The ideas range from as big as a new linear park in the North Loop leading to the river to as small as converting a little-used park triangle in Elliot Park neighborhood to a dog park.

They're among the suggestions that are being presented by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board this month for public comment as planning for the next generation of downtown parks advances.

New parks are proposed in the mostly parkless North Loop, but fresh ideas are also being aired for long-established parks that ring downtown.

For example, at small Franklin Steele Square on Portland Avenue, one major idea is to erect a wall along the freeway. That could serve as a canvas for sculptural lighting, a place to project movies, a noise wall

and shelter for an orchard walkway. At Loring Park, there are ideas to improving the circulation from the Loring Greenway into the park and the Berger fountain site.

None of these ideas is certain to happen within the 25-year time frame of the master planning for downtown parks, but those that are approved will create an agenda for future park development within that period. This planning effort is one of two the Park Board is conducting now for areas of the city. The south area is the other, and future planning will happen for north, northeast and southwest Minneapolis.

The park planning is linking with city efforts to plan downtown streets and public spaces with a pedestrian emphasis. That effort will categorize streets. One group is those with distinct features that draw people, such as Nicollet Mall, First Avenue, Cedar-Riverside or SE Main Street. Another includes streets with neighborhood-serving amenities. The third represents streets that connect people with destinations, One such street is the proposed Samatar Crossing along the Hiawatha LRT Trail that would link Cedar-Riverside with Downtown East. That study is expected to be ready for public comment in a few weeks, according to Kjersti Monson, the city;s director of long-range planning.

Jennifer Ringold, the deputy park superintendent, cited the suggested long-skinny park in the North Loop as an example of how moving ahead with some proposals will happen only if there's buy-in with developers and other landowners in that area.

The sketches that evolved after workshops and public comment portray a series of parks and potential connections between them. One end would be the Metro Transit bus garage and offices, where a $100 million expansion is planned. The other would be at West River Parkway, where an earlier planning effort suggested adding to a riverside park with Star Tribune land next to that company's printing plant.

One of the parks suggested would cluster active uses such as a skate park or BMX facility under the extended freeway ramps adjacent to N. 4th Street that link downtown with Interstate 94 north. Park officials have also discussed concepts with North Loop developer Schafer Richardson that might integrate parks with the firm's development plans for a key parcel.

The park route sketched in planning maps generally follows near the historical course of Bassett Creek, Ringold said that daylighting that creek isn't feasible, in part because much of its flow has been redirected

through a deep drain to the river under downtown. But she said one idea that's emerged is to excavate two sturdy single-arch stone bridges that carried cars across the creek. Those could be showcased by flanking them with plazas that step down or feature boulders, she said.

The park planning effort is built in part on grouping downtown area parks into clusters, each with a hub park. The four under Park Board jurisdiction are Loring, Elliot, the proposed North Loop chain of parks, and the proposed Water Works Park at the west end of the Stone Arch Bridge.  

Two more opportunities remain for public comment on park concepts developed to date. One is Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at Loring Community Arts Center, 1382 Willow St. Another geared toward downtown workers is scheduled for Dec. 16 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at New Century Theater, 615 Hennepin Av., Suite 145.  A completed plan is expected to go to the Park Board for action next spring.          

(Photos: above--A dog park is suggested for Park Avenue Triangle, 1001 Park Avenue; middle--Berger Fountain would become a greater focal point of Loring Park; bottom--plazas could slope down to excavated railroad bridges over Bassett Creek in the North Loop.)