The following is posted with permission from its author, Scott Wylie, who also took the above photo:
NEW LOPPET SKI TRAILS AT WIRTH GOLF COURSE LACKED CONSTRUCTION PERMIT
SKI TRAIL EROSION DAMAGING 17TH HOLE ON HISTORIC WIRTH GOLF COURSE
When the Theodore Wirth Back 9 and Par 3 golf courses finally opened for the season on May 6, golfers were dismayed to discover a large area of new ski trail construction alongside the 17th hole of the historic golf course which was built in 1916. This construction is located in what had been a wooded area between the 17th hole and Par 3 hole #9 until the wide ski trails were built in late 2012 just before the start of the ski season. These wide trails lack effective erosion control and there is already visible damage to the course from mud washing down steep slopes particularly near the 17th green. No construction permit was issued for this ski trail work.
Inquiries which included several photos were made to MPRB headquarters staff. The reply back was that the construction was done in 2012 by the Nordic Ski Foundation (now known as the Loppet Foundation) with non-Park Board funds and was authorized by an employee in the planning department with the claim that it was part of an “approved Master Plan.” The work was described as “merely a widening of an existing trail” and staff seemed puzzled as to why it was such a “big deal” to golfers.
Although the Theodore Wirth Golf Course is owned by the MPRB, it is located in the City of Golden Valley. After being contacted about this ski trail construction, the City used photos to determine that the construction area was larger than 4000 square feet of disturbed soils or vegetation and thus requires a storm water management permit. An on-site visit by the City of Golden Valley is being scheduled. The Nordic Ski Foundation has been asked to submit a permit application and also advised to “shore-up” some of their erosion control.
All of this raises serious questions about how a private organization can secretly use its own money to alter and damage an historic public golf course? How can the MPRB Wirth golf course managers who are responsible for protecting the golf courses from winter ski damage lend their support to these new ski trails? How can MPRB planning staff claim that there is an “approved Master Plan” for North Wirth Park when a draft Master Plan has yet to be released for the public comment required before any Board approval can be taken?
About two years ago when Par 3 golfers first learned of the ski foundation’s plans to take over all or part of the Par 3 course, the one thing we heard again and again was that the ski foundation had “friends in high places.” It didn’t take long to discover that Mayor Rybak is a BIG backer and actually is listed as a board member of the ski foundation. MPRB Commissioners John Erwin and Jon Olson have backed the ski foundation for many years. And let’s not forget former Park Board staffers Jon Gurban as well as Don Siggelkow. What all of these backers did was protect the ski foundation from public scrutiny and enable a private organization to have the arrogance to think they can privatize part of a regional park – during both winter and summer!
Golfers are also asking if these new ski trails as well as the winter snow-making damage to the Par 3 course are a form of retaliation by the ski foundation because golfers have successfully opposed the foundation’s extreme plans?
For the Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3,