A new, linear park in the North Loop leading to the Mississippi River is among the proposals by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board as it maps out the future of downtown's green spaces.

Converting a little-used park triangle in the Elliot Park neighborhood to a dog park also is among the suggestions that are being presented this month for public comment.

Fresh ideas also are being aired for long-established parks that ring downtown.

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 improve 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 master plan for downtown parks, but those that are approved will create an agenda for park development. 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 planning will happen later for north, northeast and southwest Minneapolis.

The park planning goes hand in hand with city efforts to make downtown streets and public spaces more pedestrian-friendly. One emphasis: streets that connect people with destinations, such as 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, deputy park superintendent, cited the suggested long, skinny park in the mostly parkless 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.

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 northbound Interstate 94. And park officials have discussed concepts with North Loop developer Schafer Richardson that might integrate parks with the firm's development plans for a key parcel.

One more opportunity remains for public comment on park concepts. A session geared toward downtown workers is scheduled for Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at New Century Theater, 615 Hennepin Av. S., Suite 145. A completed plan is expected to go to the Park Board for action next spring.

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