Message from Mayor Scott Lund reflecting on 2020.
I feel thankful for our great community when I look back at this past year. COVID-19 has been one of the most life-changing events we’ve experienced in 2020. It has changed the way we live and interact with others. I am, however, very appreciative of the way our city has handled these changes through the Stay at Home order and Stay Safe MN phase. Our healthcare workers, public safety personnel, public works and other essential workers have worked tirelessly on the front lines to keep our community safe and healthy. Our businesses have made modifications in order to continue providing their services under new guidelines. The Fridley community has come together to support one another – from sharing basic essentials to inventing new ways of connecting. Throughout, Fridley has stuck together, even when we’ve had to be apart. I am not sure what exactly the future holds with COVID-19, but I know our community will continue to persevere.
The social unrest that took place in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd deeply affected our Fridley community. I heard from many residents who voiced their concerns and fears during this difficult time. Our City Council is grateful for the leadership and participation from the Citizen Advisory Group, which is made up of 20 individuals who either live or work in Fridley and are from diverse backgrounds, professions, ethnicities and experiences. The group has been meeting monthly since 2018 with our Public Safety Director Brian Weierke to learn about public safety, to discuss crime, policies, and community needs. In addition to reviewing and commenting on important processes and policies like body cameras, they continue to provide important feedback and input, which makes a difference in how we can better serve our community.
I am so very proud of the volunteers that serve on our commissions and advisory groups like the Citizen Advisory Group and the Cops and Clergy Group. They dedicate their time and talents to help our community continue to dialogue over difficult topics, they help us to stay informed, remain relevant, and are a great part of what makes Fridley so very special.
In September, another hardship was brought upon our community when Fire Chief Mike Spencer unexpectedly passed away. We extend our deepest gratitude to Mike and his family for his many years of service to the Fridley community. As many have said, Mike will live on in the Fridley Fire family, and he will be with them in everything they do. He was a great leader who left his staff prepared for the future, but he will be greatly missed by the City and this community.
Even with hardship, there was still good that came out of 2020. In February, we gathered with the community at the Civic Campus as we celebrated a cherished piece of Fridley history, Columbia Arena. The event brought up old stories and memorabilia of past games, open skating and the Hollywood filming that took place there. At the event, there was a public art unveiling to showcase a new commemorative sculpture built with letters from the Columbia Arena sign. It is located in the lobby of the Fridley Civic Campus for all of us to enjoy.
This year also continued the trend for successful developments and redevelopments in Fridley. More businesses were welcomed to the community, such as Boot Barn and Caribou Coffee, with additional housing developments built by Pulte Patio Homes and Lennar Townhomes adjacent to the Civic Campus. We are excited as more business owners and residents are welcomed into our vibrant community. Many of us celebrated the fence coming down on University Avenue thanks to the input our community provided to the Minnesota Department of Transportation during the Highway 65 and 47 corridor study.
The Finding Your Fun in Fridley initiative hasn’t slowed down, even with the pandemic. The abundance of our parks and outdoor spaces have never been more in demand. Our staff was inspired to find new and creative ways to have fun and social distance. At the same time, they continued to work on the parks master plan by developing plans to revitalize and reimagine our parks and recreation opportunities throughout our community.
In November 2019, the Fridley Lions Club donated the last $50,000 needed to complete the new picnic pavilion and activity center at Springbrook Nature Center. Construction of the pavilion was completed this summer and has already provided additional opportunities for programming as well as a popular spot for outdoor picnics and gatherings. Thank you to the large grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, as well as the many donors and community partners like the Springbrook Nature Center Foundation who contributed so much to make this project possible!
Thank you again to the great Fridley community for working together to rise above the challenges of 2020 and to persevere with pride.
Stay safe and healthy. Happy New Year!
Mayor Scott Lund
Written Friday, September 25, 2020