Monthly Archives: January 2013

February Board Meetings

The Park Board has issued the following notice:

February Board Meetings

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s (MPRB) regular February meetings will be held Wednesday, Feb. 6 and Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 5 p.m. in the Board Room at MPRB headquarters, 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis.

A Committee of the Whole meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. in the Minnehaha Room at MPRB headquarters.

Board meeting agendas and related information are posted on http://www.minneapolisparks.org two business days prior to meetings. MPRB regular board meetings are typically broadcast live from 5 to 9 p.m. on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast cable and online at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/tv/79.

Regular meetings are typically rebroadcast on Channel 79 on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 5 p.m. Broadcast schedules are subject to change.

Webcasts of MPRB regular board meetings are posted on the MPRB website two to five business days following each meeting and are available for viewing, along with webcasts for the recent two months, at http://www.minneapolisparks.org.

Open House for Dean Parkway / W. Cedar Lake Trail Improvements

The following announcement has been issued by the Park Board:

Open House for Dean Parkway / W. Cedar Lake Trail Improvements

The open house will provide the public an opportunity to review and comment on draft plans for trail improvements along Dean Parkway and the west side of Cedar Lake.

Date: 1/31/2013

Time: 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Type: Public Meeting

Location: Bakken Museum

Address: 3537 Zenith Ave S., Minneapolis

Map and Directions: http://maps.yahoo.com/place/?bb=44.94385787723166%2C-93.33064515762328%2C44.93282012276834%2C-93.31115484237671&addr=3537%20Zenith%20Ave%20S%2C%20Minneapolis%2C%20MN%2055416-4623

Dean and West Cedar Lake Parkway Trail C A C Meeting

The following announcement has been issued by the Park Board:

Dean, W. Cedar Lake Parkway Trail Improvement Community Advisory Committee Meeting

Second meeting of the Dean Parkway, W. Cedar Lake Trail Improvement Community Advisory Committee. All are welcome to attend; time will be set aside for public comment. For further information about the project, visit the project web page: http://www.minneapolisparks.org/default.asp?PageID=1418

Date: 1/29/2013

Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Type: Public Meeting

Location: Kenwood Community Center

Address: 2101 W Franklin Ave., Minneapolis

Map and Directions: http://maps.yahoo.com/place/?bb=44.96810755111656%2C-93.31634742492676%2C44.957078448883436%2C-93.29684257507324&addr=2101%20W%20Franklin%20Ave%2C%20Minneapolis%2C%20MN%2055405-2424

Backlash Delays Contract for Wirth Park Welcome Center

The following article by Nick Halter appeared in the January 25, 2013 issue of the Southwest Journal:

BACKLASH DELAYS CONTRACT FOR WIRTH PARK WELCOME CENTER

A Minneapolis Park Board committee was set to vote on a contract that would create a partnership with the Loppet Foundation to build and operate a new “silent sports center” at Wirth Park, but public outcry sent staff back to the drawing board.

“The particular iteration of the contract is what I would call crap-tastic,” said Commissioner Liz Wielinski (District 1).

The agreement would have the Park Board relying on the Loppet Foundation (formerly the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation) to raise $3 million for a silent sports center. That center would house a shop for bike ski rentals and sales; some type of concessions; a conference room; a great room and a training room.

In exchange for raising those funds, the Park Board would give the Loppet a 20-year lease with a 5-year option to operate the facility. The original agreement allowed the Loppet to pick tenants for the building and gave the Loppet naming rights.

The Park Board would spend $1.7 million it received from state bonding money to knock down the clubhouse for the par 3 golf course and for design work on the welcome center. The money would also go toward building a new parking lot and a “stadium” for mountain biking and skiing events.

The Park Board would have to use its own funds to relocate the 17th and 18th holes of the 18-hole course to make room for the building.

Members of the golf community raised concerns about the agreement with the Loppet Foundation. They said they weren’t involved in the contract and said they worried that the Park Board wasn’t committed to properly re-locating the two golf holes. They raised concerns over how much control a private group would have in a park that is shared with golfers.

Some non-golfers also raised concerns on public forums, saying a 25-year contract will give a private organization control over the city’s biggest park.

As a result of the backlash, the Park Board removed an item from its Jan. 17 agenda and commissioners said they wanted some issues addressed in a memorandum of understanding that was drafted between the Park Board and Loppet Foundation.

“I have a list of probably 50 different things,” said Commissioner Anita Tabb (District 4).

Loppet Foundation Executive Director John Munger urged the Park Board to move quickly on the contract, because it stipulates that the Foundation must raise the $3 million by the end of 2014. The goal is to have the new center build in time for the 2016-2017 winter.

“I am just going to tell you that you’re all very capable of killing this project by procedure, because if it’s three to six months before it’s done, we’re probably not going to be able to succeed,” Munger said.

Sixth Park District Dog Park to Open Temporarily for Winter Months– Grand Opening Planned for Early Summer

The following item has been issued by the Park Board:

Sixth Park District Dog Park to Open Temporarily for Winter Months–
Grand Opening Planned for Early Summer

In response to overwhelming requests from the community, the much anticipated Off-Leash Dog Park at Lyndale Farmstead Park will open this Friday for a “preview” during the winter months.

Although there is still a significant amount of work to be done, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) determined that the park could open on a temporary basis to accommodate pet owners who are looking for a nearby area for their dogs to run for the winter months. This opportunity will allow everyone who is eagerly awaiting the new off-leash space to get a sneak preview of what the new park will have to offer.

The Off-Leash Park will close in spring for the remaining construction work with a grand opening planned for Early Summer 2013 when the full park will be completed.

Here is what you can expect during the temporary “preview” opening:

• The current surface across the dog park is a gravel base. (The final surface will be a granite chip material and will be installed in the spring.)

• The majority of chain link fencing around the park has been installed with the exception of the entrance vestibule. The entrance area will be completed once the granite chip is installed. In the meantime, a temporary fenced-in vestibule will be in its place.

• The completion of the filtration area is not quite finished. Currently a temporary construction fence surrounds this area so please make sure to keep your pets out of the filtration area.

Remember that all rules for off-leash recreation apply during this “Preview” opening and an Off-Leash Permit is required for all dogs. Permits can be obtained by calling customer service 612-230-6400 or online at http://www.minneapolisparks.org/dogparks.

Once completed the off-leash area will feature: See the plan: http://www.minneapolisparks.org/documents/design/sixth_dog_park/Illustrative1.pdf

• A concrete entrance will be constructed off of Dupont Avenue with a connecting concrete walk over to the primary seating area. The seating area will include benches and a shade structure.

• Landscape plantings will encompass the perimeter of the dog park and provide a soft edge and buffer.

To learn more about the Sixth Park District Dog Park project, visit the MPRB’s Dog Park project page: http://www.minneapolisparks.org/default.asp?PageID=1266 at http://www.minneapolisparks.org.

Questions About the Park Board's M. O. U. With the Loppet Foundation

The following commentary by David Fehlan, resident of East Isles, was posted on the Minneapolis Issues List on January 16, 2013: http://forums.e-democracy.org/groups/mpls/messages/post/6QPbIimN3LUCnkiyQX2LVU

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PARK BOARD’S M.O.U. WITH THE LOPPET FOUNDATION

I read the complete MOU, the complete proposed agreement and everything that’s written above. Here are some questions/impressions:

1. Why 20+5 years? Was this negotiated? Was one party ready to walk away and this is the best, fairest compromise?

2. Why no escalation/inflation indexing clause in the so-called rent of $150K per year? That’s not going to be worth nearly as much in 20 years.

3. Why no escalation clause in the $10K the Foundation sets aside each year for maintenance/center improvements?

4. The $10K in No. 3 above sounds like a pittance. If homeowners are supposed to plan on 1% of property value per year in maintenance, why does the Foundation get away with a third of that amount?

5. Has a complete inventory and a fair market value been completed for the snow-making and skiing equipment that is going to be gifted to the Foundation? There is not a lot of detail in the Agreement and I could not find a clause that says the Foundation must return equal or greater equipment, in equal or better condition, to the MPRB at the end of the 20-year lease or at anytime should there be a breach or early termination.

6. The language is very clear that the Foundation’s total building contribution is capped at $3M and that they have pretty much free reign for fundraising for the next 20 years. That includes selling naming rights to the building and various rooms within. They’ve got some big-name sponsors on their website and I’m sure more would jump on board if the project moves ahead and more events are held throughout the year (more eyeballs for advertising). This could be a freakin’ goldmine for the foundation and the MPRB and its taxpayers would get squat.

7. Related to No. 6, the Foundation could make a lot of money on concessions, equipment sales and rentals, and ticket-taking at the golf course. Has the MRPB run through financial projections to see if they’re getting a fair deal? Is a 5% vig on golf-related transactions fair? That ranks up there with TicketMaster, no friend of the consumer.

8. I didn’t see any mention of a Service Level Agreement, meaning in return for all this taxpayer largesse, the Foundation must do X, Y and Z in addition to the Loppet and the summertime activities. If they are selling this as “it’s all about the kids” then why aren’t the community service performance indicators IN the agreement and adjusted each year or every other year? The Foundation could make a financial killing and in 20 years, still be offering ski training and outings to the same limited number of students they do today.

9. Steve Kotvis talks about all the volunteers, and I realize there are many. But this ain’t no labor of love for everyone involved. According to the 2010 IRS form 990 (where is the 2011 document), the executive director gets $50K a year, an admin asst gets $32K and there are a couple of other employees plus associated payroll taxes. Those figures aren’t extravagant now, but again, if the Foundation really grows, I would not be surprised to see a few six-figure jobs created.

10. Steve also says the upcoming Loppet will attract 100,000+ participants and spectators. I don’t know where that figure comes from, because on the Foundation’s website, one can see the highlights of the entire history of the Loppet and participants don’t appear to exceed ~750 and there are several thousand spectators, but not 10,000 and certainly not 100,000.

Overall, I think the MPRB and the taxpayers are getting screwed. The Foundation has little skin in the game and the upside is all theirs. This deal reminds me of the “privatized profits and socialized losses” phrase that came about to describe certain Wall Street banks.

David Fehlan

East Isles, Minneapolis

New Assistant Superintendent Leads Minneapolis Parks' Recreation Division

The following item was circulated on January 16, 2013 by the Park Board:

New Assistant Superintendent Leads Minneapolis Parks’ Recreation Division

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s (MPRB) new leader for its Recreation Division is now in place. MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller announced Nicholas Williams as her selection after a national candidate search and Williams began his duties as the new Assistant Superintendent for Recreation on Monday, Jan. 14.

“Minneapolis provides an abundance of recreational opportunities that draw residents and visitors alike and I’m pleased to have Nick on board to serve in such a vital role within the organization,” said Superintendent Miller. “Nick is a highly effective leader who has exceptional knowledge of operations, management and programming to keep us moving forward. He provides an expertise in community engagement, is adept at managing and mentoring a diverse staff, and offers an innovative approach to solving problems and thinking outside the box.”

The Park Board’s Recreation Division provides expertise to lead, provide and create affordable recreational, cultural, educational, and leisure opportunities to benefit and enhance the lives of all Minneapolis residents. The division oversees recreation facility operations, including recreation centers, golf courses, aquatic facilities and beaches, ice arenas, cross-country skiing venues, and the Wirth Winter Recreation Area; recreation, education, and interpretive programming; use and event permitting; and athletic fields and complexes. The Recreation Division also provides support to the Recreation Committee of the Board.

A long-time resident of Atlanta, Williams brings leadership and community building experience to the MPRB. Since 2007, Williams served as Parks Operation Manager and Interim Director for the Office of Recreation and Office of Parks for the City of Atlanta. Prior to his time with the City of Atlanta, Williams also served as the Director of Community Building for Park Pride, a non-profit organization that supports Atlanta’s park system.

“I’m thrilled to join such a team of experienced and passionate people,” Williams said. “I’m honored to be a part of the greatest parks and recreation system in the country and I look forward to being intricately involved in its continued forward progress.”

E-Mail: Critique of Loppet Paperwork

The following e-mail letter from John Chaffee dated January 16, 2013 has been sent to the members of the MPRB’s Administration and Finance Committee. John Chaffee is a resident of Nicollet Island and a member of Park Watch.

Commissioners,

There are a good many policy issues connected with the Loppet deal, and I’m sure other people will address them. I’d like to comment on what seem to be some problems with the documents. I am not an attorney, but have read a good many public documents prepared by the Park Board and other bodies, and later observed how they worked, or did not work.

My comments are as follows:

No statement of purpose or public benefits: The Lease gives Loppet possession of the property for 25 years. Section 6 gives a brief list of what Loppet is to do, but there are no broad statements about what is to be accomplished.

Ideally such a facility should serve all members of the public, regardless of income; provide a wide range of activities; and not interfere unnecessarily with any other park uses. And any charges made should be no more than necessary to cover costs. There needs to be some language to that effect.

No defined right of access for the public: The Lease, like any other lease, gives Loppet possession of the property and the right to control it. There needs to be a statement that the public will have access to the parkland in the same manner as other parkland, and that Loppet is only managing it. There is a “Proprietary Rights” statement in the MOU which says the Park Board will continue to own the land. That is not helpful, because MPRB’s ownership will be subject to the Lease.

No transparency as to Loppet’s finances: Since Loppet is, or apparently will be, a contractor / partner for MPRB, its finances should be transparent and MPRB should have the right to review its books and records. This condition should be spelled out now.

No restrictions on Loppet’s expenditures: Responsible charitable organizations typically follow guidelines that call for spending 85% of revenues on programming and only 15% on fundraising and administration. Will Loppet agree to that, or something similar? If so, that condition should be in one of these documents before the Board takes action. If Loppet will not agree, a different contractor should be sought.

No legal description; documents not recordable: The Lease contains a sketch showing the land area which Loppet is to control. But there is no legal description. That means two things—

1) The land area to be controlled by Loppet is not clearly defined, which could lead to disputes in the future.

2) A document without a legal description cannot be recorded in the Hennepin County Recorder’s office, because there is no way to index it. A lease that ties up public property for 25 years should be filed in the public land records in the Recorder’s office, for the sake of transparency and to make sure that it does not get lost, among other reasons.

Ambiguity as to legal-counsel review: The staff report says that “The MOU and the Lease have been reviewed and approved by legal counsel.” This is a third-party statement and not at all specific. Who reviewed them? What was approved, the form? the content? or both?

If I were voting on these documents, I would want a written statement that an attorney had drafted them, and the name of the attorney. If the documents have been drafted by staff or consultants, I would ask for a first-hand written statement from a named attorney who has reviewed them, saying that in his/her opinion they provide adequate protection for the interests of MPRB and the public.

Thanks very much for your attention.

John Chaffee

Privatization at Wirth Park

The following item by Shawne FitzGerald, a resident of Powderhorn Park, first appeared on mpls@forums.e-democracy.org and is being republished here with permission.

PRIVATIZATION AT WIRTH PARK

On July 11th, 2012, the Minneapolis Park Board voted to overturn the recommendations of the Theodore Wirth Citizens Advisory Committee and the recommendation of its own Planning Committee and shift $1.5 million in State bond funds from environmental projects at Wirth Park to building a new Welcome Center in the vicinity of the Wirth Par 3 Clubhouse.

The Welcome Center was heavily promoted by the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation (dba The Loppet Foundation). The Loppet pledged to raise $3 million in private donations for Center construction and MPRB staff was directed to develop an agreement with The Loppet “to raise not less than a 2 for 1 matching amount of $3.0 million privately by December 1, 2014.” The Board also directed staff to prepare a detailed park development and operations pro forma “that identifies the ability to construct the [Welcome Center] without negative MPRB budget impact.”

http://tinyurl.com/ck7gvxt

The Loppet is back with a fundraising agreement and it’s a doozy.

In return for raising $3,000,000, The Loppet wants a 25 year lease on the new Welcome Center and 22.5 surrounding acres. The Loppet would serve as “Developer” subletting the building to tenants like a restaurant, a bike shop, a winter sports store, offices, etc. It appears The Loppet would keep all building revenue. The Loppet would also have naming rights to the building and all interior areas. Finally, the MPRB would “credit” the Loppet’s annual rent payments for 20 years, total value $3 million.

Loppet fundraising deadlines could be pushed out to mid-2015.

The Loppet would take over all MPRB winter recreation activities and related work (snow making, trail grooming, equipment rentals) at Wirth, Columbia, Gross and Hiawatha. Experienced MPRB union employees would be replaced by The Loppet. The Loppet would collect funds for event permits, x-country/tubing/snowboarding passes, equipment rentals, etc. and apparently keep these. Plus The Loppet would organize bicycle races and events similar to its x-country fundraisers. The MPRB would give the Loppet its snowmaking and trail grooming equipment and winter sports equipment inventory, a donation estimated at $200,000 or so.

It’s not clear if the MPRB will provide a separate contract to pay the Loppet for maintenance work. Net losses in the winter recreation program have surpassed $200,000+ in recent years. Increased snowmaking at Wirth also has a hidden cost: it takes so long for the snow to melt that golf course openings are delayed, costing these courses $35,000-$100,000 a year. Since no financial projections have been included, it’s tough to see if the privatization is a solution.

The MPRB would continue to provide outdoor utilities – primarily electricity for trail lights and snowmaking.

The agreement calls for MPRB demolition of the Wirth Par 3 Clubhouse and parking. The MPRB would build a new and larger parking lot across the Parkway (southside) and possibly a new pedestrian/biking bridge. Replacement of the Clubhouse, fully paid for out of golf revenues, is not in the plan. The Loppet would collect golf and cart rental fees at its concierge station with 95% of golf revenue paid to MPRB. The golfers are hoppin’ mad!

In a related simultaneous project, the MPRB would demolish and relocate holes 17 and 18 of the historic Wirth Golf course. MN SHPO has almost completed the paperwork for a new Grand Rounds historic district and the Wirth Golf Course is listed as a contributing historic site. Relocating the golf holes would allow for new trails from the Welcome Center to the Bassett Creek area for mountain biking(bmx?) race events. (Not the same as the single track off-road trails in the Wirth woods, built by MORCA volunteers, so as not to harm the environment.)

There’s more – the paperwork is over 20 pages: http://tinyurl.com/d8aa6fl . No market studies, no business plan. No frank discussion of how many Minneapolis residents use or want winter recreation services and how to provide these, equitably, throughout the City. Not a word about access for low-income people, no mention of programs for disadvantaged youth. The Loppet is an organization with no experience in property management, commercial leasing, park keeping, or bicycle events – yet the MPRB is seriously considering issuing a 25 year no-bid lease and contract to this group.

This is listed as a study item before Admin and Finance Committee. Expect it will be moved, referred to full Board, and a done deal by tomorrow night.

Shawne FitzGerald

Member of Minneapolis Park Watch

Friends of Wirth Par 3 Oppose Clubhouse Demolition

The Friends of Wirth Par 3, a Wirth Park golfers’ group, has issued the following statement about the Par 3 clubhouse, which would be demolished under the proposed MPRB agreement with the Loppet Foundation. The agreement is on the Administration and Finance Committee agenda for January 16:

PROTECT THE WIRTH PAR 3 CLUBHOUSE FROM DEMOLITION

The Wirth Golf Course Par 3 clubhouse at 1325 Theodore Wirth Parkway is located in the new Grand Rounds Historic District. The clubhouse and 9-hole golf course were completed in 1962.

The clubhouse is a one-story building [see attached file], 28 feet by 50 feet, constructed of randomly sized stone blocks. The low gabled roof has overhanging eaves with exposed rafters.

The clubhouse was designed by architects Armstrong and Schlichting of Minneapolis. Current MPRB Wirth Park plans include the demolition of the Par 3 clubhouse after a Welcome Center is built nearby. Golfers believe the Par 3 clubhouse should be protected by the new Grand Rounds Historic District, especially considering how visible the building is from Wirth Parkway. The Scenic Byways designation ( http://minneapolisparks.org/documents/design/missing/Grand_Rounds_Corridor_Plan.pdf ) from 1998 also offers protections.

Another reason golfers oppose the demolition is because GOLFERS PAID FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE PAR 3 CLUBHOUSE AS THEY PAY FOR ALL GOLF COURSE OPERATIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS AT ALL OF THE MPRB GOLF COURSES. This policy of NOT using property taxes to support golf originated with Theodore Wirth in 1916 when the historic Wirth (originally named Glenwood) 18-hole golf course opened its first 9 holes. If the Par 3 clubhouse is demolished, golfers would have to pay a substantial portion of the Welcome Center construction costs because part of the Welcome Center would function as the Par 3 clubhouse in the summer. THIS IS UNFAIR TO GOLFERS.
Wirth_Par_3_Clubhouse.jpg