Dennis C. Palm

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Obituary: Dennis Palm put the 'park' in Brooklyn Park

  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT
  • Star Tribune
  • November 15, 2012 - 8:03 PM

Potato fields far outnumbered parks when Dennis Palm became Brooklyn Park's first park and recreation director in 1965.

When he retired 32 years later, the city could boast of 65 parks, a major recreation center and Edinburgh USA, one of the Twin Cities' finest public golf courses.

"Denny put the 'park' in Brooklyn Park," said Don Davis, a longtime friend and former Brooklyn Park chief of police. Palm, 72, died Nov. 6 of a heart attack in Bonita Springs, Fla., where he spent winters.

Palm grew up in north Minneapolis, graduating from Patrick Henry High School, where he played several sports. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Minnesota, and then turned his passion for sports and recreation into his vocation.

Palm started in Wisconsin, becoming park and recreation director in a town north of Milwaukee. He then came to Brooklyn Park when the suburb -- now one of the area's biggest with more than 75,000 people -- had pockets of development, but was still largely rural.

Early on in his tenure, Palm began corralling city money to buy land for parks. "He created the neighborhood park system," said Jan Ficken, recreation manager for Brooklyn Park, who worked with Palm. "His philosophy was to have a park within walking distance of every house."

Palm was the driver behind Brooklyn Park's recreation center and indoor ice rink, which was built in the early 1980s. The referendum to fund it passed by only one vote, several of Palm's associates said.

But it would become a hub for the city, sporting a senior center and eventually a second ice rink, which is named after Palm.

Palm had bigger plans: a championship-caliber golf course. "When he started talking about a major golf course, I said, 'Denny, it's not going to happen,'" Davis said. But in 1987, Edinburgh USA opened to the public.

Designed by noted golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., Edinburgh has hosted seven tournaments for the Ladies Professional Golf Association. "Edinburgh USA is pretty much my dad's legacy," said Brent Palm, one of Palm's three children.

For both the golf course and Brooklyn Park's recreation center, the National Recreation and Park Association awarded Palm's department its gold medal for outstanding achievement.

Palm was well-known in local park and rec circles, but he also taught city government for 20 years at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park. Palm created the Brooklyn Park Athletic Association, the city's youth sports program, Brent Palm said. And he coached his own kids' sports teams.

In addition to his son Brent, Palm is survived by his wife of 50 years, Carolynn; another son, Mark Palm; a daughter, Roxann Maxey, and four grandchildren. Services have been held.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003

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