Park Notes

New program aims to fix failing benches

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has 3,000 park benches in the system. A new program should help keep them in good repair.

The Park Board approved the program July 17. For a $1,000 donation, park patrons can get a memorial plaque on the back of an existing bench of their choice. The money goes to a bench maintenance fund.

Under the new program, staff will inventory benches, number them and assign them a condition.

"Potential donors would be given a map with a bench number, to select a bench that would acknowledge their contribution to the park system," said a June 11 memo from Don Siggelkow, assistant superintendent of development. "The donation would not 'buy' the bench. It would be a donation to park bench replacement throughout our system."

Terry Diebold of East Calhoun approached the Park Board earlier this year in his effort to bring down the $5,000 price tag to get a memorial park bench in honor of his late wife, Susan. He and his kids wanted to put a bench in the off-leash dog park near Lake of the Isles, he said.

Staggered to learn it would cost $5,000, Diebold asked the Park Board to lower the price for "people of normal means." He said that for a $600 donation to Three Rivers Parks (formerly Hennepin County Parks), he could get a new cedar park bench.

The Park Board staff reviewed the request, but the new program does not lower the cost for new benches.

"I hate to say it, but we have enough benches," Siggelkow said. "Our biggest issue is fixing the benches we have. Our hope is for people, at a more modest price, to memorialize somebody and help us replace benches."

"If someone is looking to get a brand new bench installed in our park system at the location of their choice, that is not a $1,000 thing," he said.

Diebold said the Park Board was making progress. "I am pleased overall, but not as pleased as I thought I might be," he said.

He would consider donating to the Minneapolis replacement bench program, he said, but "it is quite likely we would be selecting the county park system as a place for a memorial bench."

Turf trials set

The University of Minnesota's extension service plans to run a three-year experiment on low-maintenance turf varieties in Lyndale Park beginning this summer. The park, near Kings Highway and West 41st Street, is one of three metro-area trial sites.

Mary H. Meyer, associate professor and horticulturist for the extension service, said the experiment would use 10 different turf mixes -- including combinations of yarrow, clover, English daisies, chamomile, and various fescues. Each variety will get three separate 10-foot-by-10-foot plots, so the entire experiment would cover roughly 3,000 square feet.

The site is located between the Rose Garden and Kings Highway, Meyer said. Workers will kill the existing grass with Round-Up in mid-to-late August, later replanting the area with the trial turf, she said.

The extension service will install signs next spring identifying the turf mixes with such names as "No Mow" and "Ecology Lawn Mix." Meyer said, "It will help people see what alternatives to use."

For more information on the experiments, go to the extension service's website at www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/YGLNews/YGLN-Dec0100.html#turf.

The Park Board's administration and finance committee approved the turf trials. The full board will vote on it Aug. 7.

Theodore Wirth started the rose gardens at Lyndale Park in 1907, the second oldest public rose garden in the country. Emily Ero-Phillips, a parks spokeswoman, said the turf trials were "a perfect fit" for the park.

"He (Wirth) started it as a trial for flowers, and a place you could learn about what grows in the environment," she said.

Lake Harriet wall up for repair

Workers will replace the failing retaining wall on the north side of the beach near the Lake Harriet pavilion in September, under an action approved by the Park Board's administration and finance committee.

The wooden retaining wall is falling in at several places, threatening the walking path, a Park Board summary said. The new wall, estimated to cost $78,000, will be made of multi-colored modular block, textured to replicate stone. Work includes replacement of both stairways.

Land sale to Dunwoody

The Park Board approved the sale of 48,000 square feet of land at 1120 Dunwoody Blvd. to Dunwoody Institute for $250,000 -- $20,000 above the appraised value.

The parcel is left over from the 1966 sale of land to the Minnesota Department of Transportation to build Highway 12 (now I-394), said a memo by Judd Rietkerk, assistant superintendent of planning.

The Park Board has little use for the site because it has poor soil conditions and Dunwoody Boulevard isolates it from other parkland. Dunwoody will use the land as part of its parking lot.

The money goes into a Park Board fund for future land purchases.