Parks update

MPRB president defends Cedar Lake comments

Tom Nordyke, president of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, is miffed after a recent newspaper report on the use of lakefront land on the southeastern corner of Cedar Lake.

Nordyke lives in one of more than a dozen homes there whose backyards reach toward — or into — the lake. The catch is that some of the land closest to Cedar actually is property of the Park Board and thus public land.

Some of that parkland has been encroached since as early as 1938, when the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners issued a “temporary permit” to several homeowners on Cedar Lake, allowing their various “plantings and structures” to encroach on park-owned property next to the lake. That permit had several conditions, including guaranteed public access and the right for the Park Board to reclaim the land “at the will and discretion of the Board by its furnishing 30 days’ written notice.”

A Minneapolis Star Tribune article quoted Nordyke as saying he didn’t know whether his lake frontage was parkland. What he meant, he later told the Southwest Journal, is that he doesn’t know where his exact property lines are.

“Everybody knows the Park Board owns the … land,” he said.

Today, the public access part of the agreement is tricky: Any hike on that stretch of land goes directly through what looks like private property, and it all but dead-ends at the Lake of Isles channel.

When asked about the land in 2002, Commissioner Bob Fine — then the Park Board’s president — said, “I always wondered why for this one lake in the city, you couldn’t go all the way around it.”

At least one resident near the lake has been asking that question for years. Ron Werner, a former Park Board employee, said he doesn’t understand why the board hasn’t staked its claim of the land. He cited a passage from a retrospective by legendary parks superintendent Theodore Wirth, who wrote that “Cedar Lake really should be a part of the park system … so as to bring the lake under park jurisdiction and render its entire surrounding shorelands available to the public.”

Nordyke said the issue isn’t as simple as the Park Board claiming the land and booting the private expansions. Some of the land, he said, wouldn’t be wide enough anyway to hold a trail.

The Park Board land along the stretch ranges in width from 20 feet to 80 feet, and those widths shrink when the water level rises.

“It may be difficult, if not impossible, to get a trail in there without an easement” from the private property owners, said Cliff Swenson, a former park planner, in 2002.

Nordyke lists on his Park Board web page that one of his main goals as commissioner and president is “to demand equity in the quality and access of our parks in every part of our city.” But he said that doesn’t necessarily mean all parks should be identical, that every lake in the system should have a surrounding parkway. What it means, he said, is that he wants to see a parks system that doesn’t favor one part of the city over another, that northern Minneapolis parks have as much quality and access as those in the southern part of the city.

Balancing “the distribution of premier park and recreation features across the city, giving priority to adding features to North and Northeast Minneapolis” is a goal listed in the Park Board’s comprehensive plan and Superintendent Jon Gurban said the board’s current focus is on expanding quality parks to Northeast, primarily through its Grand Rounds “Missing Link” project. It would be counterintuitive right now, he said, to put money toward extending a pathway in
Southwest.

“We know [some Cedar Lake residents] are encroaching,” Gurban said. “At some point in time, a project will appear, and they’ll have to remove their improvements.”

He couldn’t say when that would happen, but he doesn’t expect it anytime soon.

Registration opens for Minneapolis Bike Tour

Individuals and families can now sign up for the second annual Minneapolis Bike Tour, a 14- or 37-mile trip around the city. Motorized traffic will be kept away during the ride, as parkways and roads are closed off.

The short trip travels around the Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet. The long one follows the entire Grand Rounds Byway System. Both begin and end at Parade Park.

Registration costs $35 for adults and $12 for children ages 6–17. The event is free for riders 5 years old and younger. Go to minneapolisbiketour.com.

Proceeds benefit the Foundation for Minneapolis Parks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public parks in the city.

The Sept. 14 event is limited to 8,000 entrants.

Pools, beaches open for the summer

All pools, water parks, wading pools and beaches operated by the Park Board are open for the summer.

Wading pools open daily at 9 a.m.; hours for water parks can be found at minneapolisparks.org.

The only pool currently closed is at Linden Hills Park, which is undergoing maintenance work.

Parks update

Park Board to update trio of wading pools

Because of a bill recently signed into law by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board will have to modify three wading pools. Two are located in Southwest.

The Abigail Taylor pool safety bill, named after the 6-year-old Edina girl who died from injuries sustained last year after sitting on a wading pool drain, requires redundant suction outlets. That means pools have to have multiple suction drains; with just one, suction force can increase when a drain is clogged, risking injuries such as the one that ultimately led to Taylor’s death.

Most of the 60 wading pools in Minneapolis’ parks aren’t affected, said Michael Schmidt, Park Board general manager. And even the three that do require overhauls probably won’t see them happen any earlier than August, well into the swimming season.

Caution signs will be put up at the affected pools — in Loring, Fuller and Pearl parks — but don’t expect any closings.

“We’re comfortable that we’re not putting people at risk, that they can play,” Schmidt said. Accidents such as the one that happened to Taylor are rare and have never occurred in Park Board wading pools, he said.

The law also requires daily inspections of drain covers and grates; Schmidt said that’s already been Park Board protocol.

Replacing the pools will cost the board about $60,000, expected to come out of an emergency fund. Schmidt said he’s currently working with a designer to draw up schematics. Construction will start after state approval and a bidding process is complete.

Hearings set for ‘Missing Link’ recommendations

The public is getting three opportunities to have its voices heard on a committee’s recommendation to fill in the so-called “Missing Link” in the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System.

The Park Board in 2006 began investigating the possibility of bridging the 3-mile gap between the parkways that end in Northeast and Southwest Minneapolis.

Last June, the board formed a Citizen Advisory Committee, made up of residents and business owners, to discuss the location and design of the Missing Link and act as liaisons to their communities. The committee presented its recommendations to the Park Board at its May 21 meeting.

The route, as proposed, would begin at Stinson Boulevard and St. Anthony Parkway and head east along Gross National Golf Course. It eventually would follow 27th Avenue Southeast near the University of Minnesota campus and end at East River Parkway. Along the way, the committee suggested, there should be several spruced up parks to give people an additional reason to follow the trail.

Scrutiny has followed the route, especially from Windom Park residents who have said they are concerned with the Citizen Advisory Committee’s decision to recommend a secondary bicycle path on Stinson Parkway. Safety and destruction of green space are two of their main worries.

Commissioner Walt Dziedzic said Stinson shouldn’t become a holdup for the Missing Link project. If the half-mile gap turns out to be a no-go, he said, it shouldn’t halt what’s been a process almost a century in the making. (The last time a Missing Link study was completed was in 1939.)

There are other issues that could slow down the process, including a familiar, but big, one: funding.

Tom Johnson, the HNTB project manager who presented the committee’s findings, said the project would cost at least $150 million to complete. Furthermore, the already cash-strapped Park Board doesn’t own all the land it would need to fill in the Missing Link.

Public hearings on the Citizen Advisory Committee’s findings will be held at:

• 6:30 p.m. June 18 at the Park Board’s headquarters, 2117 W. River Road

• 6:30 p.m. June 23 at Van Cleve Park, 901 15th Ave. SE

• 6:30 p.m. July 1 at Windom Park, 2251 Hayes St. NE

More information on the missing link can be found at www.minneapolisparks.org.

Area around band shell to be paved

Their first concern was quality sound. Now, nonprofit People for Parks is hoping to make comfort part of the experience of visiting the Lake Harriet Band Shell.

The group is planning on refurbishing all 80 benches and placing about 800 pavers throughout the 11,000-square-foot audience area.

To help offset the $75,000 paving cost, People for Parks is hoping people will pay to adopt the stones. In return, they’re offering the option of engraving them with personal messages. People for Parks also is encouraging people to adopt or engrave the benches.

Felicity Britton, the group’s secretary, said that once fundraising has reached a comfortable level, paving can begin. She said to expect it sometime this fall or next spring. Sample pavers will be on display at the band shell on June 7. For more information, go to peopleforparks.net.

Parks update

New playground at Windom South expected this month

WINDOM — First, children here lost a tire swing. Then they lost a slide. But now they’re getting a whole lot in return.

After years of increased dilapidation, the decades-old playground at Windom South Park is getting replaced. By the end of this month, the old fortress-style facility will be gone and a playground full of monkey bars and shiny, new parts will stand in its place.

Lakes District Planner Alexander Zachary said the facility won’t be as large as its predecessor but that that shouldn’t disappoint any children looking to play.

“It’s smaller,” Zachary said, “but there’s probably 10 times more stuff to do. It used to be ‘go to the top, slide down.’ ”

He introduced the playground at a biannual Windom Community Council meeting and emphasized its modern aspects. For example, the previous facility didn’t meet safety codes put into place after its construction in the 1980s. It also wasn’t very accessible to children with disabilities, something the new facility will remedy.

“This isn’t really a hangout playground,” he said. “It’s one where you’re climbing, working, playing.”

That news excited Kevin McDonald, the father of two young children at nearby Windom Spanish Dual Immersion and Open School. He was one of several parents who advocated getting the facility fixed up.

“The equipment is over 20 years old,” McDonald said. “It’s what we called ‘well-loved’ equipment — it’s in a state of
disrepair.”

Zachary said the $67,000 playground should be ready for use by the end of June. An official dedication is planned for mid-July.

Park Board president says swim docks are on his mind

After repeated requests to consider bringing back docks to the city’s lakes, Park Board President Tom Nordyke said he’s started looking into the issue. But he also warned not to expect changes anytime soon.

At a March 5 Park Board meeting, Fulton Neighborhood Association member Steve Young asked commissioners to consider bringing back the docks — which were removed in the 1980s — arguing that their absence has turned Minneapolis’ lakes into wading pools. A month later, a letter from the association further encouraged the Park Board to look into the issue.

“Combined with other rules such as no beach balls and no splashing, our beaches no longer have the vibrant activity they once had,” said the letter, which was signed by Nick Mark, chairman of the neighborhood group.

In an interview with the Southwest Journal, Nordyke said it’s unlikely that docks will return in the near future. For one, the Park Board’s budget is set for the year; it’s also an issue of liability. (Lakes District Manager Paul Hokeness previously said 95 percent of lifeguard rescues occurred around the docks when they were still in place.)

Park Board Commissioner Bob Fine agreed liability could be a problem. However, that the budget is finalized shouldn’t be a factor in stopping the board from considering bringing back docks — outside funding is an option, he said.

“Personally, I think [docks] provide more of a reason for getting yourself wet,” said Fine, who would like to see docks return. He wasn’t sure whether others on the Park Board stand with him, though. “If I’m the only one who supports docks, where’s it going to go?”

Nordyke said Fulton’s letter wasn’t the lone message he’d received on the issue. He had just received a letter saying Minneapolis’ lakes were busy enough as is and don’t need docks to make the space more crowded.

While Nordyke said he’s undecided on the issue so far, he did want to assure people that they should feel free to splash each other around the lakes. Regardless of what the Fulton letter said, there are no rules prohibiting that summer pastime, he said.

Parks Foundation names new president

The Foundation for Minneapolis Parks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public parks in the city, has named Cecily Hines as its new president.

Since 2001, Hines has been vice president and general counsel, legal advisor or consultant with Plymouth-based ev3 Inc., a vascular and neurovascular technology and therapy provider, according to a foundation release. She also has served on the boards of the Minnesota Center of Environmental Advocacy and several arts organizations.

Don Siggelkow, secretary and treasurer of the foundation, said Hines’ duties will include working closely with the Park Board on developing programs and overseeing foundation-related events.

Hines is expected to step into her role in mid-June.

Art returns, with animals in tow

Art once again will be in the park this summer.

All 49 Park Board recreation centers will welcome the Minneapolis Institute of Arts youth workshops this summer, a more than 15-year-old tradition. The workshops will get youth grades K–6 involved in hands-on activities to get up close and personal with art, according to a Park Board release.

This year’s theme is “Art Zoo,” putting a spotlight on the way animals have been presented in art throughout history and cultures.

The program, which is free, will begin in mid-June and run through mid-August. For exact dates and to register, call your neighborhood recreation center.