About 100 people, many with strong opinions about a proposal to limit access to Minnehaha Parkway, attended a meeting Thursday night to discuss a master plan for the area.
Many left feeling that they hadn't been given enough of a say.
Most community members at the meeting of the Citizen Advisory Committee, held at the Lake Nokomis Community Center, came to voice their opposition to a parkway reroute, which they believe would negatively affect their neighborhoods. They cheered when committee members spoke to their cause, but were upset to receive about 10 minutes for public comments at meeting's end.
The master plan has drawn wide public interest, especially its proposal to add concrete medians at key intersections in hopes of reducing traffic along Minnehaha Creek by pushing drivers onto neighborhood streets. The goal would be to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Before Thursday's meeting, project manager Adam Arvidson said it was scheduled to include more discussion of other components of the master plan that have not gotten the same amount of public attention.
"There are many in the community, I think, that feel that we've heard overwhelmingly in one direction, and that now it's time to … show something different," Arvidson said. "The reality is that our community advisory committee hasn't actually had a chance to weigh in and discuss this themselves."
The Citizen Advisory Committee eventually will make a recommendation on various aspects of the master plan to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
Leading up to Thursday night's meeting, many public comments sent to the committee about the parkway plan cited concerns about traffic, as well as cold-weather access and accessibility for those who cannot bike or walk.
"Driving is the only way for many with disabilities or advanced age to experience the entire parkway system uninterrupted, and if you've ever driven visitors around the lakes and the parkway to Minnehaha Falls, you know how those fresh eyes marvel at and envy this treasure," Mark Schoenbaum, who lives near the parkway, said in an e-mail.
Some suggested that the proposed change could affect the city's reputation for ready access to nature.
"We are known for our beautiful parkways — for walkers, bikers and drivers. Diverting traffic at key intersections will only serve to exacerbate existing traffic problems … frustrate drivers and remove one of the reasons we are known for our lovely parkways and gorgeous city," wrote Barb Nicol, a lifelong Minneapolis resident.
At the meeting, the committee examined four geographical segments of the project, as well as recreational and environmental updates for areas that run from Xerxes to 34th avenues.
Segment 1 is a narrow corridor that would get a paved trail with closer access to the creek. An activity area in what is known as the Nicollet Hollow is being discussed for Segment 2. Segment 3 may see a new bike tunnel and creek restoration, while Segment 4 may become a bicycle skills park for young riders and include a "story walk" featuring Dakota history and public art.
"We're bringing in some more play features, some additional boating access points, canoeing, kayaking, tubing access points in the creek," Arvidson said.
There are also proposals aimed at improving water quality, he said.
"[We're] trying to think about, how do we make a more flood- and climate-change-resilient creek and by extension, city?" he said. "Also, how do we improve water quality? Right now 109 storm sewers empty into the creek without really any treatment."
At the end of Thursday's meeting, several attendees expressed disappointment, saying that they had hoped the parkway access discussion would get more time and attention.
"Clearly there was not enough time for comments," said Amy Simso Dean, who lives near the parkway. "Two hours into it, and most people were here to talk about the parkway. They [the committee] just waited us out."
Simso Dean, who has started a "Preserve the Parkway" Facebook group, said she plans to organize a protest over the rerouting proposal.