Up to 40 windsurfers sometimes gather on the north shore of Bde Maka Ska on hot summer days when the wind blows in from the south and there's no better place to park, unload watercraft and launch into the only Minneapolis lake comfortably large enough to enjoy.
Stalwarts of the sport like Michael Chummers have spent countless hours there over the decades. So, when the Park Board announced in March that a pop-up skate park would take over some of the north parking lot's spaces this summer, he felt blindsided.
"My biggest concern is there was no period of time for public input, for public discussion. None. They just went ahead and did it," Chummers said.
After e-mailing all the park commissioners, he learned the pop-up wasn't something that had gone before them for a vote.
"This is really going to be a rude awakening for so many people, and it is not at all an exaggeration to say it will very much ruin our summer," he wrote.
According to park staff, the pop-up did not need to be put to the board for a vote because it's experimental and temporary by nature.
Skateboarders, meanwhile, have also staked a claim to the north end of Bde Maka Ska. The master plan for the area, approved in 2017, calls for a permanent skateboard space there. But this and many other skateboard facilities promised in the Park Board's Skate Park Activity Plan have not been funded. Most date back to the early 2000s, though Elliot Park's skate park was recently modernized.
Skaters took matters into their own hands in 2020 and built a skate spot where the Bde Maka Ska pavilion, which burned down the year before, once stood. The DIY park was popular, yet unpermitted, and the Park Board tore it down over liability concerns.
Skaters parlayed the experience into negotiations with the Park Board for a sanctioned spot on Bde Maka Ska. Construction on a new pavilion should begin this spring, so park staff offered skaters a temporary spot in the lake's largest parking lot. Features for the skate park will be repurposed from salvaged park equipment and chosen based on skateboarder feedback.
Paul Forsline, president of the skate park advocacy organization City of Skate, noted that outside of the prime summer season, much of the north lot sits empty.
"I can see why [windsurfers] would be concerned, but I don't know if their concerns are more valid than the concerns of other citizens who want to skate," he said. "It's just an area that gets a lot of use from a variety of users and a variety of people that want to be in this space."
Art Yanchuk, an Edina High School senior who started a petition to support skate parks that now has more than 1,500 signatures, said Minneapolis skaters have to "take what they can get." In his opinion, nothing the Park Board creates could compare to the original DIY park. But still he participated in its recent skate features survey and hopes park staff would incorporate skaters' desires in the design.
"It's not like we're taking the entire parking lot," he said. "Think about how many parking lots are all along the lake where these windsurfers can park compared to how many skate parks on Bde. There's none."
Still, to many in the windsurfing community, the public engagement around the pop-up smacked of exclusion.
Windsurfer Kevin Barta launched another petition calling on the Park Board to rethink the location of the pop-up skate park.
Barta's petition, which has 66 signatures, estimates that the skate park would result in a 46% reduction in parking spaces. But park design project manager Andy Schilling promised the skate park would take up only 20% of available spaces, preserving about 64 of the 80 spots available for parking.
"Maybe there are other things we can do … a different type of striping or creating a drop-off space," Schilling said. He urged anyone interested or concerned about the direction of the skate park to reach out to staff.
Windsurfer Jonathan Townsend said he doesn't want to see the board sports clash.
"I really have mad respect for skaters," Townsend said. "And I support the idea of a skate park. I just really question the way the Park Board's gone about it. … If they could do things with a little more forethought to how we really get community input on this, from the skaters, from the boaters, from the runners, the cyclists, I think they'd go a lot further, and there wouldn't be the ire that they stoke each time they do this."