Cross-country skiing, wildflowers duke it out in Wirth Park

The battle is underway for 50 acres of woods in Theodore Wirth Park.

The Friends of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden want the area - bounded by Glenwood Avenue, I-394, Theodore Wirth Parkway and Xerxes Avenue - to remain a buffer zone for the fenced-in garden. They oppose a newly expanded cross country ski trail that abuts the garden in places, and worry it will invite more intense usage such as bike trails, authorized or not.

According to a Friends' draft letter to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, "We are very concerned about the potential harm of wide-track skiing and/or ski racing," citing some erosion, mud and loss of habitat. "[T]he Friends do not support any high-impact competitive or potentially invasive or disruptive activities within South Wirth Woods."

Cross-country ski enthusiasts call the concerns overblown. They say their silent sport won't disturb anyone because the garden is locked in the winter. Recent trail construction also removed invasive buckthorn - which helped preserve the forest's health.

Phil Guillery, a forester and an East Harriet resident, wrote the Park Board saying the south woods is in "appalling condition" because of the buckthorn, and the ski trails could be "a tool for restoration."

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board held three public meetings on the woods' recreational future. Park Board staffer Mary Lynn Pulschar said she would make her recommendations to the Park Board's Planning Committee, Wednesday, July 6.

Copies of the recommendations will be available at Park Board headquarters, 2117 W. River Road N. by 8 a.m. Tuesday, July 5, General Manager Michael Schmidt said. The July 6 Board meeting starts at 5 p.m. on the headquarters' second floor.