Hidden Beach is new home to log rollers, open water swimmers

Credit: The Minneapolis Log Rolling Club has a home base at Hidden Beach. Submitted image

Hidden Beach has a notorious reputation, but residents in the Kenwood neighborhood are working to embrace the beach and make it welcoming for more people.

The beach at 2000 Upton Ave. S. now hosts a new log rolling club that meets weekly, as well as an open water swim staffed by the YWCA. An early morning meditation group met at the beach for a while this summer, and there is talk of starting a yoga group. Community members are also planning a pop-up adventure playground for kids, which would likely roll out next spring.

“This is part of an effort by the neighborhood to revitalize and add different events down at Hidden Beach, and make it a welcoming place for all to use,” said Matthew Spies, a neighborhood resident who helped develop ideas as part of a Kenwood Isles Area Association committee.

“Historically we’ve had a lot of challenges at Hidden Beach with alcohol use, drug use and disorderly, disruptive behavior,” said Park Police Chief Jason Ohotto. “It’s been a very different year there.”

Hidden Beach generated 113 police reports between May 1, 2014 and Aug. 25, 2014. During the same period this year, however, the number of reports was 56.

Ohotto attributes the drop to several factors. The Kenwood neighborhood spent $8,000 this year to buy police overtime hours dedicated to Hidden Beach, an amount $3,000 higher than last year. Park patrol agents are assigned to the beach from 3-11 p.m. daily, working later into the night than last year. The Park Board has worked to remove invasive species, trim back trees and clean up the beach, Ohotto said. And he said the new activities are making an impact. As more people engage in positive activities at the beach, he said, the fewer disturbances there will be.

Members of the Minneapolis Log Rolling Club can visit the beach at any time to check out a log and practice. The club uses synthetic logs developed by Golden Valley-based Key Log Rolling, which builds logs that are much more portable than the sport’s wooden 500-pound logs. The club meets on Wednesday nights all summer for practice and friendly competition, and also gathers on Tuesdays to give newcomers a chance to try log rolling with the guidance of experienced rollers. (September events will depend on weather and available volunteers.)

Since July, the YWCA has provided a lifeguard and swim coach to supervise swimmers crossing the entire lake, available each Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. (Independent open water swimming is normally prohibited on Minneapolis lakes.) 

The Kenwood neighborhood is also working with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and Twin Cities Adventure Play to develop ideas for a pop-up playground.

The Adventure Play group set up shop at Open Streets events this summer, bringing tires, large cardboard boxes and duct tape for kids to build with. The organization emphasizes nature-based, self-led play.

“It’s a really great location to incorporate natural elements,” Spies said, mentioning Hidden Beach’s mud pit, loose branches and rocks. “We could allow kids to build ropes courses or rope swings. … It gives more freedom to be creative.”

Spies encouraged people outside the neighborhood to brainstorm more strategies to use the beach.

“We’re hoping for more ideas,” he said.