For decades, a trio of grassroots nonprofits have worked hand in hand with the city to nurture Roseville’s parks and recreation facilities, helping to fund critical improvements and add creative flourishes to the city’s greenspace.
Stroll the elevated boardwalk through the city’s nature preserve. Take in Roseville’s “Blooming Boulevard,” a breathtaking sweep of 7,000 flowers along Central Park’s Lexington Avenue entrance. Plan a playdate at the city’s new inclusive playground in Central Park. Amble through the Muriel Salihn Arboretum. Lace up for an ice skating excursion at the Guidant John Rose MN OVAL.
Those features and programs were all funded by three parks philanthropies: Friends of Roseville Parks, Friends of the OVAL Foundation, and the Roseville Central Park Foundation.
Combined, the groups have poured millions of dollars into the city’s parks system during the past half century. All three groups are amping up fundraising and recruiting new members to bring an infusion of funds and fresh ideas to their organizations.
“Roseville is a really special community that’s invested in the parks and recreation system. We have one of the best parks and recreation systems in the country. That's partially due to the efforts of these groups,” said Roseville Parks & Recreation Director Matthew Johnson. “These groups have allowed us to really take that system to the next level by allowing us to take good projects and make them exceptional.”
Both the Roseville Central Park Foundation and the Friends of Roseville Parks, or FOR Parks, were started in the 1960s. While the foundation is focused on the city’s 225-acre signature greenspace, FOR Parks promotes the development and maintenance of all of Roseville’s parks and recreational facilities.
“The city has their budget for the parks. We are always trying to do something that’s a little extra,” explains FOR Parks President Debby Willmus. “For example, when the city put in all the new parks buildings a few years ago, we asked, ‘What would make them a little better?’”
The answer: FOR Parks paid for all stone hearth fireplaces in the six new buildings. They added the fountain and aeriation systems at Lake Bennett in Central Park. In 2021, FOR Parks facilitated a significant, anonymous donation to upgrade the Central Park Victoria playground to a fully inclusive playground and added four accessible fitness pods to the nearby pathway loop.
FOR Parks’ marquee fundraiser is Tapped & Uncorked, an annual craft beer, wine, cider and spirits tasting event at the Guidant John Rose MN OVAL in the fall. They also host designer handbag bingo and other events throughout the year.
In 2023, growing membership and momentum is a strategic priority, said FOR Parks Board member and past president Eleanor Ostman Aune.
“Our membership has subsided in recent years especially during the pandemic when we couldn’t host events. It is important we maintain our membership because we don’t want to fade away,” Ostman Aune said. “We are very interested in getting young families involved.” Learn more about FOR Parks at FriendsofRosevilleParks.org.
Many of the amenities that are now staples of Central Park were originally made possible by significant contributions from the Roseville Central Park Foundation. They include the interpretive building at the Harriet Alexander Nature Center, the restroom and staging area at the Muriel Sahlin Arboretum and multiple playgrounds.
“Central Park is the centerpiece of the City of Roseville's extensive park system. Its 225 acres bring benefits to residents and visitors alike,” said Central Park Foundation Board Member Bob Bierscheid. “This beautiful park provides opportunities for enhancing both physical and mental health as well as fostering a sense of community.”
Most recently, the Foundation added lighting to the arboretum trails and parking lot and last fall began a project to pave all of the arboretum's pathways to make them accessible to individuals of all abilities. Learn more about the Central Park Foundation at RosevilleCentralPark.com.
In 1993, the city opened what is now the Guidant John Rose Minnesota OVAL - the largest refrigerated ice sheet in North America measuring in at 110,000 square feet. The Friends of the OVAL Foundation was created to build support for the regional attraction. The OVAL is part of The Roseville Skating Center, which includes the outdoor ice sheet, an indoor ice area, outdoor skate park, and a multi-purpose banquet facility.
The group is working to grow its funds to establish an endowment that can pay for major operational enhancements.
Over the years, the Friends of the OVAL have contributed to ongoing operational expenses and to a number of key facility upgrades including the netting that separates hockey players from recreational skaters, emergency refrigeration system repairs, and updates to the sound and video equipment.
“The Friends of the OVAL is here to support the operation of the OVAL and to help the community understand what a great asset it is and to build a strong base of support,” said Luci Botzek, Friends of the OVAL Foundation president.
Botzek said they plan to establish a new annual fundraiser, to replace the Chill Gala and are seeking new members.
Johnson praised the public-philanthropic partnerships that helped the city build and maintain its nationally recognized parks system.
"Our friends group really take our existing strong assets and make them exceptional, both financially and with their ongoing support and advocacy. We couldn’t do what we do without these groups,” Johnson said. Learn more about Friends of the OVAL at SkatetheOval.com.