Support for shifting activity away from the congested refectory area at Lake Calhoun to elsewhere on the lake seems to be gaining traction in the glacial Calhoun-Harriet master plan deliberations.

That's the consensus emerging after the ninth meeting of the citizen committee advising the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on short-term renovations and long-term plans for the two lakes.

The panel was initially scheduled to meet seven times to produce recommendations for spending $3 million on renovating parkland around the lakes in time for summer construction. That was an optimistic expectation based on similar lake renovation discussions that happened in the mid-1990s.

Now the panel's meeting schedule has been extended to 11 meetings that will take it past mid-April. A proposal won't go to the board until late May. That's a far cry from the original completion date of last October.

[Update: A Park Board project manager said the bidding for immediate improvements now will be pushed back to 2017.]

The proposals offered by park planners and consultants are aimed at improving the complicated weave of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists near the refectory.

The biggest would shift sailing, including a sailing school, plus the launching of other boats. The Wheel Fun rental concession north of the refectory would shift to the south side of that building.  Cyclists between Calhoun and Lake of the Isles would be rerouted away from the narrow bike-pedestrian path adjoining the lagoon beneath Lake Street. They could still walk bikes there along what would become solely a pedestrian path, or they could use a proposed sidepath across Lake Street at the nearby parkway.   

Where would boating go? An interim proposal would shift boat launching to Calhoun's north beach. But long-term proposals call for shifting sailing, the boat launch and docks to the lake's northwest shore. A sailing facility that planners describe as the size of a two-car garage would be built, potentially incorporating toilets and concessions. To provide space, the parkway would make a loop away from the shore in the area.

Other key elements of the proposal for the northwest shore area include a renovation of the current ballfields to add both stormwater handling and improve the drainage for sports. and also a new promenade intended to channel foot and bike traffic from the planned Green Line light-rail transit station to the lake. A boardwalk would be built on piers over water nearby, much like the north shore of Wirth Lake next to Olson Hwy.

This proposal has been up for discussion several times. Coming into the meeting, some panel members and residents west of Calhoun expressed reservations about bulking up activity on northwest Calhoun.

David Rhees, representing the West Calhoun neighborhood, said the latest proposal seems to do a good job of balancing recreation and environmental improvements. "They did a good job of listening," he said. "We still have some concerns but we like the trend this latest version is going it."

Harvey Zuckman, serving on his second Calhoun planning body in 20 years, urged the group to think not only about today's congestion near the refectory-Tin Fish area but what foot and other traffic might be like there as park usage grows. 

The panel has discussed in detail only three of the nine activity areas on the two lakes where planners are suggesting changes. It is next scheduled to meet on March 24 at Park Board headquarters, 2117 W. River Road The question of recommending a name change for Calhoun is scheduled for discussion at 8 p.m. at that meeting..