Five meetings into its work, an advisory committee for renovations at lakes Harriet and Calhoun got a chance Tuesday night to see some ideas from planners on options for how parkland there might be reshaped.
The remaining 25 members of the panel got a chance to consider whether they want a plan that emphasizes the ecological health of the lakes, emphasizes its play spaces or emphasizes the telling of stories of the cultures of Minneapolis.
Those choices aren't mutually exclusive, assistant park superintendent Michael Schroeder told the group, but matters of degree of emphasis. That emphasis will shape more specific recommendations presented later for how the remaining $3 million of the project budget will be spent on actual construction. But Schroeder said the group should also feel free to recommend more expansive ideas that could be priorities if additional money can be raised in the next 20 years.
One such idea is the "land bridge" proposed in 2012 that would build a connecting park arching over Lake Street between Calhoun and Lake of the Isles, a technique already used to carry E. Minnehaha Parkway over Hwy. 55.
Several ideas seemed to emerge as favorites of the committee in small group discussions. They include balancing environmental protection and human activity; defining key areas for ecological restoration, holding or filtering stormwater, and creating places for wildlife; and the land bridge. On the recreational side, creating flexible spaces that could be used for a variety of activities was a hit. The group also gave support to recognizing the human and natural history of the lakes area.
Park staff and consultants laid out rough concepts for improving the ecological fringe of the lakes. They center on dividing the lakeshore into urban edges and those that promote the health of the lakes and surrounding parkland. That means that areas such as the west Calhoun and east Harriet shore might get more shoreline restoration and wildlife habitat, while recreation would have primacy on other shores. This approach would also emphasize connections between the two lakes, and to Lyndale Park, Dean Parkway and Minnehaha Creek.
An approach emphasizing the area as a recreational hub includes such ideas as moving some of the activities at the congested northeast croner of Calhoun to the lake's northwest corner and improving access at the Harriet bandshell area to the adjacent bird sanctuary.
An approach aimed at emphasizing the area's history might include more gathering spaces and historical interpretation.
If those concepts sound fuzzy at this point, they are. Planners now will take the feedback they got and develop more specific ideas. So far, Calhoun has drawn far more discussion than Harriet.
Last night's meeting was the first without previous chair Peter Bell, who quit that job last week in a difference of opinion over how much emphasis to give the debate over renaming Lake Calhoun and other issues of equity in access to and use of the lakes. Bell also resigned from the committee.
Aside from that issue, the advisory committee has proceeded without raising nearly the rancor engendered in the last lakes area master planning effort in the mid-1990s. Some consultant proposals floated that year drew crowds of several hundred opponents.
The advisory committee has four scheduled meetings remaining, and meets again on Oct. 27.