Park Board actions // Lake Harriet study

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has decided it’s time for Lake Harriet to get a checkup.

The board frequently receives complaints about the lake’s smells and surface algae and is hoping to perform a diagnostic study — funded by a $55,000 matching grant from the state — to see just how healthy the popular body of water is.

“These grants are specifically being put out to prevent lakes from being designated as impaired lakes,” said the board’s Environmental and Field Services Director Debra Lynn Pilger.

Pilger presented the details of the “clean water partnership grant” to the board at its Aug. 4 meeting. A resolution authorizing an application to the state’s Pollution Control Agency for the grant was unanimously approved. The application is due Aug. 13.

Pilger said Minneapolis is already home to five nutrient-impaired lakes: Brownie, Nokomis, Wirth, Hiawatha and Powderhorn. The study could help the Park Board develop an action plan to keep Harriet from joining the list.

“Really the state of Minnesota is looking to help prevent further degradation of some of these water bodies that are generally in decent shape, but have room for improvement,” Pilger said.

She said the study would put the Park Board in a position to apply for further state funding if improvements to the lake are needed. Following the study, she said, the Park Board would work with community members to develop the management plan.  

The city’s Public Works Department committed $30,000 toward the matching grant, which will come from storm water utilities. The Park Board will provide the remaining $25,000 through regional park lottery finds and in-kind labor.  

Lake Harriet was again in the spotlight late last month, when a mass of dead panfish drifted to shore. Park Board spokeswoman Dawn Sommers said the kill was the result of Columnaris, a disease common in small fish when water temperatures rise and the fish become stressed. Lake Harriet supports thousands of fish, she said, and the loss represented a tiny percentage.

Community concerned about Loring Park staff switch

Several Loring Park residents showed up at the Aug. 4 Park Board meeting to express concerns about the transfer of neighborhood park staff at the height of activity season. 

The residents said they found out about the departure of Park Director Laurie Spark on the day of the neighborhood’s torchlight parade, which drew over 1,000 people. They said they received no advance notice and there was no transition period, which caused problems because Spark had helped organize a variety of summer park activities, such as Movies in the Park and the Loring Park Art Festival.

Jana Metge, coordinator of Citizens for a Loring Park Community, said the sudden change smacked in the face of the Park Boards efforts to improve community engagement.  

"What happened at the Loring Park Neighborhood and in Loring Park with staffing changes is an example of what not to do," she said. 

The neighborhood group read a resolution recommending the development of a transition plan and standard lengths for staff assignments at specific locations.

Interim Park Board Superintendent David Fisher, who makes staffing changes, said the residents made good points, but he wasn’t prepared to comment further on the matter.