The idea of building wider, two-way bike paths around lakes Harriet and Calhoun was shot down resoundingly Tuesday night by those advising park commissioners on renovations at the two lakes.
A strong majority of the Harriet-Calhoun advisory group opposed the idea on safety and environmental grounds. Some also disliked its appearance late in the group's deliberations as it was debating its recommendations to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
The rationale for the proposal was that converting the current one-way trails to two-way would offer bikers more flexibility in accessing destinations around the lake.
For example, King Field resident Ben Schweigert noted that he has to bike more than 2 miles around most of Lake Harriet to reach a band shell that's only half a mile in the wrong direction from the Rose Garden area, where he accesses the lake. The other alternative is competing with cars in the parkway, but he avoids that if he's hauling his 18-month-old, the advisory panel member said.
The proposal also was described as more commuter friendly, but members of the advisory committee argued that the bike paths should instead be oriented toward recreational use.
Another concern for the advisory group was the proposed widening of the paths in order to accommodate two-way traffic. The current paths, nearly 10 feet wide, would grow to 11 to 14 feet wide where feasible under the park staff proposal. That would require the removal of a minimum of 146 trees at the two lakes, and the work could potentially affect another 93 trees, according to a partial analysis.
But most of those would be ash trees already doomed under the Park Board's program to remove all such trees in the city because of the emerald ash borer.
Lake Harriet-area resident Lisa McDonald was among those faulting the late introduction of an idea not discussed previously. "It's very complex. A lot of people would have an opinion on this," she said. Another panel member, Constance Pepin, was applauded by many in an audience of several dozen people when she called tree removal "ecologically disastrous."
The expansion of paved area would amount to 1.7 acres, which concerned panel members who noted that one major thrust of their discussions has been to improve water quality at the two lakes. They said more hard surface would feed more runoff to the lakes.
A previous widening of the paths also generated some pushback. The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District balked in 1997 when a proposal emerged then that widened lake walking and bike paths by almost 2 feet. The district's staff questioned adding extra paved surface but was mollified when park staff responded that widening paths would eliminated packed dirt "cowpaths" favored by some runners for their softer surface.
However, the paths were widened and the cowpaths remain.