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“You’re going to put a bloody train across the canal,” Lacey said. “It’s appalling.”
“I think my love of the area, which I moved in because it’s a very beautiful area, is going to be diminished,” he said.
The Park Board would support running the light rail over the channel if the freight traffic were relocated, but that option is unlikely. Otherwise, the board would support the more expensive option backed by some homeowners to run the light rail in a tunnel under the channel. Erwin said he prefers tunneling under the channel because it “essentially leaves what’s above ground unchanged,” contending that a wider bridge for two light-rail tracks, bike and pedestrian trails would detract from the ambience of the channel. The board opposes that bridge plan proposed by the Metropolitan Council, the agency overseeing the project.
While the board’s position coincides with the interests of some Cedar Lake residents, “We’re not carrying the message of a small group,” Erwin said. “If this were happening in any other part of the city we’d be coming forward with the same message.”
Why no trail here?
Lacey and Kirkham are among 16 homeowners whose back yards meet a strip of parkland ranging in width from 9 feet to 65 feet on the southeast shore of Cedar Lake, the park district says. The board has allowed them to use the public land as an extension of their property. Some have built docks or piers into the lake under a licensing agreement that began in the 1930s with a one-time fee.
“I’m sure it was very low,” said Bruce Chamberlain, assistant superintendent for planning at the park district.
Kirkham acknowledges that the arrangement is special but notes that homeowners along the lake cut park grass, rake leaves and pay hefty taxes on their own property — in his case, about $26,000. “I’m willing to pay the taxes because it’s worth it,” he said.
The policy contrasts with parkland on the south and west side of Cedar and along other major Minneapolis lakes, where the board years ago built bike and pedestrian trails. “I completely understand why people would question that,” Erwin said of the arrangement along the southeast shore.
A top landscape architect the Park Board hired in the 1990s advised it to put a path along the southeast shore, but the board rejected the idea amid opposition.
Board member Bob Fine doesn’t support the special treatment. “We should have a trail around that lake just as we do on the others,” he said.
Fine suspects that the trail hasn’t been pushed in part because former board President Tom Nordyke lives on the lake and former board member Vivian Mason lives on the channel.Mason said the trail idea was thoroughly studied and rejected, in part because the strip of parkland is too narrow in places for meaningful development. “It isn’t practical,” she said. Nordyke said he never opposed the park district building a path.
Erwin said the Park Board is focusing on fixing existing trails and adding paths “where it’s not controversial.” At Cedar Lake, “It would be very controversial at the southeast corner.”
Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504