Commissioners’ trial balloon: Sunday parkway closings

Some Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board commissioners want to close part of the Chain of Lakes parkway to car traffic one Sunday a month and open it up to bike and pedestrian traffic.

The Park Board is drastically cutting services this year, from beaches and fishing docks to mowing and milfoil harvesting. Park Board Commissioner John Erwin said the monthly parkway closing could be a relatively "no-cost community-building thing."

An ad hoc planning group recently met at Dunn Bros. at 3348 Hennepin Ave. S. Attending were Park Board President Bob Fine, Park Board members Erwin and Vivian Mason and residents Mark Margolis and Tracy Nordstrom.

The Park Board did a similar parkway closing in the late 1990s. "As I recall, the whole operation went very smoothly," said Assistant Superintendent Mike Schmidt in a March 20 memo to Mason.

The commissioners want public reaction. The tentative plan would close Lake of the Isles Parkway from the Kenilworth Lagoon to Calhoun channel bridge, and close East Calhoun Parkway from Lake Street to West 36th Street, similar to the program in the 1990s.

Erwin said if the public likes the closures, they could expand to other parts of the parkway. He has already received calls to include West Calhoun.

The event could include north side parkways, such as portions of Victory Memorial Drive, he said.

The Chain of Lakes walking and biking paths are often congested on summer weekends. The idea is to open the parkway to bike and pedestrian traffic, and perhaps other events such as bike rodeos or mobile concession activity to help defray the expenses, members of the planning group said.

The group talked about potential downsides, such as diverting traffic into neighborhoods and added costs, such as barricades, during tight budget times. Several people said volunteers, concession stand revenues, neighborhood groups and bike shop sponsors could help defray costs.

For more information and contact information, see the Park commissioners' letter to the editor on page 8.