Parkway closures to vehicle traffic will be extended into the summer and will be expanded to full roadway closures along the Chain of Lakes to give residents more space to practice social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) voted May 6 to approve $250,000 in funding for a prolonged closure of parkway roads. The money will likely pay for closures lasting throughout the month of June, though the exact timeline remains unclear.
Expenses from the closures come from signage rentals, but assistant superintendent Michael Schroeder said the MPRB would receive a discount for their prolonged use of the signs and that greater savings could be achieved by putting the contract up for a public bid.
Commissioner Brad Bourn (District 6) made an amendment that would extend the closures until those dollars are spent, a variation from the original proposal that called for closures through June 7. “The intent of the amendment is to use the money as long as it would go” Bourn said.
Parkway closures through May 6 have cost $106,419, according to a staff report, and the extension through June 7 would cost an additional $95,000. Exactly how long $250,000 will last is unknown, and both staff and commissioners discussed the potential of seeking financial help to pay for prolonging the closures once those funds expire.
“As long as there’s guidance for social distancing, I think there is a need for us to provide additional space,” Park Board President Jono Cowgill said.
The approved extension calls upon MRPB to try to be as cost efficient as possible, which means opting for full closures of certain parkways that only had one lane blocked to cars, including around Cedar Lake and Bde Maka Ska in Southwest. Full closures of those parkways, with the exception of small areas for residential access, began May 7, according to the MPRB. Cedar Lake Parkway is now fully closed to vehicles; plans to fully close Bde Maka Ska parkways remain in place but are awaiting local commissioner approval. Single-lane parkway closures are more expensive because of rental costs for delineator cones, with a staff report finding that switching to full closures could save about $20,000. Full closures will also be coming to most of West River Road and Lake Nokomis Parkway.
When the initial parkway closures were announced, the intent was to make the change through Gov. Tim Walz’s first stay-at-home order. As the extensions have gone longer than expected, the price tag has risen, but Schroeder said buying signage would be expensive and not worth the investment without prolonged use.
“Unless we’re going to be using them every day of the year, it doesn’t make much sense for us to be purchasing ourselves,” Schroeder said.
Commissioner Chris Meyer (District 1) proposed an amendment to change the configuration of the parkway closures, putting pedestrians on the walking and biking paths and cyclists on the parkway roads. That motion failed, but several commissioners said they’ve heard complaints from some walkers about cyclists in the street, and complaints from cyclists about the configuration being counterintuitive.
“The feedback I’ve gotten has been overwhelmingly negative about the distribution of space,” Meyer said.
In Southwest Minneapolis, parkway closures to vehicles are in effect around Bde Maka Ska, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles and Lake Harriet.
Parkways around the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis will remain closed to vehicle traffic well into June. A cost-saving measure calls for full closures of parkways around Bde Maka Ska and Cedar Lake. Photo by Andrew Hazzard
Park improvement plan altered
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has adjusted its capital improvement program to focus on rehabilitation rather than new projects in parks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Park Board commissioners voted to rearrange planned improvements to rec centers by prioritizing smaller, rehabilitation-heavy projects in 2020 and putting off larger impact projects until 2021.
“The idea here is to think about the projects we are able to do in the context of the pandemic, particularly with community engagement,” MPRB planning director Adam Arvidson said.
The move will cause large projects planned for 2020 at parks like Whittier and Painter to be delayed until 2021.
Many parks in Southwest that are due for funding under the Neighborhood Parks Plan dollars are awaiting the passage of the Southwest Service Area Master Plan, which has also been in a holding pattern during the pandemic. The Park Board is waiting to vote until a public hearing can be held. Residents can still view and comment on the plan at minneapolisparks.org/sw.
The vote will mean more rehabilitation work like roof replacement and restroom renovations at rec centers and sidewalk fixes and ADA improvements in parks this summer and fall.
- The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled the state’s Department of Resources had proper authority to change the name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska in a 5-2 split decision handed down on May 13, ending a legal battle over the name of the Southwest Minneapolis lake.
- Bread and Pickle at Lake Harriet Pavilion and Sea Salt at Minnehaha Park will open for business on May 15, according to MPRB Superintendent Al Bangoura.