Plan for Brownie Lake includes mountain biking, bridge over channel

A new renovation plan for Brownie Lake would add a three-quarter mile mountain biking trail and complete the dirt pedestrian loop with a bridge over the channel to Cedar Lake.  

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has been approved for over $1 million in federal and state grants for improvements to the area, but about half of that is contingent upon how much money Congress approves this spring in a federal transportation bill. 

Brownie Lake has a runoff problem, and erosion and invasive species are threatening water quality. Plus, surrounding infrastructure is crumbling. That prompted the Park Board to appoint a citizens advisory committee tasked with determining how to renovate the area.

The committee came up with a plan to keep many of the rustic qualities that make Brownie what it is: Unpaved trails around the lake, lots of trees and minimal amenities.

The committee’s first priority is to reconstruct the deteriorated bike trail that runs along Cedar Lake Parkway up the hill from the northeast corner of the lake. That trail is part of the Park Board’s Grand Rounds system. The trail would be widened from six feet to eight feet.

The committee is recommending a mountain biking loop that runs up and down the west side of the lake. It would be further inland than the walking and cross-country trails.

The Brownie mountain biking trails would be another step toward the completion of an 8-mile, continuous mountain bike trail throughout Wirth Park. About half of that trail is open at the north end of the park, and the volunteer group Minneapolis Off-Road Cycling Advocates hopes to finish Brownie and the south end of the park by 2013, pending Park Board approval.

Shawn Sheely, vice president of MOCA, said the group constructs the trails primarily by hand, meeting sustainability requirements that prevent erosion. They’re not made for racing, rather recreational biking.

Gone from Brownie would be the old wooden staircase along the east side that acted as a primary entrance. Instead, the plan calls for new entrances on the northeast and southeast corners.

A 60-foot bridge would span the channel that separates Cedar and Brownie. Currently, it’s not possible to complete a loop around Brownie without trespassing on railroad property. The bridge would complete the loop, but also sit 8.5 feet above water so that canoes and cross country skiers could navigate the channel.

The plan would also repair eroded trails, add waste receptacles, install a floating fishing dock, fight Buckthorn and improve storm water runoff. A couple more canoe racks would also be added.

Nine members of the citizens committee have forwarded the plan to the Park Board’s Planning Committee. That committee is scheduled to vote on the plan March 14, and the full Board could adopt it as early as March 21.