There is an adage stating that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and Bob “Again” Carney displays it again in his Jan. 31 counterpoint (“Dayton goes all Chris Christie”) lambasting Gov. Mark Dayton for potentially withholding state aid to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board based on the board’s decision to spend half a million dollars for a study that could potentially derail Southwest light-rail transit.
Carney has bought into the Park Board’s argument that it has commissioned this expensive study to “protect parkland,” since a new and larger bridge would have to be built passing over the 30-foot-wide Kenilworth Channel. The impact on actual parkland would be bridge supports along the channel. Carney cites the history of the Park Board and its “stewardship” of the parkland.
But there is a totally different history of parkland that exists at Cedar Lake and the Kenilworth Channel. This history exhibits exactly what the great founders of the park system warned would happen if a park system was not put in place to acquire the best land (the Chain of Lakes, Minnehaha Falls, the River Road). If these places were not brought under public control, they would be under control of the very wealthy, and the public would not have access to them.
Cedar Lake is the only member of the Chain of Lakes where the public cannot walk around the entire shore land, even though the entire lakeshore is owned by the Park Board and is therefore public property. The east side of Cedar Lake and the Kenilworth Channel (the Park Board owns a minimum of 40 feet on each side of the channel) has been closed off to public access by 16 residences. These residences have, through creative landscaping, encroached on the Park Board’s easement so that they have attained their own private lakeshore. And they have encroached on this valuable public land with the total acquiescence of the Park Board.
Public access to park property is the foundation of the park system. Yet it has been completely violated at Cedar Lake and the Kenilworth Channel. Theodore Wirth, in his historical accounting, wrote: “A strip of land along the east shore of Cedar Lake, from the Boulevard to Kenilworth Lagoon, was donated to the Board by adjacent property owners in 1933. There seems to be no valid reason why the entire shore should not now be made available to the public.” Wirth’s vision was to also render the shores along Kenilworth Canal from Cedar Lake to Lake of the Isles available to the public.
The Park Board passed a resolution before commissioning its half-million-dollar study. The larger bridge to be built over the Kenilworth Channel would, it stated, “impair the recreational, cultural and aesthetic experience of park users.” Currently, the only park users through this channel are canoes and kayaks. Does the Park Board not feel that being unable to walk or bike around Cedar Lake or through the Kenilworth Channel impairs park users’ experience? Even more than a larger bridge? Does the Park Board not feel that denying public access to its land is not a violation of its duty? Even more than a larger bridge?
Dayton surely is aware of these conditions at Cedar Lake — of the special privileges accorded to 16 wealthy residents — and he can, I’m sure, see the folly of the Park Board’s position and the very thin argument of its “duty to protect parkland” for the public as the reason for the expensive study. In this case, board members are obviously protecting the position of the landowners. I applaud the governor for his assessment that the Park Board does not deserve state funding to aid the anti-light-rail sentiment of the 16 residents who already have the only private lakeshore in Minneapolis.
Jake Werner lives in Minneapolis.