Parks update // Lake Harriet committee

Lake Harriet committee will meet in August, September

A citizens’ advisory committee tasked with making recommendations on the future of the Lake Harriet concession will extend its meetings past July and into September.

The group originally was scheduled to get together just four times, with July 13 as its last date. But a majority of members said that to do their job right, they couldn’t rush the process. They are now expected to meet once in August and once in September.

Much of the committee’s time so far has been spent preparing surveys to gather input from a wide variety of stakeholders. Churches, churchgoers, trolley operators, nearby business associations and City Council members are all targeted, as well as lake visitors, who can expect on-site surveys in the coming weeks.

At their June 22 meeting, members got a financial overview of the concession from Don Siggelkow, who oversees concession contracts as a Park Board general manger. Lake Harriet, he said, gets more visitors than Lake Calhoun. But the concession’s revenue, which is entirely derived from a percentage of the operator’s profits, doesn’t show it.

In 2008, for example, the Harriet concession produced $38,619 in revenue for the Park Board. Calhoun-based Tin Fish, meanwhile, made $105,196.

Siggelkow said Harriet’s numbers should go up easily with higher-quality concessions. A new operator could bring in much more revenue, while Park Board expenditures on the concession would not be expected to change.

In other committee news, member Sarah Harris was expected to resign over time concerns. Harris, a Downtown-based consultant, had told the committee that she was set to launch a new business venture.

It hasn’t been determined whether her Commissioner Bob Fine-appointed position will be filled. Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom, who said she had spoken with Fine, told the committee that there was some concern that too much work might already have been done for someone to start now.

The committee will next meet July 13 at the Linden Hills Recreation Center, 3100 43rd St. W. Updates on its work can be found at lakeharrietcac.ning.com.

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Pedestrian bridge fix-up could begin soon

Thanks to the federal stimulus plan, bids to reconstruct the shuttered Bryant Avenue pedestrian bridge over Minnehaha Creek could go out as early as this fall.

The project will receive $382,000 in stimulus funds thanks to approval from the Metropolitan Council this month. Combined with an earlier allocation from the city, the Park Board can now afford to move ahead with the $477,000 construction.

Judd Rietkerk, director of planning, said engineering consultants Short Elliott Hendrickson, who did a recent study of the bridge, already has been hired to move the project along. Rietkerk said it’s likely that, because of the funding source, there would have to be several approval steps. Altogether, it could be about September or October, he said, before bids could go out.

The bridge has been closed since last April, after residents expressed concern over its stability. Commissioner Bob Fine said he wants the bridge back open next year.

“It’s an icon,” Fine said.

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Park Board expects $2.5 million budget hit in 2010

Because of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s planned unallotment — and $300 million cuts to aid for local governments statewide — the Park Board is anticipating a loss of about $3.5 million over the next two years.

Superintendent Jon Gurban said he expects the board to take a $1 million local-government aid hit this year. That’s on top of $1.6 million that was unallotted late last year.

Gurban said the board should be able to balance out a little more than $750,000 of the latest cut because of unallocated funds. But he said the board probably will have to revisit its 2009 budget in August to figure out how to deal with the remainder.

“At least we’re learning about it in June, not on December 10 or 11,” Gurban said.

In 2010, he said the board expects a $2.5 million cut to local-government aid.

For more on the governor’s planned unallotment, see Civic Beat.