Parks update: Lakes open to distance swimmers

Park Board will open water to distance swimmers

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is working on a pilot program to allow swimmers an extra 500 yards of open water twice a week on Lake Calhoun.

Sixth District Commissioner Brad Bourn said the proposal came at the request of the swimming community, who have asked for more free range to swim longer distances.

Under the current ordinance, people are not allowed to swim across any lake unless they obtain a permit for $115 an hour. The Park Board requires those swimmers to be accompanied by a boat and lifeguard.

Bourn called the current swimming ordinance “a little draconian.”

“Bodies of water are meant to be swam in,” he said.

He said the proposal would allow people to swim on one weekday and one weekend day. The extended swimming area would be open for roughly two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening, but Bourn didn’t have specific days or times yet.

The Park Board is targeting Calhoun’s north beach.

The swimming area would feature a triangle of swim lanes as well as space for open swimming.

The Board is looking to OptumHealth, a national health and wellness company, to provide safety with trained volunteers in the water and on the beach.

Bourn said the current ordinance is “extremely hard to enforce.”

“I would be very surprised if someone got a ticket unless they were injuring somebody,” he said.

Bourn said the ordinance would allow triathlon athletes to legally train in city lakes.

Avid swimmers first approached Bourn a year and a half ago with the idea, and the proposal has picked up momentum as the weather has turned warmer this spring.

The extended swimming area has a powerful advocate: Bourn said Mayor R.T. Rybak has supported the idea.

Bourn expects the proposal to be discussed at the June 20 Recreation Committee meeting and could be up for a full Park Board vote in July.

———

Park Board to plant 3,000 trees in North Side

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board signaled its commitment to reforesting North Minneapolis after a tornado wiped out thousands of trees on May 22.

Commissioner Jon Olson, who represents North Minneapolis, surprised the board by adding a motion at the end of the June 1 meeting. After some debate, the commissioners agreed to commit to planting 3,000 trees in North Minneapolis by spring 2012, as well as to make available 1,000 trees to private property owners paid for by private fundraisers.

“I think it’s important that this board show its commitment to planting those trees,” Olson said.

He said the tornado wiped out 2,000 trees in parkland and at least 3,000 on private land.

Olson originally wanted to commit to planting 2,000 trees by this fall, but commissioners and staff raised concerns that planting the trees while the area is being rebuilt might jeopardize the survival of the trees.

Ralph Sievert, director of park forestry, said trees don’t grow between fall and spring, so planting them in the fall would not speed up the reforestation of North Minneapolis.

———

Daily dog park permits available

Infrequent users of Minneapolis dog parks will have a new, daily option for letting their dogs run free in fenced areas. The Park Board on June 1 approved a daily, $5 permit to use the dog parks.

Previously, annual permits to the dog parks cost $35 for residents and $60 for non-residents. Regular users of the parks will still be able to purchase those annual permits.  

Both daily and annual permits can be purchased at minneapolisparks.org.

Reach Nick Halter at nhalter@mnpubs.com.