Park Notes

Lake, stream buffers up for a vote

The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Board is expected to vote Thursday June 20 on rules to create new vegetative buffers next to lakes and streams -- an issue that has put it at odds with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

The District says the buffers would improve water quality, provide wildlife habitat and prevent shoreline erosion.

Park Board staff said the buffers make sense for undeveloped areas where new subdivisions encroach on wild areas, but not in Minneapolis's developed urban core where recreation areas come close to water bodies. It has asked for more flexibility to meet water quality and other goals.

The new rules would not affect existing paths, but could affect future Park Board improvement projects. The Watershed District's proposed "Rule M" would require 25- or 50-foot vegetative buffers next to lakes and streams, depending on the situation. Current rules have a four-tiered system for buffers around wetlands, ranging from 17 to 35 feet -- but do not cover lakes and streams.

Judd Rietkerk, Park Board assistant superintendent of planning, acknowledges that the proposed rules have some flexibility, but the District could still demand the wider buffers be installed.

"The Park Board supports real water quality methods and treatments," he said. "We don't think you should trade recreational purposes for ornamental buffers."

L. Eric Evenson, the District's administrator, said the Park Board had philosophical differences about whether the District should have any regulatory authority over the Park Board at all.

Park Board solidifies background check requirement

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has been hiring employees prior to completion of background checks, in violation of its policies.

Superintendent Mary Merrill Anderson said she has reiterated policy "that we not hire staff until background checks are complete. … There was some clarity that needed to go around. We have provided that clarity."

The issue surfaced when an off-duty recreation staff person at Loring Park stabbed a man outside the park's community center May 7. Minneapolis police said Tyrone Pearson, 45, stabbed a 31- year-old man following a confrontation over the man's drinking in the park.

Pearson had worked part-time for the Park Board for a month at the time of the stabbing, a spokesperson said. His background check had not been completed.

Pearson had a long criminal record, park police said. Because much of it occurred outside of Minnesota, the Park Board's background check would have missed it, however. Current FBI procedures require the Park Board submit fingerprints for a national search, which the Park Board does not now use because of the $24-per-applicant cost.

The Park Board learned of Pearson's long criminal record after the assault.

Anderson said the Park Board is in discussions with state and federal officials "to make sure we can get as extensive a background as we can."

The Park Board began background checks following a 1996 incident where a Sibley Park hockey coach was convicted of criminal sexual conduct with team members, park police said.

The Park Board does roughly 5,000 background checks a year, covering both new employees and park volunteers.

Sup's House Picnic

A "Picnic at the Park" at Lyndale Farmstead is set for Saturday June 22, to celebrate the national historic designation of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board's Superintendent's House at 3954 Bryant Ave. S.

The event runs noon to 3 p.m. and includes free food, music and tours of the home the Park Board built for Superintendent Theodore Wirth, one of the visionaries who helped create the current park system.

The home served superintendents into the 1990s and is now leased to the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association.

The event is sponsored by the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society.