Grant Series: Recreation for all in Minneapolis, Minnesota

June 23, 2019


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Recreation for all

The Loppet Foundation’s goal is to build community around outdoor adventure. Based out of the Theodore Wirth Park — a 760-acre regional park just two miles from downtown Minneapolis — the Loppet Foundation’s work is focused on getting more people active and on bikes, with particular emphasis on underserved communities. In 2016, Loppet applied for and received a $10,000 PeopleForBikes Community Grant to build new trails within Theodore Wirth Park. Close to Minneapolis’s urban core, the park serves diverse and low-income neighborhoods.


Engage the underserved

To increase equity in the outdoors, Loppet engages a wide-range of people. They do this largely through the structure of their programming. Loppet offers a variety of events and clubs that attract the traditional outdoor and mountain bike populations. With the fees generated from these races and club memberships — as well as grants — Loppet provides free outreach programs for the underserved families of the community.

According to Ali Parsons Towle, Associate Development Director at The Loppet Foundation, their programs engage 1,200 kids per year from north Minneapolis, the area right next to the park. Towle says they facilitate a summer adventure camp open to 8-14 year-olds of all socioeconomic backgrounds. “Middle and upper income families pay $200 per person to participate in camp. And then we use grants and revenue generated from those fees to scholarship in at least 200 kids from underserved backgrounds each year.”  

The park recently added a meeting point and headquarters for outdoor activities called The Trailhead. Towle says high schoolers who have gone through the outreach program are hired as seasonal and part-time workers. “We keep the kids involved through programming and then through employment.”



Urban mountain biking

With the PeopleForBikes grant, Loppet built three new miles of mountain bike trails consisting of a wide one-mile trail, which is great for bike races, and two-miles of narrower trails that are more technically challenging. The trails also include a slalom course, a skills training area for people new to mountain biking, and a pump track. The trails opened last year, and events started right away. People have already been racing on the trails, and when they’re not being raced on, the trails become multi-use and are open for people to hike, run, and snow-shoe. “If you’re welcoming to everyone,” Towle says, “and establish rules so that no one is stepping on anyone else, then more people want to be part of it.”


Making it happen

  • First, determine whether there’s a market for recreation. Note if there are populations that would benefit — and if there is a dedicated group of volunteers who could make it happen, even if there isn’t a lot of funding right away.
  • Engage people from different backgrounds — reach out to those who might not have any experience in outdoor recreation, but are interested in trying it.
  • Secure revenue generating streams. Tell the story of potential outcomes to people who have the means to support you.


Outdoor activity betters the whole community

“Mountain biking involves movement, being outdoors, and informed risk,” Towles says, “it requires people to step outside of their comfort zone a little bit, but in a way that enables them to succeed.” She believes that when more people spend time outdoors with their neighbors, it strengthens the community — it’s a net gain for everyone. These activities help people develop grit, perseverance and pride in their accomplishments. “Those skills and personality traits can transfer into all other areas of life,” she says. “You can literally use mountain biking as a tool for creating better humans. I’ve heard so many people say, ‘Wow, I just did something I didn’t think I could do yesterday, what can I do tomorrow?’”


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