Category Archives: Wirth Park

TRAILHEAD PROJECT DOES NOT HARM DIVERSITY, NOR JOBS

The following letter-to-the-editor was published in the September 17, 2016 issue of the Star Tribune.

TRAILHEAD PROJECT DOES NOT HARM DIVERSITY, NOR JOBS   

In response to the Sept. 6 commentary (“Downhill skiing is a race to the bottom; caring for ski trails in Minneapolis isn’t”) by Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Member Brad Bourn, Nekima Levy-Pounds (president of Minneapolis NAACP), Cathy Jones (second vice president of the Minneapolis NAACP) and Corey Webster (Local 363 president):

Bourn unfortunately stirred last-minute controversy between the public, the Park Board and the Loppet Foundation last week. He has told his constituents, including me, that he “supported” the Trailhead project. His concern about union labor was addressed openly at the Park Board meeting on Aug. 3, as well as in many negotiations between the board and the Loppet Foundation in the past three years. Here are the facts. Six part-time winter employees will move elsewhere in the Park Board system with the same benefits and hours. The grooming and snowmaking will be done by trained professionals. Skiers at Wirth Park already know that the trails are “up to par” only on event days when the Loppet-trained teams are allowed to be in charge. Also, the Trailhead project will create up to 35 new jobs.

No one loses their job. In what form of math does that take away opportunity from communities of color, as the commentary argues, or take away middle-class jobs?

Bourn gave the wrong information to the NAACP, the union and the public at the last minute. Instead of celebration, the partnership starts with protests. Fortunately, the Trailhead will bring employment and vitality to Wirth Park and its immediate neighborhoods anyway, despite Bourn’s “support.”

Mary Kate McKelvey, Minneapolis

The writer coaches in the Loppet Foundation’s Trail Kids program.

Plan for Silent Sports Center at Wirth Wins Preliminary Concept OK

The following article by Steve Brandt was published in the August 7, 2015 issue of the Star Tribune.

Plan for Silent Sports Center at Wirth Wins Preliminary Concept OK

Here's an early sktech of the design concept for a silent sports center planned for Wirth Park in Golden Valley.

Here’s an early sketch of the design concept for a silent sports center planned for Wirth Park in Golden Valley.

The rough concept for a new silent sports center at Wirth Park has won preliminary approval from Minneapolis park commissioners after extended negotiations involving golf and cross-country ski interests, but details of how they’ll share conflicting areas at the 759-acre park are still being worked out.

The schematic design for the new building and environs won committee approval from commissioners last week after more of a year of discussions that reacted to earlier frustration expressed by golfers: http://www.startribune.com/whither-minneapolis-wirth-park/189750241/  Those talks left 18-hole course representatives relatively satisfied, although par 3 golfers are still unhappy over changes affecting their first hole, where conflicts with an artificial snow ski course remain at issue.

The building at the heart of a revamp intended to provide a new hub for ski and off-road bike use of the park will cost an estimated $3.45 million, up from an earlier $3 million. The Loppet Foundation, which earlier committed to raise the $3 million, had raised 2.75 million by a June 30 deadline. It plans to raise the additional money. Its 2013 agreement with the park system allows an additional six-month fundraising extension. Commissioners want more performance and operating details before approving an amended agreement.

To continue reading, click on this link to the Star Tribune:

http://www.startribune.com/plan-for-silent-sports-center-at-wirth-wins-preliminary-concept-ok/321078341/

Open House for the Wirth Park Adventure and Welcome Center

The following item has been circulated by the MPRB regarding the multimillion dollar Wirth Adventure and Welcome Center:

Open House for the Wirth Park Adventure and Welcome Center

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) will host a second community open house on February 3 at MPRB Headquarters to share early design concepts for the Wirth Park Adventure and Welcome Center.   The meeting will be from 6:00 – 7:30 pm at MPRB Headquarters which are located at 2117 West River Road in Minneapolis.

There will be no formal presentation.   Members of the public are welcome to come any time to view the design concepts and stay as long as they can.  MPRB staff and consultants will be available to receive community input and answer questions.

The Wirth Adventure and Welcome Center is a collaborative project between the MPRB and the Loppet Foundation. This entirely new facility will include site improvements and a new building. It will focus on cross-country skiing, par-3 golf support, snowboarding, mountain bike racing, and snow-tubing.

More information about the project can be found on the project webpage (visit www.minneapolisparks.org/currentprojects [1] and click on Wirth Adventure and Welcome Center). In addition to attending the open house, the public may provide input and stay informed about the project in the following ways:

   * Sign up to receive e-mail updates by subscribing at www.minneapolisparks.org/subscribe [2] or, if you are already a subscriber, by adding “Wirth Adventure and Welcome Center” to your subscription preferences.

   * Attend a second round of Community Open Houses planned for spring of 2015.

Adam Arvidson, Project Manager
AARVIDSON@MINNEAPOLISPARKS.ORG
612-230-6470

Presentation on Bassett Creek Restoration Work

The Park Board has issued the following announcement by e-mail.  The project page is http://www.minneapolisparks.org/default.asp?PageID=1431

Reminder: Bassett Creek restoration work presentation:
— Feb. 22, 2014 – Saturday – 10:30-11:30 a.m.
— Wirth Park Pavilion – 3275 Glenwood Ave.
— park in Wirth Lake beach parking lot

Work on Bassett Creek in and downstream of Theodore Wirth Regional Park and Bassett Creek Park will soon begin. The project, titled “Bassett Creek Main Stem Channel Restoration Project, 2012 Golden Valley Road to Irving Ave North,” will identify erosion and waterquality improvements for the creek. Design began in spring 2013, and construction is expected to begin in summer 2014 and continue into2015. The project is funded by the Bassett Creek Watershed Management Commission (BCWMC, Commission) and the Clean Water Legacy Amendment.

Continue reading

Loppet Ski Trail Work Lacked Construction Permit

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,

Scott Wylie.

2013_06_01_Loppet_trail_grading.jpg

Golfers' Issues with M P R B / Loppet M O U

The following document was submitted to the Park Board on April 27, and was provided to Parkwatch by the Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3:

Golfers’ Issues with MPRB/Loppet MOU

MOU Version submitted for May 1, 2013 committee meeting

Submitted by the Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3
April 27, 2013

Issues Regarding the Wirth Par 3:

1) MPRB staff to continue to manage the Par 3:  The new documents do not contain the statement that MPRB staff will manage the Par 3 activities out of the new Welcome Center.  This was a key issue discussed at the meetings in February and golfers had been given full assurance that the management of the Par 3 would not be put in the hands of Loppet personnel. While this might be covered in the details of a subsequent document it is important enough to be included as a specific statement in the MOU and in the resolution adopting the MOU.

2) Golfers not represented on the Silent Sport Center/Building Management Committee:  At the meetings in February the MPRB staff indicated that Par 3 golfers would be among the Welcome Center user groups that would be represented on the Silent Sports Center/Building Management Committee. The new MOU includes only the Loppet Foundation, MPRB staff and vendors on the committee.  Golfers and other user groups must be represented on this committee.

3) Snow making and grooming for winter activities must be moderated to prevent additional harm to the Par 3 course and Par 3 revenues: It is an objective fact that winter activities on golf holes, especially snowmaking and grooming, has a negative impact on a golf course and on golf revenues.  This has been part of the rationale for relocating the 17th and 18th holes on the 18 hole course. And yet the MPRB continues to expand ski trails and increase snowmaking on the Par 3.  Past history indicates that the Par 3 is ready to open for golf in the spring at the same time that the front 9 of the 18 hole course is ready. This spring, 2013, when the front 9 opened, the Par 3 was not ready because there was still snow on areas where snowmaking occurred for ski trails.  It appears that more aggressive snowmaking during the winter has caused this additional delay. And now the MOU talks about “greater consistency of early-season snowmaking” which is likely to have the effect of shortening the golf season in the fall as well.  To the best of our knowledge the MPRB has no written standards for winter maintenance, snowmaking, grooming, etc. Such standards would help protect the golf courses as well as other park grounds and eliminate significant revenues losses, especially in view of the prospect that Loppet staff may replace MPRB staff for these functions.. If the MPRB plans to continue to expand snowmaking and trails at the expense of the golf courses then, at the minimum, they should impose a surcharge on winter activities to replace lost golf revenues and cover the increased golf maintenance expenses.

4) Adequate separation between Par 3 holes and Silent Sports Center activities must be maintained:  While the 22 acre area is an estimate and the map attached to the MOU is only intended to be a rough representation we must repeat our concern about separation.  The woods behind the 8th green and 9th tee, and along the north edge of the 9th hole of the Par 3 are a necessary buffer between the course and any silent sports activities in the area.  This separation ensures playability for golf and a safety zone protecting skiers, bikers and other park users. These trees should not be removed and event and hiking trails should not be put in these woods. Similarly, group activities in the silent sports center area must be far enough away from the existing Par 3 1st tee so as not to cause any interruption in play.

5) The Welcome Center Building must include some essential Par 3 requirements: The MOU lists a Concierge/ticket counter for golf which may be included in the building but fails to list golf club rental and golf cart (hand and motorized) rental functions which also must be included in the facility.  The other public facilities, including the locker rooms, must also be available to golfers.

6) The Par 3 building can not be demolished prematurely: Section IV-C indicates that the Par 3 building should be demolished after the Foundation has raised the $3 Million in donations. But the Par 3 building can not be demolished until after the new Welcome Center Building is completed and in operation.

Issues Regarding the Wirth 18 hole course:

1) Alternative Financing Strategies for funding the 18 hole course redesign should not come from the limited resources of the Enterprise Fund: MPRB management, staff and various Commissioners have acknowledged that required renovation, as well as some maintenance, of the MPRB golf courses has been delayed for a long time.  Enterprise Fund profits from golf and other activities have regularly been transferred from the Enterprise Fund to pay off bonded debt, to help reduce the tax levy, and to help cover the regular losses incurred by Winter Activities.  In 2013 the MPRB will finally initiate a program to study the needs of the golf courses and develop a plan to bring them back to the standards that should be maintained. But if there are no available monies in the Enterprise Fund then there is little chance that this restoration work can be done.  Were it not for the plan to have a Welcome Center and Silent Sports Center area, a redesign of the back 9 of the 18 hole course would not have even been considered.  From a golfer’s perspective a renovated back 9 is desirable. No redesign is needed.  If the redesign does occur, funding must come from a source other than funds which normally would be available for the golf courses.

2) The Theodore Wirth Golf Association should be represented on the 18 hole Golf Course Project Management Team:  For the Welcome Center and Silent Sports Center area the Loppet Foundation is represented on both the Project Management Team (through construction) and Project Management Committee (design phase). But the MOU states that the Theodore Wirth Golf Association members will be represented only on the 18 hole Golf Course Project Management Committee (design phase) and not on the Project Management Team (through construction). That Project Management Team will consist only of MPRB staff. Who does the MPRB staff expect to go to if a user related issue comes up during construction?  The Theodore Wirth golfers have contributed more funds, by a wide margin, in golf fees to support their course than the Loppet Foundation has ever raised in contributions or paid in fees for its activities.  There is no excuse for not having the golfers represented during the full term of the 18 hole Golf Course Project for the back 9.

3) The MOU appears to presume that construction may proceed on the Silent Sports Center area and the 18 hole course redesign before or whether or not the $3 Million is eventually raised for the Welcome Center building. If there is no Welcome Center building there is no need to relocate holes 17 and 18 and therefore there should be no Silent Sports Center area on that ground:  The Welcome Center and Silent Sports Center Area project started out as a plan which would shorten, or require the redesign, of the back 9 on the 18 hole course AND eliminate the Par 3. After objections from the golf community and confronting some realities the plan was recast to emphasize the primary importance of building the Welcome Center.  In an effort to gain support among golfers we were told that the Welcome Center could be built without making the changes to the Back 9. And, if a redesign of the Back 9 eventually did occur, golfers would be fully represented and fully satisfied with that effort. But again there proved to be too many problems with that plan. Now we have a new version of the plan that says we should go ahead with the bike event trails and the Silent Sports Center area plan even if the Welcome Center can not be built.

It is as though any part of the Foundation’s plan is more important than the golf course and justifies the disruption, revenue loss, and loss of historic golf holes which would occur.  This is not acceptable. To put is simply, this approach makes it clear that Loppet activities are important and golf is not. And yet this new plan still has too many unresolved problems to list here. The MPRB and the Loppet Foundation should start from the beginning and come up with a fresh plan which meets needs that is simpler, lest costly, is certain of funding, is not destructive,  and is developed on a cooperative basis with other park users.

Uncertainties and Unknowns in May 1st Version of Welcome Center M O U

The following item was provided to Park Watch by the Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3:

Uncertainties and Unknowns In the May 1st version of the Welcome Center MOU

100% of the Fundraising will not be secured before some significant activities begin or are completed.

The nature of a Fundraising “Commitment” is unknown.

No source of funds for the Back 9 Redesign has been identified.

There is no agreement yet on the design of the changes to the Back 9.

The amount and source of necessary additional funds have not been identified.

There apparently is still a potential issue with respect to State bond financing and any lease or management agreement.

A new draft of the Lease Agreement for the Welcome Center Building has not been provided.

A new draft of the Management Agreement for the Silent Sports Center area has not yet been provided.

The Foundations business (financial and management) plan has not been provided.

The MPRB Finance staff’s preliminary evaluation of the Foundations business plan has not been provided.

The MPRB Finance staff’s in depth analysis of the Foundations business plan has not been completed or provided.

The MPRB Legal council’s report on the approval of the Foundation’s business plan has not been provided.

The Foundation’s Business plan has not yet been approved by the Minnesota Commissioner of Operations Management and Budget.

Loppet / M P R B Concerns

The following letter was presented during Open Time at the May 1, 2013 Park Board meeting by Robert Dwyers of the Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3:

LOPPET/MPRB MOU CONCERNS

I represent the Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3. We have a cooperative with the Theodore Wirth Golf Association and we support their objectives

I apologize for having to come before you again regarding the Memorandum of Understanding for the Welcome Center and surrounding area

But there are items which we hoped had been resolved in previous meetings which are now missing AND there are fundamental changes in this version of the MOU.

I have provided you with an email about our concerns. Please read them carefully.

Golfers have receive little recognition for their sympathy with the value of the Welcome Center and their willingness to accept a redesign of the Wirth Back 9

But this version of the MOU says that the redesign should go ahead even though the Welcome Center may not be built. This is NOT acceptable.

The loss of two historic golf holes is NOT justified by biking trails for which no environmental impact study has been provided for a biking program which is not yet developed. and where no search for alternative sites has been evident.

It is NOT acceptable to begin work on changes to the golf course without 100% of the Welcome Center project funding being secured.

In Addition: There are at least 13 major uncertainties and unknowns in this MOU, any of which could result in having to cancel the project or start over. Commissioners may not wish to proceed with this plan without greater knowledge about these items.

Loppet Timetable from the Proposed M O U

The following e-mails between Scott Wylie of Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3 and Assistant Superintendent Bruce Chamberlain are posted here with Mr. Wylie’s permission. The timeline chart mentioned in these e-mails is attached.

From Scott Wylie to Bruce Chamberlain, May 13, 2013:

Dear Mr. Chamberlain,

Please forgive me for neglecting to send you a timeline that I put together for the Loppet MOU. You may have noticed Commissioner Young referring to it during the May 1 committee discussion. I have attached a copy. You may find it useful in better understanding the very large number of deadlines contained in the latest version of the Loppet MOU.

The timeline shows demolition of the Par 3 clubhouse long before a replacement facility will be available. The reason for this appears to be the 6/30/15 expiration date of the 2011 Grant. You have stated that your intent has always been to not remove the Par 3 building until a replacement facility is available.

The MOU document contains the following language:

Section IV. Construction

Demolition. Demolition of the Park’s current Par-3 building will occur only if the Foundation succeeds in raising the $3 Million to cover the costs of construction of the Building and donates that amount to the Park Board. The demolition of the Par-3 building will occur as soon as practicable after the Park Board’s receipt of the Foundation’s donation.

I am hoping there is some way you could find it in your heart to amend the second sentence to read: “The demolition of the Par-3 building will not occur until a replacement facility is available for use.”

It would mean a lot if you could do this one small thing for golfers.

For the Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3,

Scott Wylie

—————————————–

From Bruce Chamberlain to Scott Wylie, May 22, 2003:

Park Board staff’s intention is to keep the current par-3 building in operation until the new building can be occupied. If we run up against the bonding deadline, we’ll have to use another funding source to demolish the building.

Bruce Chamberlain, ASLA

Assistant Superintendent for Planning

——————————————

Parkwatch notes on the attached timeline:

–Roman numerals such as VI.B.1 under SOURCE refer to paragraphs in the proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between MPRB and the Loppet Foundation.

–X marks in the column headed SSC refer to items relating to the Silent Sports Center. X marks under WC refer to the Welcome Center. X marks under BACK 9 refer to proposed changes affecting the back 9 holes of the 18-hole golf course. X marks under PAR 3 refer to proposed changes in the Par 3 golf course.

Mr. Wylie prepared this timeline based on the version of the MOU that was discussed at the MPRB meeting of May 1, 2013.

2013_05_21_Loppet_timeline_from_MOU.pdf