Parks update // Park Board talks docks

Park Board talks docks

During a lively discussion following the regular Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board meeting Aug. 18, the board’s recreation committee discussed the possibility of reintroducing swim docks and relaxing beach rules.

Staff gave a presentation about current beach rules, lifeguard duties and dock options, which included a comparison to neighboring cities. At-Large Commissioner Bob Fine and Commissioner Brad Bourn (District 6) have been the drivers of the idea of bringing back swim docks and relaxing beach rules as a way to revive the city’s beach attendance. They found plenty of agreement at the meeting.

“I’m very much in favor of relaxing the rules and encouraging more and more people to come back to our beaches because they have left our beaches because they’re not so much fun,” said Park Board President John Erwin, who went as far as to advocate for open swimming.

Erwin said he comes from a coastal culture where personal responsibility is emphasized and the city isn’t responsible for people who choose to swim after lifeguard hours, a concern park staff had about dock use. Staff also said Ramsey County recently pulled its swim docks because of two deaths. Erwin argued that the larger number of people using the beaches because of the amenities needed to be considered.

“I agree with commissioner Fine and commissioner Bourn that putting back swimming docks and other things are amenities people will use,” Erwin said. “And even though there are more deaths, I hate to put it this way, but I don’t know that the percentages change because you have more people swimming and more people using it.”

Reggie Karkowski, manager of ice rinks and aquatics for Minneapolis parks, said the amenities do attract more people, but they are also another distraction for lifeguards. Docks would likely require more eyes on the beaches, which translates to more money, he said.

Karkowski added that some beach rules, such as running on the sand and chicken fighting, were already erased last year. And compared to nearby cities, the rules are similar. Park Board General Manager Don Siggelkow said the city’s rules are in place to help lifeguards do their job.  

“We ask a lot of some young people that are our lifeguards out there on the beaches and the pools,” Siggelkow said.

He proposed the installation of small docks in 2 to 3 feet of water to reduce the chance of children drowning while swimming to them. He said the docks wouldn’t be large enough to attract after-hours activity. Such docks are used at Bush Lake in Bloomington and cost $1,000 each.

Commissioner Fine said he’d rather see large docks that people could swim to and dive from and he worried about the potential for injury from jumping off a shallow-water dock. But he said he’d be open to the possibility. Several other commissioners were also in favor of exploring dock options.

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Board sets strategic direction

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board at its Aug. 18 meeting approved its strategic direction for 2011–2013.

The plan is the culmination of a three-month planning process that combined board and superintendent priorities with the goals of the park system’s comprehensive plan. The effort included surveys, work sessions and studies by board committees.

The main points of the plan:
— Focus resources on park maintenance;
— Become a national leader on sustainability issues;
— Focus on partnerships, especially with the city and public schools;
— Focus on new community engagement strategies and improve transparency;
— Focus on a financial plan that boosts revenue, but prepare for cuts;
— Keep basic services and programs accessible and remind children of the importance of outdoor activities;
— Shape the city’s character through development strategies.

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Zebra mussels found in Minnehaha Creek

Minnehaha Creek, along with lakes Nokomis and Hiawatha, was designated as infested water in August after the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) discovered zebra mussels at its western end. No mussels were found at the lakes, but the creek flows into them, so there is a potential for infestation.

Zebra mussels can spread to other bodies of water via boats, nets, docks, swim platforms and other structures. Microscopic larvae can be carried in the water and large infestations can harm native mussels and fish and damage equipment. The infested designation prohibits the transfer of water from the creek and lakes to avoid spreading the contamination.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is working with the DNR and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District on the issue and the board is developing procedures to limit the mussels’ spread.

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Noted

Wading pools in Whittier, Lyndale, Kenny and Armatage closed for the season Aug. 29. The last of the Minneapolis park system’s wading pools closed Sept. 6.