$21 million in enhancements for Minneapolis' crown jewel will be debated at meeting tonight.
The public will have a chance to sound off Wednesday on a $21 million overhaul of Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis that could include a multi-use welcome center, an off-leash dog park and large picnic shelters along the lake, among other changes.
A citizens' committee has spent 18 months discussing how to fix up the largest regional park in the Minneapolis system. The committee consists of Minneapolis and Golden Valley residents who represent an array of interests such as neighborhood groups, the two cities' mayor's offices and the Minneapolis City Council.
The committee's recommendations to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on Wednesday will include $5 million in its initial priorities, notably the dog park, walking trail upgrades, picnic shelters and a parking lot.
But Michelle Jueneman, who lives near Wirth Park and said she goes there every day with her husband, said they are concerned about diminishing the park's green space, which they said is its defining feature.
The committee is "trying to please so many groups ... it's resulting in overdeveloping it," Jueneman said.
The Juenemans say they also are concerned about whether the Park Board will be able to maintain the park's new features, given its current state. They cited broken picnic tables, trails that were falling apart and a dilapidated tennis court at Xerxes Avenue.
"This is a significant investment that's being proposed with no plan for how that investment is going to be protected," Jueneman said.
While they have attended most meetings, Jueneman said individuals get only two minutes to speak, whereas organized groups were allowed to present their recommendations to the committee. She said she feels ignored by the board.
"We recognize there is a lot of passion around this subject," said Jennifer Ringold, Park Board manager of public engagement and citywide planning, in a statement.
"Theodore Wirth is widely used by bikers, walkers, runners, golfers and the neighboring community, and we remain committed to giving everyone interested in the project the opportunity to have their opinion heard."
The public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Park Board administrative offices, 2117 W. River Road, in board room suite 255.
Masako Hirsch 612-673-4263