Vandalism, trampling in Lyndale Park gardens

Profanity carved into a crabapple tree
Profanity carved into a crabapple tree in the Lyndale Park gardens has damaged it to the point that a major limb or possibly the whole tree will need to be removed. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

The gardens at Lyndale Park, near Lake Harriet, are among the most beautiful places in Minneapolis, in large part due to dedicated volunteer gardeners who help the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board manage the space.

Over the years, volunteers with the Men’s and Women’s Garden Club of Minneapolis (MWGCM) have seen their plots trampled either out of neglect or vindictiveness. In 2019, they feel their efforts are being constantly maligned and say they are finding trash on a regular basis.

“This year has been terrible,” said Judy Berglund, a MWGCM volunteer.

The gardeners have had plants dug up and trampled. Signage has been destroyed. Cans of beer and White Claw have been left behind. Profanity has been spray-painted and carved into trees, to the point where at least one crabapple tree will need at least a branch removed if it’s not cut down entirely, MPRB gardener Jacob Deaver said. Some damage, like the carving and sign breakage, is clearly intended; other instances could be accidental, with people not realizing they are stepping through planted space.

“It sorts into ignorance or vandalism,” said Kirky Otto, a MWGCM volunteer.

Unintended damage is visible in the Peace Garden, where two white pines tower over the grounds. The sign marking the trees has been ripped out of the ground. The pines are some of the most impressive trees in the city yet, at their base, several smaller limbs — 48, according to the volunteers — have been removed and marked over with white paint. The culprits, volunteers say, are people using hammocks.

Hammock damage

A study conducted by University of Minnesota students on behalf of the MPRB in 2018 found significant hammock-related damage in the Rose Garden area, where at least 21 trees showed signs of damage to their trunks or branches.

One of the study’s recommendations was for the MPRB to develop an educational guide to make park-goers aware of potential damage to trees from hammocks and slacklines. Current Park Board rules allow hammocks to be used during regular park hours, with ordinances prohibiting tree damage and molesting vegetation.

Hammock users should look for trees with thick bark that are about eight inches in diameter at breast height and avoid putting straps on branches, said Philip Potyondy, sustainable forestry coordinator with the MPRB. People should use “tree-saver” straps that are at least one-inch wide or use felt covers to protect the tree from straps, he said. The MPRB is in the process of hiring a forestry outreach coordinator who will work on promoting best practices for hammocks, among other duties related to tree education.

“Most of the people don’t mean any harm to the trees; they just don’t know any better,” said Otto, who has talked to hammockers about proper straps and found them to be receptive to better practices.

Having dedicated volunteers is “a big help” in managing the gardens, Deaver said, but this year the group has been discouraged by having their efforts literally trampled.

“It’s crushing because you work so hard,” Berglund said.