Parks update

Pedestrian bridge on track for repairs

LYNNHURST — Fixing up the closed pedestrian bridge over Minnehaha Creek has been put on the fast track.

At a May 8 neighborhood meeting, City Council Member Betsy Hodges (13th Ward) brought with her the news that money had been found for a feasibility study, the first step in repairing the bridge.

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board had closed the 230-foot, 78-year-old structure by Bryant Avenue in early April after neighborhood residents raised concerns about its stability. At an April 29 public information meeting, members of the city’s bridge department told about 50 neighborhood residents that repairing the structure would cost at least $200,000. It would be cheaper to simply take down the bridge: $20,000.

Park Commissioner Bob Fine said the neighborhood had made it clear they neither wanted to remove the bridge nor replace it with a new structure — they wanted to hang onto the current bridge’s historical value. “We’re basically looking at one option,” Fine said.

The Park Board, however, doesn’t have the money to pay for anything involving the bridge, he said. That didn’t stop them from looking into other avenues; by May 8, money was secured for a feasibility study.

Hodges said it would come from the city’s Public Works department, which she said is interested in having the bridge return to use before it replaces another nearby pedestrian bridge in 2010.

Where money will come from for the $200,000-plus repair is still up in the air. Hodges said one route that could be taken is to get the bridge a historical designation.

While planning their upcoming summer festival, association members said they’d like to make the bridge a central focus. “This can bring the neighborhood back together,” treasurer Leslie Schuman said.

Meanwhile, welders recently put up metal guards and detour signs at each end of the bridge to keep people off. It had been blocked off with plywood.

Revitalized Pershing Park tennis courts to open for use

FULTON — Just a year ago, playing tennis in Pershing Park was next to impossible. A state of dilapidation, common to most of the city’s public tennis courts, had taken over.

That’s a different story today, thanks to the combined efforts of the Park Board, tennis enthusiast Ellen Doll and an anonymous donor. By the end of this month, Pershing Park will open four new courts. That means no more cracks, no more unused park space.

The project came about after Doll’s efforts in Kenwood, where a grassroots campaign she organized revitalized that neighborhood’s tennis courts. She personally hosted fundraisers, got neighbors involved and completed a project she was personally passionate about.

But she didn’t want to stop in Kenwood. “We wanted to move on and help other neighborhoods have nice tennis courts, too,” Doll said.

Together with the Park Board and the nonprofit InnerCity Tennis, she identified courts that were used not only by the public, but also by schools and youth tennis teams. Raising money would have taken some time, she said, but then a very willing Southwest donor contacted her during the summer of 2007.

“It was just like the phone call you’re always waiting for,” Doll said.

Lakes District Manager Paul Hokeness said after the donor initially met with Doll, a group that included Hokeness, Park Board Commissioner Bob Fine and Doll discussed donation options. Pershing Park was the first project discussed, but the group was hoping to also rebuild courts in other parts of the city.

Fine said the donor was more than willing to help out. “He had the money,” he said.

Redoing the Pershing Park courts was combined with efforts at Webber Park, near Shingle Creek, and at Powderhorn Park. The donor covered half of the about $500,000 price tag.

Doll said she and the donor were confident they could raise the other half of the cost, so they fast-tracked the project.

Hokeness said the courts at Pershing Park should be ready for use as soon as the weather gets consistently warmer. Once that happens, they can be color-coded and have nets put up.

Unknown substance found in Lake Calhoun

WEST CALHOUN — Park Board phones were ringing off the hook April 29 when pedestrians along the western shore of Lake Calhoun reported seeing a milky, white
substance.

Dawn Sommers, a Park Board spokeswoman, said members of the city’s Regulatory Services Department were on the scene shortly after calls started coming in about the substance, which was found spreading about 200 yards from the shore near Ivy Lane. She said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency was also notified.

Both groups are working to identify the substance, she said, a process that’s difficult because its consistency made it impossible to contain or extract samples from the water. “It’s a difference between Kool Aid in your water or olive oil,” Sommers said.

By April 30, the substance could no longer be seen in the lake. Its source remained unknown.

Parks update

Sound system upgrade for Lake Harriet Band Shell

EAST HARRIET — A new sound system should be installed at the Lake Harriet Band Shell prior to the June 1 kick-off of the 2008 concert season, the Park Board announced in April.

People for Parks donated $4,800 to upgrade the band shell’s sound system, installed in 1986 during construction of the performance space.

People for Parks (www.peopleforparks.net) is a Minneapolis nonprofit organization founded in 1979 to fund park improvements. Proceeds from the organization’s 5-kilometer Run for the Band Shell support band shell improvements.

Musical performances at the Lake Harriet landmark are scheduled nearly every day from June 1 into September. Artistic Youth Ensembles of Minnesota opens the 2008 season with a concert 2 p.m. June 1.

For a full listing of summer music and events, visit the Park Board website (www.minneapolisparks.org).

Public meeting on Lake of the Isles restoration

KENWOOD — Plans to control invasive species on the islands in Lake of the Isles will be presented by the Park Board 6:30 p.m. May 13 at the Kenwood Recreation Center, 2101 W. Franklin Ave.

Park Board crews will continue this summer to remove invasive species such as buckthorn from Mike’s Island and Raspberry Island and replace them with native trees and plants. Work to restore the islands began over the winter, when crews cut down and burned invasive species on both islands.

Both Mike’s and Raspberry islands are home to forests of mature, native trees, but both islands also were overrun by invasive shrubs, including buckthorn, box elder, mulberry and green ash, the Park Board reported. The islands are city-designated wildlife refuges.

Removal of invasive species from the islands was one of the final steps in a long-term project to restore Lake of the Isles. Work began in 2001 and included improvements to the shoreline and recreation
areas.

Over the summer, Park Board crews plan to focus on treating and removing non-native plants from the islands. Planting of native species was scheduled to begin in the fall, with the bulk of the planting set for the spring of 2009.

Controlled burns manage invasive species

If Southwest residents spotted smoke in late April or early May, it might have been coming from one of several controlled burns planned for area wetlands and
prairies.

The Park Board announced controlled burns for a half-dozen sites in the city, four of them in or near Southwest. The burns were scheduled to take place April 22–May 6, whenever weather conditions allowed.

Fire is used to control invasive species that might otherwise overrun native plants, the Park Board reported. Prescribed fires are scheduled once about every three years in urban parks.

Southwest burn locations included two spots in Theodore Wirth Park, an area of prairie plantings near Lake Calhoun and a meadow near Cedar Lake.

Park Board weighs options for closed bridge

LYNNHURST — A pedestrian bridge over Minnehaha Creek closed April 7 over safety concerns would cost an estimated $500,000 to replace, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board reported April 22.

Other options for the bridge near the intersection of Minnehaha Parkway and Bryant Avenue South are removal and repair. The Park Board estimated it would cost about $20,000 to remove the bridge and $200,000 to repair the bridge.

An inspection by the city’s bridge department found extensive rusting of the steel span. Anchor bolts that secure the bridge to concrete footings were up to 50 percent corroded in some cases, the Park Board reported.

Concrete footings in the creek were eroded, as well.

Bob Fine, the Park Board commissioner representing much of Southwest, and City Council Member Betsey Hodges (13th Ward) planned a public information meeting April 29, after this issue of the Southwest Journal went to press. No decision had been made on what option the Park Board would pursue.

Constructed in 1930, the 230-foot bridge has a steel structure covered in a six-foot-wide wooden deck. It originally ran parallel to a trolley bridge across the creek, but the trolley bridge was removed in the 1970s.

A new deck was installed on the bridge in 1997, following minor structural repairs in 1991, the Park Board reported.

Park Board staff visited the bridge earlier this spring after neighborhood residents alerted them with concerns. Several neighbors said the bridge seemed less stable than usual.

A city bridge inspection in 2007 found the “sway level” of the bridge fell within acceptable standards, Park Board staff said.


Reach Dylan Thomas at dthomas@mnpubs.com.