The Page 1 story — claiming that some municipalities around the lake hope to turn it, and their towns, into quick getaway destinations for city dwellers and first-ring suburbanites — was some sort of a trial balloon. But even those who floated it undoubtedly know that the officials and residents of their little principalities will never allow substantial incursions by the great unwashed of the cities.
A couple of years ago, I took a friend who had moved to Minneapolis from Texas on just the kind of excursion the people who supposedly want a return of local tourism envision. Neither she nor I will ever try it again, nor will members of my family or friends with whom I’ve spoken.
The folks around the lake made it abundantly clear that while they’re happy to accept our money in their restaurants and sort-of antique shops, we are on no account to be allowed near or on the water.
My friend and I drove all the way around Lake Minnetonka. With a shoreline of 125 miles, there are appallingly few places of public access. Most of the roads that closely follow the shore are lined with no-parking signs — the bigger the homes along a road, the more signs forbidding parking, turns, access. Places where I and others used to stop and fish from shore not so many years ago now are off-limits. In a few places, signs say, with patent absurdity, “for safety reasons.”
After a long drive, I finally spotted a parking area near a small but pleasant picnic spot beside one of the lake’s numerous inlets. The parking lot would accommodate roughly 40 cars, but only one vehicle was parked there. I pulled in, and then spotted several signs saying the lot — and presumably the picnic spot — was for local residents only. We hadn’t found any other place where we could sit beside the water and have lunch, so I gambled that I could park for half an hour while we ate.
Wrong. Returning to the car after perhaps 40 minutes, I found I had a parking ticket calling for an absurdly high fine.
Minnetonka is a private lake, reserved almost exclusively for those who can afford to live along its shores. Exceptions to that, like restaurants and such, will cost you dearly. Even many residents in the towns around the lake have little or no access to the lake itself. Substantial tax dollars are spent on maintaining the quality and appearance of the lake, but it’s just us subsidizing the rich, once again.
Jim Fuller lives in Minneapolis.