Theodore J. "Ted" Wirth, FASLA, was namesake and grandson of legendary Minneapolis Parks Superintendent Theodore Wirth. Following in his grandfather's footsteps, Ted made a name for himself as a landscape architect who during his long career designed more than 350 park and recreation areas throughout the United States and as far away as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. His work on municipal, state and national parks included turning a decaying industrial site on the Mississippi River in north Minneapolis into Boom Island Park, and conducting the conceptual studies for the Cedar Lake Trails that generated more than 60 miles of bicycle trails throughout Minneapolis.
Ted won the bid to develop the first national park in Saudi Arabia. His team of architects and landscape artists designed and built the 1.5 million-acre Asir National Park overlooking the Red Sea. In following the family credo, "Parks are for People," Asir included an amphitheater, tennis courts, fountains, wading pools, open space and shaded areas, soccer field and picnic grounds.
Wirth also designed and developed more than 80 parks in Kuwait City using green space to connect them. "You could say that Ted replicated what his grandfather had done in Minneapolis, and Ted's father's great work as the longest serving Director of the National Park Service," said Joan Berthiaume, co-founder of the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society and a family friend. "It is interesting to think about Ted being the first in his field to take the democratic principles of American public park planning to the middle east. Ted told me, 'We may as well have been in the middle of Kansas. People everywhere want the same amenities in their public parks -- safe shady places for their children to play, soccer fields, water features, and public gathering places. Public parks how humanity can learn to live together on common ground.' "
"Ted was quite passionate about parks," said Todd Clafin, who was project manager for Wirth's sprawling Kuwait Urban Garden project. "Ted truly believed that parks provide an important resource to people who live in a community and that parks add to the quality of life and essential for survival."
Ted Wirth was born in New Orleans to Conrad L. Wirth, the middle son of Theodore Wirth, and Helen Olson Wirth the daughter of St. Paul Horticulturist Olaf J. Olson. When young Ted was less than one year old, the family moved to Washington, D. C. where Conrad eventually became the longest serving Director of the National Park Service. Ted's childhood summers were often spent with his grandfather, who lived in the historic home built for the elder Wirth when he become parks superintendent in the early 1900s. After high school, Ted Wirth enrolled at the University of St. Thomas and later graduated with a degree in landscape architecture from Iowa State University in Ames. One of his first jobs was designing the Kentucky Dam State Park.
During his career with the National Park Service in the 1950s and 1960s, Ted worked on plans for Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and then on Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming before becoming the principal planner overseeing the design and development of both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks out of the National Park Service Western Design offices in San Francisco.
In 1961, Ted opened his own firm, Wirth Design Associates based in Billings, Mont., and designed a wide range of projects including more than 350 park and recreation areas in nearly every state.
Ted was a former president of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Of all the professional awards Ted received over his 59 year career, Ted was most proud to be recognized by his peers when he was elected a elected a Fellow of the ASLA.
Ted Wirth returned to his family's Minneapolis roots when he designed Boom Island Park in 1987. In recent years Ted had been living in Minneapolis where he devoted his efforts to helping the public know and understand how their park system came about.
Those efforts included forming the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society (MPLS), whose mission is "to preserve, protect and interpret the rich history of the Minneapolis Park System." Ted's organization has raised private funding and republished his grandfather's book, "Minneapolis Park System, 1883-1944," and also designed and created the Theodore Wirth Interpretive Statue Garden in Wirth Park.
Further, MPLS hired independent research to place the home and design offices of Theodore Wirth on the National Register of Historic Places. The project, not as yet complete, includes programming Ted himself developed to open the home for the people of Minneapolis, especially for the school children. Ted's goal was that through accurate historic restoration and public access to the home and design offices built for his Grandfather by the Minneapolis Park Board, the public could learn about who the pioneer park planner Theodore Wirth was and how he implemented his cutting edge vision and park planning to bring international acclaim our City through his design and development of the Minneapolis Park System.
Ted Wirth is survived by two children, Cherie and T. Jay, and six grandchildren.
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