Peace Garden bridge becomes a priority
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board pledged to fast-track a project that would bring back a footbridge to the Lyndale Park Peace Garden.
For the majority of two decades, the garden contained a Japanese-style cedar bridge. Installed in 1985, the bridge didn’t handle Minnesota weather particularly well, and by the start of this century, it had deteriorated dramatically. It closed for safety reasons and was removed in October 2007.
That happened as a Park Board-authorized Peace Garden Project Committee was in the process of raising thousands of dollars for art projects. It raised more than $76,000 to build the origami-like Spirit of Peace sculpture, dedicated in 2006.
While the committee has been able to raise an additional $48,500 since that time, Lakes District Manager Paul Hokeness said the group has all but tapped out its resources. Installing a new bridge — the committee’s other goal — would cost $65,000.
The Park Board’s financial travails are well documented, but Hokeness said it would be wrong to leave the bridge project hanging at this point, even if it would cost the Board $16,500.
“It’s one of those things that just has to be done,” Hokeness said about building the bridge. “When people raise $50,000, we feel obligated to do our part.”
He presented that argument during an Oct. 1 meeting of the Park Board’s planning committee and was met with mutual agreement from commissioners and the system’s superintendent.
“It’s pretty unsightly the way it is,” Commissioner Bob Fine said. “I think we should do something about it, and I think we should do it quickly.”
Superintendent Jon Gurban said construction on the new bridge should begin in the spring, a comment that Hokeness said is the closest thing to a timeline he has for the project. He said he hopes the bridge will be open by June.
As for funding, Hokeness said the board has several options from where to draw the $16,500, including its regional parks fund and an influx of Local Government Aid. Compared to the breadth of the board’s entire operating expenditures, he said the amount is relatively small and should be found fairly easily.
To ensure the new bridge doesn’t meet the same fate as its predecessor — becoming structurally unsound within 20 years — it will be made of more resilient materials, such as Brazilian ipé wood. It also will be wider, allowing for wheelchair access, Hokeness said.
Park Board talks revenue
Staring down a $505,000 operating gap, the Park Board’s 2009 budget discussion on Oct. 1 focused on ways to generate more revenue.
Commissioners heard suggestions relating to an array of park services, including parking, tournaments and concerts. Steve Buchal, manager of special services, spoke about the possibility of raising parking ticket fees to $40 from $35. Jessica Berg, concert event coordinator, spoke about combining the summer movies and music in the parks programs and pairing with a corporate sponsor.
Don Siggelkow, general manager for administration and development, discussed the possibility of hosting more annual events. Examples included an ice-fishing tournament on Lake Nokomis, a whiffle ball tournament and a complement to the fall Minneapolis Bike Tour to be held in the spring. Siggelkow also mentioned the possibility of putting an excursion boat back on the Chain of Lakes.
Commissioners spent a lot of time talking about Recreation Plus, the Park Board’s low-cost daycare program. Launched in 1989, it acts as a place for children of all backgrounds to go before and after school. It costs just $115 per month.
“This is one of the great secrets of this town,” said Richard Mammen, director of community recreation.
Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom called herself a recent convert to the program, coming from spending $600 per month on daycare that didn’t include any of the recreational activities the Park Board’s program offers. She said she was shocked to find it priced as low as it is, saying there was clear room for the fee to be reconsidered.
That suggestion received some backlash from Vice President Mary Merrill Anderson, who said that while some parts of town probably could afford a more expensive Recreation Plus, there are other parts where parents can barely pay $115 per month.
Overall, commissioners didn’t seem particularly excited about any fee-raising proposals. But as was repeatedly pointed out during the meeting, for every fee that isn’t raised, an expenditure has to be lowered — meaning potential cuts to services.
Expenditures will be the focus of the Park Board’s next budget discussion. Commissioners originally were scheduled to tackle the issue on Oct. 8, but that meeting was rescheduled for 5–7 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Theodore Wirth Chalet, 1301 Theodore Wirth Parkway.
Park Board regular meeting rescheduled
Speaking of meeting dates being shuffled around, the Park Board also rescheduled its regular meeting originally set for Oct. 15. Commissioners instead will meet Oct. 23 — a Thursday, rather than the usual Wednesday.