12:37 pm

    Actually, Behavioral Health Group does own the building! So, when Gray said they don’t own the building, she was lying.

    The building is listed in the Hennepin County property tax records as being owned by Alliance Clinic, LLC, which is a group that was bought by Behavioral Health Group. Gray mentioned that ownership of Alliance earlier in the evening.

  • Ken DeYoe
    Feb 28, 2024 at 1:07 pm

    I would hope a decision to go to the U wouldn’t rest on how well trees are maintained. ‍♂️‍♂️