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Posts about Parks and recreation

Rybak elaborates on lessons of a heart attack

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: January 20, 2014 - 2:52 PM
Rybak said he had more heart damage at his junior prom

Rybak said he had more heart damage at his junior prom. Photo of 1974 Breck School yearbook taken by Tane Danger

You can’t keep an ex-mayor down.

Last Wednesday, an aide to R.T. Rybak told a reporter that Rybak felt he had said all he needs to say about his recent heart attack.
Last Thursday, Rybak blogged 650 words on the topic.

In his post, Rybak said he’d suffered no permanent heart damage and was feeling better than he had in years.  That’s not surprising, considering that he’d had the cardiology equivalent of a Roto Rooter job on several arteries, with multiple angioplasties and stents.

Rybak said he’s doing cardiac rehab on a treadmill at Hennepin County Medical Center, but put in three full days at his new gig heading Generation Next’s focus on the achievement gap.

He said he’ll soon be back to a maniacal workout schedule, but not in time to ski this year’s City of Lake Loppet.  He’ll be at its Luminary Loppet that’s more of a social event, he said, but didn’t say whether he’ll be on skis.

He said that people have wondered how someone in his condition could have a heart attack. He said the blame is strictly attributable to genetics and his doctors have told him that conditioning contributed to his survival.  So his takeaway is to keep on sweating, with the help of medication to address his predisposition.  

Park employee Yonis charged with felony theft

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: January 17, 2014 - 3:36 PM

Hennepin County charged former Minneapolis parks employee Hashim Yonis with felony theft on Friday for allegedly collecting money for rental of a soccer field and then pocketing the money.

The county attorney's office charged Yonis with theft by swindle for allegedly pocketing more than $5,300 after renting to adults an artificial turf field at Currie Park that was built for youth soccer.

The charges follow Yonis's resignation of his job as a youth specialist with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in late October, shortly before a Park Board election in which he was a candidate.

Park officials moved to fire Yonis in August after an investigation, but later agreed to let him resign. Yonis, 26, who was also employed by Minneapolis schools, was put on administrative leave by the school district. He worked at South High School.

Yonis could not immediately be reached for comment Friday. In October, when asked about the criminal investigation by park police, he commented: “I believe the county has higher expectations than this petty stuff.”

According to the complaint, Yonis got more than $3,500 in cash from the organizer of an informal weekend soccer league for Latino adults and children.  But the largely East African community round the park began to complain to Commissioner Scott Vreeland and other park employees that fields weren't available for neighborhood children.

Afterward, Yonis tried to cover his tracks, according to the complaint filed by park police Sgt. Richard Doll, by telling the soccer organizer not to tell park officials that he had rented the field, or he'd not rent to the organizer.  The complaint also alleges that Yonis tried to postdate permits.  In addition to the previous rentals, Yonis said he had collected another $1,320 in cash rentals that the complaint said an investigator and supervisor found in a bag on the shelf of the office used by Yonis, hidden in a pile of notebooks.

The organizer asked Yonis for a receipt for the rentals to show to neighbors, but told investigators that Yonis repeatedly refused to do so.  The complaint said that that he paid Yonis inside an equipment shed at the field, where Yonis would count it and put it in his pocket.

Yonis finished midway down the list of 10 candidates for three at-large Park Board after the news broke.



Wristbands help automate online gym class

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: January 22, 2014 - 3:12 PM

After helping to lead Minnesota into online physical education courses almost 10 years ago, Minneapolis high schools are adding a wrinkle that automatically records a student’s physical activity.

Ten online PE students donned Movband step-tracking wristbands this fall in a pilot test aimed at automatic recording of their activity. When the second semester begins this month, at least 200 are expected to wear the $35 bands to make sure they meet the course’s requirement for physical movement.

Students who demoed the bands like that they download data as a substitute for having to do the online course's required computer logging of physical exercise.

“It’s a heckuva lot easier than entering [data] in every single day and hoping that they qualify,” said Washburn junior Noah Solfest.

To qualify their day’s activity, students must do at least 15,000 recorded moves (up from 12,000 in the pilot period) in a day, the equivalent of more than half an hour of activity; 30 such days are required per quarter.

The advantage for a student like Solfest is that activities ranging from pickup football to shoveling snow to participating in rehearsals for the school musical can add to his moves.              

For example, shoveling snow at home after a heavy snowfall can lead to as many as 6,000 moves, Solfest said.

The bands can also modify behavior. Some days, for example, Solfest has walked the two miles home from Washburn to his Northrop neighborhood home to top off his activity quota.

Online physical education includes a combination of computer-based study of healthy habits and exercise. It allowed Solfest to preserve time in his school calendar to take French and another elective.

With Minneapolis students typically having just two periods a day open for elective classes, which often are consumed by a foreign language and a music ensemble, fitting in the district’s physical education and health requirements can be a challenge. That’s one reason that a number of districts across Minnesota have piggybacked on the Minneapolis district’s entry into online physical education in 2005.  Goodrich said state education officials have told him  that tens of thousands of students across the state to date have taken online gym using the Minneapolis approach.

Nicola Lowry, a Southwest sophomore, took her health class in a classroom but opted for online physical education to preserve time for electives like wind ensemble, where she plays clarinet, and also painting during her freshman year.

She likes the Movband, which she prefers to wear on her ankle, because it lessens the need to log activities on a computer.

Lowry finds that her typical activities record between 6,000 and 10,000 moves a day, depending on how much she’s walking.  So she sometimes adds activities to hit her 12,000-move threshold. “If I see that I’m close, I’ll do something like walk a little extra,” she said. She was able to use the device to record hiking and cross-country skiing on the North Shore recently.

Frank Goodrich, a district physical education teacher who works with online students, said the wristbands are another way to integrate technology many students already use.  He said the district hopes to add a Facebook site

Apartment drainage again diverted to Calhoun

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: January 8, 2014 - 5:02 PM

A diversion pipe is being installed this week to route water being pumped into of the Calhoun-Isles lagoon, marking the second straight year that step has been taken to protect the lagoon's ice..

Minneapolis public works officials will contract for a 12-inch PVC pipe to be laid to divert water being pumped into the lagoon from an upscale apartment building t 1800 W. Lake St. The city recently sued the building's owner over the discharge of groundwater from the apartment site into a storm sewer entering the lagoon. The city argued that pumping was only temporarily permitted during the building's construction in 2011.

The diversion is an attempt to keep lagoon ice intact, according to Justin Long, an assistant parks superintendent. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board announced the diversion project on Wednesday but said the city is handling the contracting. It said the work will be completed by Jan. 16, and remain for about eight weeks.

The diversion project will cost about $45,000, according to the city, and extend for almost one-quarter mile.

Long said the diversion of water will follow a different route to Lake Calhoun this year. Last year, the pipe generally followed the east retaining wall of the lagoon before crossing near Lake Street to the north retaining wall of Calhoun, where it was discharged along the north shoreline. The plan this year is to route the pipe across the lagoon to its west retaining wall and follow that to the lake's north retaining wall. That will keep the pipe in a shadier spot during daily peak temperatures.

Last year, the pipe laid on the ice and the 55-degree temperature of the water it carried melted the pipe into the ice.  This year, the pipe will be raised a few inches atop spacers to prevent that, Long said. 

The main issue with warm water entering the lagoon is that softer ice endangers skaters and skiers, according to the city's lawsuit. It sued to end the discharge and to recover costs of dealing with the issue, including installing the winter piping.

Long said that park officials conferred with representatives of the City of Lake Loppet ski festival about how to include a ramp over the pipe for skiers for event races that use the lagoon and adjoining lakes.    

(Photo above: Chace Russell won a heat during ice-biking races held on the lagoon during the City of Lakes Loppet weekend.)

Rybak leaves hospital after heart attack

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: January 7, 2014 - 4:36 PM



Three days after sustaining what was described as a major heart attack, ex-mayor R.T. Rybak left Abbott Northwestern Hospital on Tuesday to recuperate.

Former aide Andy Holmaas released a statement Tuesday afternoon that said that Rybak will recuperate for "the next couple of weeks" after his release. He will then begin working at his new job as executive director of Generation Next, an fledging organization focused on closing the achievement gap in Minneapolis and St. Paul schools.

Holmaas said that doctors have performed two angioplasties and inserted six stents since Rybak entered the hospital after experiencing shortness of breath and chest pains while cross-country skiing at Theodore Wirth Park in Golden Valley.

Megan O'Hara, Rybak's wife, said in a voice message Monday that Rybak will bypass his typical skate-ski long race in the City of Lakes Loppet ski race this year. But she added that he hopes to participate in the weekend's more sedate luminary loppet ski tour on Feb. 1, the night before the marquee 42-kilometer race. Rybak helped to found the ski festival as part of a silent sports series and serves on the loppet foundation board.  

"The family is hoping others will learn from this experience making sure that everyone in their family is aware of their medical health history," Holmaas said in an e-mailed statement.

An angioplasty involves inserting a thin tube with a balloon through the blood stream and then inflating the balloon to reopen an artery closed or blocked by a buildup of plaque, and restore blood flow to the heart. A stent is a small tube that is inserted to buttress the inner wall of an artery.

(Photo above: Rybak skis in 2005 at City of Lakes Loppet events.  Staff photo by Duane Braley0



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