Parks notebook

Lake Calhoun facelift

The Park and Recreation Board has decided to meet with neighborhood groups before finalizing the Lake Calhoun Master Plan. The proposal has been in the works for over a decade, with many residents worried about the effect of new structures around the lake.

“The less stuff around the lake, the better,” Park Board Commissioner Scott

Vreeland said at the June 6 board meeting. “It really needs to be protected as much as possible.”

The overall scale of the project has been modified and reduced, but it still includes a sailing refectory, traffic flow improvements and bank restoration.

Bar on wheels

During open time at the June 6 Park Board meeting, two representatives from PedalPub introduced the idea of bringing their “party on wheels” to Minneapolis parkways. The user-propelled vehicle consists of a “bar” that seats three to 16 people and travels on city streets, with a staff member steering at the helm. It’s environmentally friendly and intended for slow, scenic rides around the city. The Park Board expressed reservations about the effect that the 5 mph pub would have on traffic, but according to PedalPub representatives, it’s supposed to keep to the shoulder and allow backed-up cars to pass at stoplights. The motorless bar hails from Europe and would be the only PedalPub in North America, should its use be permitted. To learn more, visit www.PedalPub.com

Superintendent Gurban’s new contract

Park Board members discussed the terms of Superintendent Jon Gurban’s new three-year contract at the June 6 board meeting. The contract is still in draft form, but as it stands Gurban would receive an annual salary of $139,817, at least 30 days of vacation each year, a $500 monthly car allowance and 10 days for professional development annually. He would also be expected to provide the board with an annual work plan based on a list of priorities that the board creates.

Gurban’s proposed car allowance was one of the most contested parts of the contract. Commissioner Kummer felt that it was unfair to award an allowance to the superintendent when no other employees receive the same level of compensation. Because Gurban drives so much, Commissioner Merrill Anderson pointed out, his mileage would be at least that amount. Commissioner Nordstrom suggested leasing a hybrid car, but the board agreed that it would be too expensive.

The board expects to reach a final decision on the terms of the contract before the end of June.

Hot dog, anyone?

The Park Board approved a request by a mobile concessions company to sell snacks around tourist attractions like Lake Calhoun, Loring Park and Historic Main Street. The vendors will be allowed to sell candy, beverages and hot dogs from Memorial Day to Labor Day until 2009. Commissioner Vreeland expressed concern over the lack of vegetarian options. “We want to provide healthy options to folks,” he said, but admitted, “If you’re the vendor, you’ve got to have on your cart what’s going to sell.”

Reach Mary O’Regan at moregan@mnpubs.com or 436-5088.

Parks Notebook

Park Board superintendent reelected

On May 16, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted to reelect Superintendent Jon Gurban, extending his term another three years. Park Board Commissioner Annie Young, who did not support Gurban’s initial election in 2003, proposed that his new contract include an annual performance review and work plan.

The board compromised and will include her suggestions in the negotiations with Park Board President Jon Olson, but not in Gurban’s contract. Young also asked that the board review his contract before its presentation to the superintendent, but her request was denied.

Gurban’s reelection took place in the wake of a civil liberties controversy. Arlene Fried, co-founder of the citizen group Minneapolis Park Watch, was cut off during the open forum section of the May 2 board meeting. She attempted to recite a list of 10 “poor management practices” under Gurban’s authority, but midway through the fifth item, Olson interrupted and moved on to the next issue without allowing Fried to continue. An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the Park Board – on Fried’s behalf – accusing them of violating her First Amendment rights.

During the open session at the May 16 meeting, Fried was allowed to speak, but by then the board had already reelected Gurban.

“Allowing me to speak after you have voted is an insult to me and to freedom of speech,” she told the board. “What you are conveying to your constituents is that what we have to say is not important.”

In this instance, Olson interrupted Fried’s speech multiple times and attempted to end early her allotted three minutes.

Don’t rain on my Parade Stadium

The city of Minneapolis has issued a stop-work order on the reconstruction of Parade Stadium, claiming that a conditional-use permit is needed for the project to continue. The Park and Recreation Board, which is overseeing the plan, insists that it has applied for all of the necessary permits and that the stop-work order was a mistake.

“I think that was a very regrettable piece of action by some uninformed bureaucrats,” said Superintendent Jon Gurban. “We have done much more work elsewhere in this city and never had a conditional-use permit.”

Construction on the stadium is continuing despite the city’s order. The $1.2 million project – which sits just west of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden – includes stadium seating, grandstands, and a $48,000 electronic scoreboard. The Park Board and Public Works are in the process of designing a new road that will stretch from Dunwoody Boulevard to Kenwood Parkway, cutting through the stadium parking lot.

Though the board had received a proposal from the Minnesota Thunder about using the stadium for soccer games, Gurban insists that the site will exist primarily for youth sporting events.

Hidden Beach transformation underway

One of the first things to change was the name.

The patch of Cedar Lake shoreline known informally as Hidden Beach was renamed East Cedar Lake Beach by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board this spring. It was symbolic of its transformation from illicit swimming hole to authorized beach.

“It is no longer hidden,” said Paul Hokeness, lakes district manager for the Park Board.

Park Board Superintendent John Gurban announced in March several changes meant to discourage use of the beach as a late-night party spot. For years, neighbors had complained about noise, drug use and traffic associated with the beach.

In May, park crews thinned trees and undergrowth at the wooded beach and put down a gravel path for emergency vehicle access. Picnic tables, a lifeguard chair and a roped-off swimming area would be in place when the beach opened for swimming June 16, Hokeness said.

He said vandals burned down a wooden lifeguard tower within days of it being placed at the beach in early May. Graffiti was found on recently poured concrete pads, as well.

“It’s just the people who hang out there at night and party and drink and think it’s their own private park,” Hokeness said.

Lt. Ken Baribeau of the Minneapolis Park Police said there would be additional patrols at the beach throughout the summer.

“We’re not going to tolerate any of that,” Baribeau said, referring to the vandalism.

Uptown residents Amiel Hansen and Crystal Thomas – both self-described “heavy beach users” – predicted the changes would alter the beach’s character.

“It used to be a free, hip gathering of all kinds of people,” Hansen said.

“It’s just a nice place, and now [the Park Board is] destroying it,” Thomas added.

Buckthorn cleared from Brownie Lake

More work will be done in June to help the east shore of Brownie Lake recover from spring buckthorn removal, a Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board official said.

Lakes District Planner Alexander Zachary said ruts left by heavy machinery will be repaired sometime after mid-June, when the Park Board hires its Teen Teamworks summer work crew.

Zachary said some area residents expressed concern after an early spring effort to remove buckthorn, an invasive species, left one shore of Brownie Lake with sparse vegetation. The buckthorn was cleared to make room for native plant species.

“When it has that dramatic of an effect, taking out invasive species, that means it was almost all invasive species,” he said. “That’s why it was such a stark change.”

“If you go there now, the trees are filling in beautifully,” he added.