Parks update

Lake of the Isles Parkway bridges get resurfaced

Lake of the Isles Parkway’s bridges are getting a makeover, as their surfaces are being replaced with concrete to prepare for the 2009 repaving of the entire parkway.

According to a news release from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Kenilworth bridge, located on the west side of the lake, is scheduled to be closed through about Oct. 2. Only local traffic is able to use the parkway between Franklin Avenue and the bridge until that time.

The Calhoun Lagoon bridge, on the lake’s southeastern side, will be closed Oct. 6 through about Oct. 23. The parkway will be closed between 28th Street and Knox Avenue.

Neighbors expressed some concern at the Sept. 8 meeting of the Kenwood Isles Area Association about major arteries to their area getting temporarily cut off. Detours have been posted.

Sanja DeGarmo, an association board member, said her biggest worry was how her children’s school-bus routes would be affected. But she said the Park Board provided enough notice, and she’s happy pedestrian and bicycle paths remain open.

“You know, it’s an inconvenience,” DeGarmo said. “But I think now that it’s been explained that they need to do it now in order for the concrete to cure over the winter so that the rest of the parkway can be done, it makes perfect sense.”

Each bridge’s resurfacing costs about $20,000, covered by a grant from the Metropolitan Council regional parks fund.

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Park Board seeks operator for Lake Harriet Concession

The Park Board is looking for a tenant to carry on the Lake Harriet Concession beyond the end of this year, and they’re asking the community for input.

With the current contract for operations of the concession — located by the band shell — set to expire Dec. 31, the Park Board released a request for proposal in August.

It’s a fairly standard request, General Manager Don Siggelkow said. What is unusual, however, is that commissioners Tracy
Nordstrom and Bob Fine have been asked to appoint neighborhood residents to a panel that would help choose the appropriate operator.

Siggelkow said those steps are being taken to learn whether the community wants services from the concession that it currently isn’t receiving. For example, he said the Park Board is considering expanding non-concert-season hours to include early mornings.

“We’re basically trying to see if we can’t get out there to expand the business and do creative things,” Siggelkow said.

The request outlines several concepts the Park Board would like to see emphasized by the next operator, including maximizing income, being a unique venue oriented to the neighborhood and featuring an expanded menu while retaining favorites such as popcorn and ice cream.

The Lake Harriet Concession was built in 1986 and was operated by the Park Board until 2003. Steve Gillen has run the facility since winning a contract in 2004 and, Siggelkow said, has done exactly what was expected of him.

Siggelkow said he anticipates that Gillen will respond to the request for proposal. If he does, he would receive equal consideration, the general manager said.

Bike tour attracts thousands

The Minneapolis Bike Tour looks to have been another successful event.

Last year, the tour attracted about 4,700 riders, and organizers with the Park Board were set to top that number for the second go-around of the now-annual ride.

A week before the event, 2,500 people had signed up, compared with the 2,200 that last year registered in advance. Park Board spokeswoman Dawn Sommers said more than half of last year’s participants signed up on the morning of.

Organizers were hoping to have 6,000 participants this year. Final numbers weren’t available when this edition of the Southwest Journal went to press.

The tour was split into 14- and 37-mile trips around the city, during which motorized traffic was kept away from parkways and roads. The shorter trip traveled around the Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet, while the longer one followed the entire Grand Rounds Byway System.

Run/walk raises money for Lake Harriet

— Speaking of fundraisers, People for Parks — another nonprofit that raises money to benefit Minneapolis’ green space — held its 5K run/walk for the Lake Harriet band shell on Sept. 7.

Felicity Britton, People for Parks secretary, said about 150 people participated, despite threatening weather. She said while hopes had been to attract 300, the event was still a good outreach tool.

Parks update

Minneapolis Police Department replaces Park Police as school liaisons

As of Sept. 2, Park Police officers no longer serve as Minneapolis schools’ police liaisons.

The Minneapolis School Board voted last month to accept an offer from the Minneapolis Police Department instead. By choosing to go with city police, the district will spend about $35,000 less per year than if it had accepted the Park Police offer.

Park Police had filled the liaison roles since 2003.

At the Aug. 20 meeting of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, several commissioners expressed their disappointment with the school board’s decision.

Commissioner Walt Dziedzic, a former Minneapolis Police officer and former City Council member, said he thought the Park Police fit well with the liaison program. Liaisons see the same kids during the school year that they watch over in the parks during the summer, he said.

“I think [city police] will have a hard time getting up and running,” Dziedzic said.

Vice President Mary Merrill Anderson said she had heard from parents who were concerned about the liaisons’ quality dropping as a result of the switch. Hopefully, she said, city police will follow the Park Police’s model.

As for the effects of the Park Board losing out on $902,706 per year for five years to pay for officers, Superintendent Jon Gurban said the news isn’t good.

“We’ll be laying off police officers,” he said.

Beach rules questioned again

The Park Board continues to hear from constituents complaining the rules at the city’s beaches are too strict and too fun-prohibitive.

Commissioner Bob Fine at the Aug. 20 board meeting said he thought it might be time to put together a citizens’ representative forum that would produce suggestions. But not all commissioners consider the rules an issue.

“I think every rule is there for a reason,” Commissioner Walt Dziedzic said. “I looked at them very carefully, and I didn’t see one that I would change.”

That was echoed by Minnehaha District Manager Obie Kipper.

“The rules are in place so that all the activities are safe,” Kipper said.

One of the main people who have advocated changing the rules is Steve Young, a member of the Fulton Neighborhood Association. Through an association-written letter, an editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and a Park Board meeting appearance, Young has been a vocal lobbyist.

Though not present at the Aug. 20 Park Board meeting, some comments were directed specifically toward him.

“If you can’t have fun at our beaches and water parks, come to [Jim Lupient Water Park], and I’ll show you how to have a good time,” Dziedzic said.

In other swimming news, wading pool season is over. All 61 neighborhood wading pools were set to close the week of Sept. 1.

Stinson out of the Missing Link conversation

A recommended bicycle path on Stinson Parkway is officially out of discussions for the foreseeable future of the Park Board’s Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System Missing Link project.

In June, the Park Board received recommendations from a Citizen Action Committee on what route would be best for the link. While a trio of public hearings held afterward showed support for the project was strong overall, one portion of the committee’s proposal led to a 519-signature petition.

Concerns focused on the safety of expanding a bicycle path on Stinson Parkway. Nearby neighbors banded together over their worries that the area sees too much traffic to make it a common-use route for bicyclists.

Now, that expansion is out of the conversation. At the Aug. 20 meeting of the Park Board’s Planning Committee, the committee approved the Citizen Action Committee’s recommendations to be moved to the full board — without the Stinson Parkway bicycle path portion.

Planning Director Judd Rietkerk said this would refocus the board on getting the missing link filled in while not being held up by a relatively small snippet of the project.

Tracking taxes

As of late August, two of six private businesses on Park Board property that received some of their first tax bills since signing leases years ago have yet to pay their 2008 taxes.

According to records from the Hennepin County Treasurer’s Office, Sea Salt Seafood Eatery and Nicollet Island Pavilion operators Mintahoe Hospitality Group have sent the county exactly $0.

The companies owed half of their bills — about $3,736 and $33,594, respectively — by March 15. They now owe those amounts plus penalties, which rise every month.

Twin City Catering, the company that since being assessed had requested the Park Board lighten its lease, paid the first half of its bill on time.

The second half of the companies’ personal property taxes are due Oct. 15.

Beach rule highlights

• No smoking in beach areas.

• Children age 8 or younger must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

• Swim only in marked areas.

• No running on the beach.

• No throwing sand or rocks.

• Don’t use glass around the beach.

• No “chicken fights” or rough horseplay.

Source: Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board