Parks update: Swimming rafts arrive

Swimming rafts arrive, new fishing piers next

The long-awaited swimming docks on Minneapolis lakes arrived on June 9, and Mayor R.T. Rybak, Park Board commissioners Bob Fine and John Erwin and Fulton Neighborhood Association President Steve Young celebrated by taking the first plunge that day.

The opening of the new docks — at lakes Nokomis, Harriet and Calhoun —  came just a few days after the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted to spend $65,000 for two new fishing piers.

One will be installed on the west side of Lake Calhoun between the Bakken Museum and the Lake Calhoun Executive Center. The other will go on the north side of Lake Hiawatha in South Minneapolis. Each dock is 44 feet long and has a T at the end.

The Park Board voted to fund the piers by taking money from the neighborhood capital improvements program that had been budgeted for water park enhancements.

Here’s the twist: Michael Schmidt, the Park Board’s assistant superintendent of operations, said he’s already placed an order for the new docks. The vendor is MINNCOR Industries, a state-run manufacturer that uses state prisoners for labor.

The problem is that if the state government shuts down on July 1 due to a budget impasse, the MINNCOR program could be shut down as well.

Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed keeping MINNCOR running during a shutdown, but the issue will likely be decided in court.

 “At this point, the best case scenario is late August or early September,” Schmidt said.

The Park Board also announced new beach rules on June 9. Starting this summer, beach goers will be allowed to use non-inflatable foam toys such as swim noodles and balls.

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Attorney: Lake Calhoun name can’t be changed

Park Board attorney Brian Rice says the Park Board, the city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota do not have the authority to change the name of Lake Calhoun.

Rice, in a letter to the Park Board, said the only person with authority to change the name of a lake is the Minnesota Commissioner of Natural Resources and he no longer has that power because state law says a lake name cannot be changed after 40 years. Calhoun was named after John C. Calhoun nearly 200 years ago.

John Winters, a Southwest resident, has been rallying to get the named changed to Lake Humphrey for a couple months. Calhoun was a pro-slavery senator and vice president from South Carolina and Winters says it’s wrong to have a lake named after him.

Winters said he is considering an attempt put the proposal to city voters through a charter amendment. Rice wrote that he didn’t believe that would be legal either, but said the question is more suited for the city attorney’s opinion.

Winters said he is also exploring the idea of getting a memorial near Lake Calhoun that would honor Minnesota soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

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Donation machines aimed at non-residents

In an effort to boost its budget, the Park Board is considering installing three donation machines in Minneapolis parks that would be aimed at collecting money from non-residents.

The automated machines would be installed at the Lake Harriet Bandshell, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Minnehaha Falls — all parks that Park Board staff says are highly visited by non-residents.

Installing the machines would cost about $10,000 each. The Park Board says it will request funding of the machines from nonprofits People for Parks and the Minneapolis Parks Foundation.  

Revenue would go back to those organizations as well as to the Park Board’s general fund to be used for programming and operations.

If the machines don’t generate the revenue that the Park Board expects, they could be converted into pay parking machines.

Reach Nick Halter at nhalter@mnpubs.com.