Curious about the creature in Lake Harriet?

The people behind the Loch Ness look-alike explain themselves

For a week, rumors circulated about the newest addition to Lake Harriet’s creatures, a 13-foot reptilian sculpture in the lake. That is, until July 16, when the creator and the creature’s adopted family revealed themselves.

The Lake Creature was exposed as a creation of local artist Cameron Gainer and as part of a larger plan by the Minneapolis Parks Foundation to enhance the city’s parks.

The creature is the first project created from a public art fund meant to inspire and delight Minneapolis residents and visitors. It will travel among the Chain of Lakes unannounced, surprising those who travel the lakes. During the winter, the creature will hibernate until summer returns.

“There’s no underestimating the importance of public art in our community,” said Cecily Hines, president of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. “It’s free, can be enjoyed by all age groups, inspires imagination and helps foster a sense of community and mutual delight as everyone shares the joy of seeing something they didn’t expect to see in their lakes.”

Surprised runners stop in their tracks and children vie for a better look of the floating creature made of fiberglass, aluminum and glass eyes. Gainer’s sculpture was inspired by the iconic “Surgeon’s Photo” of 1934, which was presented as evidence of the existence of Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster.

The Lake Creature is one of a trio of sculptures created by Gainer for public spaces. Loch Ness and Bigfoot are two of the iconic images that have inspired his work.

Intrigued lake-goers add to the lore of the creature by writing his or her own stories online at lakecreature.com.

Some refer to it as the Loch Ness Monster of Lake Harriet. Others have called her Harrieta, or Millie. Some thought the creature was a response to the milfoil but others correctly guessed it was art.

The creature is not a city invention, according to Minneapolis Park and Recreation officials, rather the work of a private group. The Park Board asserts that necessary permits were issued, and that the public is invited to join in on the mystery and visit the web site.

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation is a non-profit organization that works to better the lives of Minneapolis residents by investing in unique park projects. They are inviting residents to assist in nicknaming the creature, whose symbolic title is currently _[ (“underscore left square bracket”).

The “Nickname the Lake Creature” contest began July 16 and continues through Aug. 16.  To enter, fill out the form online at lakecreature.com, include a nickname suggestion and the reason the nickname should be chosen.

“The nickname contest is just one of many fun things we have in store for fans of the Lake Creature,” said Hines.

The Foundation will care for the creature as it moves among the lakes, but also invites residents to help care for her by donating funds to the Minneapolis Parks Foundation Public Art Fund at www.mplsparkfoundation.org.

Harriet is already home to a mythical elf, Mr. Little Guy, who writes back to curious questioners through a hole in the base of a tree. With the addition of a lake creature, there’s no telling what creature will next present itself on the shores of Minneapolis lakes.

“I hope she continues to grow into a beloved city icon that residents and visitors can look forward to visiting year after year,” said Gainer.