Group investigating future of Lake Harriet concession says it needs more time

Halfway through its work schedule, a citizens’ advisory committee tasked with making recommendations on the future of the Lake Harriet concession says it needs more time.

The group was going to come together for four two-hour meetings, of which two already have been held. Committee chairman Matt Perry said he’d pictured they would discuss the concession’s finances at meeting No. 2, analyze structure and amenities at the third and, at the last meeting, draft recommendations for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

So much for that.

At the second meeting, held June 1, the group’s members never came close to a presentation on finances. They instead spent almost all of their two hours discussing how to get input from stakeholders. Would they mail out surveys? Send e-mails? Hold neighborhood group-hosted forums?

With all that still undecided, committee member Sarah Harris questioned how feedback could be appropriately analyzed and used to form recommendations by mid-July. Others agreed.

“I don’t want to make a second career out of going to these meetings, but … I’d rather do it right,” member John Finlayson said.

Doing it right, the group decided by meeting’s end, means forming recommendations that fit into a long-term vision for the Lake Harriet band shell and concession area. And that means doing as much up-front planning and analysis as possible before making any recommendations, Perry said, which will be a time-consuming process.

It also means, most likely, no changes at the concession next year, said Don Siggelkow, the Park Board’s general manager. Part of the reason the group’s deadline has been mid-July is so that requests for proposals can be sent out in August and construction can begin shortly afterward for a spring opening.

But Siggelkow said that, based on the amount of work the group was staring down, it would be appropriate to take longer.

“I’d say you’re already there,” he told the committee when asked whether he thought they would need more time.

Exactly how many more meetings the group needs so far is undecided. Perry said he wasn’t sure if a total of five meetings would be enough or whether it would have to be six.

Meanwhile, citizens can track the work of the committee at http://lakeharrietcac.ning.com.