Best Park - 2011
Mears Park in Lowertown St. Paul has undergone many changes over the years. For one thing, it used to be a hill. The land was donated to the city in 1849 and leveled not too long afterward. It underwent a renovation in the early 1970s, and in keeping with the developments of that era, the park became a mostly concrete and brick space, with a few trees. In the late '80s, the city started over, and the park we're familiar with now, complete with a little manmade creek running through it, was finished in 1992. That helped bring about the slow and still ongoing renaissance of the surrounding neighborhood. Today the park is bordered by several restaurants and bars. It has a large stage that hosts music and other events throughout the spring, summer, and fall, most notably the Concrete and Grass Festival every September. Even in winter the park is a lovely urban oasis, filled with twinkling lights. Lately nearby residents have taken up volunteer gardening duty, and colorful flowers bloom, beckoning passersby to stop and rest on a bench, admiring the natural beauty as well as the adjacent old architecture. Mears is now the most heavily used park per square foot in the city, and no wonder, as there's no more pleasant green space quite this accessible from our urban cores.