Friends of Roseville Parks celebrating 50th with a party

courtesy of Friends of Roseville Parks Friends of Roseville Parks, a nonprofit that supports extra amenities for the city’s parks system, is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary with a Feb. 22 celebration.

photos courtesy of Friends of Roseville Parks A newspaper clipping announcing the group’s founding in February 1969 as the Central Park Foundation Auxiliary. The organization changed its name to Friends in the 1980s. Charter member Luella Zibell, 82, is still active with the group and is second on the left, behind the snowmobile.

A newspaper clipping detailing the group’s 25th anniversary event, including a photo of Marie Slawik, whose idea became Friends of Roseville Parks.

Some of the Friends’ more visible work is the Blooming Boulevard on Lexington Avenue.

According to the most recent Roseville community survey, the city’s parks system is considered a “crown jewel” by residents. 

That doesn’t happen without the buy-in of both the city and those who live there, along with a little help from some friends.

For the past 50 years, Friends of Roseville Parks has raised money to supply the city’s shared spaces with extra amenities, those that the municipal budget can’t cover.

Since 1969, the organization has donated more than $500,000 to improve what members already consider to be wonderful places.

“We have some of the surrounding city’s most beautiful parks,” says Friends President Sharon Brown. “I love the outdoors, I love walking, I love giving back to the community.”

The 62-year-old Roseville resident says the Friends’ recent work should be visible to anybody familiar with the city’s green spaces.

The group is responsible for the flowers on Lexington Avenue in the summer, fireplaces in six of the city’s recently built park buildings and the tree feature inside the Harriet Alexander Nature Center.

Most recently, Brown says, Friends donated $50,000 to support patio upgrades at the city’s Cedarholm Community Building, which opened last year.

The group supports its work with various annual events, and one of this year’s fundraisers is doubling as its golden anniversary celebration.

Called “50 Years and All That Jazz,” the party is Friday, Feb. 22, at the Roseville Skating Center.


Auxiliary to Friends

What became the Friends of Roseville Parks started in February 1969 as the Central Park Auxiliary, according to Luella Zibell. She would know — the 82-year-old Roseville resident is a charter member of the group, with which she’s still active.

Zibell’s husband was active with the Central Park Foundation, and she says the idea for the Auxiliary came from Marie Slawik, who, as she pointed out, is the Mar in Har Mar Mall.

Joining the new group was an obvious move, Zibell said — “I grew up in the era where that’s what women did” — and the Auxiliary’s early efforts complimented those of the Central Park Foundation.

The group changed it’s name and the scope of its work in the 1980s, moving from supporting just Central Park to Roseville’s entire parks system.

Zibell says she’s seen the Friends’ fundraising efforts evolve over the years, from selling snow cones in Central Park during Fourth of July celebrations to the group’s now 6-year-old Tapped and Uncorked, an event that features local craft beer and food trucks.


All hands

Friends members say the group’s camaraderie is a tie that binds, as well as a simple commitment to the city’s parks.

Zibell says her first Roseville home was near Autumn Grove. “Our daughter spent lots of time in that park.”

For past Friends president and 50th anniversary event organizer Mary Holt, it’s Reservoir Woods that tops her list. She says she was on a neighborhood task force in the late 1990s that was working on what to do with the park frequented by her kids, and that she fought to keep it a green space.

Holt, 58 and a Roseville resident, says the Reservoir Woods experience launched her to two terms on the city Parks and Recreation Commission, and then into membership and leadership with Friends of Roseville Parks. 

“That’s been my calling,” she says.

As organizer of the anniversary event, Holt says it’s a bid to add to the group’s membership. The Friends recently moved its meetings from mornings to evenings in order to be more convenient for younger, working people.

“Becoming a member of FOR doesn’t mean you have to attend meetings,” Holt says. “It’s just supporting our mission and having the opportunity to volunteer if you want to.”

That said, Holt notes, “People find out it’s really fun.”

“Quite a few board members don’t even live in Roseville,” she adds, “and that speaks to how great our parks are.”


‘Oh, I think its wonderful’

More than publicity, though, Holt says the event is a celebration. “50 years has been a long time of just a group of women working to raise funds.”

Says Brown, “There have been so many inspirational women that have been before me ... every past group, every year, has improved our community going forward, and kudos to them. They’ve left something for the generations to come, and that’s what we’re about.”

Zibell agrees it’s an occasion worthy of a party. “Oh, I think it’s wonderful.”

“We’ve grown along with the city and what can be offered through the parks system,” she says, noting some of the Friends’ most recent work has centered on the new Unity Park, near the Rice Street and Larpenteur Avenue intersection.

“It’s fun to be a part of an organization that has the good of the community in mind,” says Zibell. “It’s Americana at its best.”


–Mike Munzenrider can be reached at or 651-748-7813. 

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