Skinny dipping. Drug use. Violence.
Cedar Lake’s Hidden Beach closed out a tumultuous season Sunday, and now neighbors and city leaders are wrestling with whether to close the summer hot spot for good.
Park officials and neighbors will convene Wednesday to discuss the fate of the beach after increasing concern among area residents that once harmless summertime exploits have given way to more serious problems of drunken driving, drug use and fighting.
“We don’t want to kick the public out,” said Kenwood Isle Area Association President Larry Moran. “We just want to eliminate those that are causing the issues.”
Park officials say closing the beach may be difficult to enforce, but residents insist that something needs to be done.
At a recent Kenwood Isle Area Association meeting, residents packed a community center to discuss their options for a short-term solution while the city and the neighborhood discuss what to do longer term.
Park officials ended lifeguard service over the weekend, but residents worry that several more weeks of warm and steamy weather will give rise to further problems.
Moran said the residents are weighing three options for the rest of the season: Close the beach entirely, close the beach at 6 p.m. or do nothing.
Park Board Commissioner Anita Tabb agreed that a decision on what the neighborhood wants to do short-term and long-term needs to be made soon.
“We’ve been walking a middle ground for quite some time now. That strategy isn’t working for us. We need to either open this beach up in a very big way or let’s just close it,” Tabb said. “This in-between strategy has gotten us in trouble for many years.”
Neighbors have complained about drunk drivers coasting over lawns, visitors going into a homeowner’s back yard to crash a wedding and ringing doorbells in the middle of the night.
Both Moran and Tabb said most of those causing problems do not live in the neighborhood. Moran said he estimates that 50 percent of those arrested are not even Minneapolis residents.
“It’s those over-the-top behaviors that have people upset and worried,” Tabb said. “Drunken driving is the scariest thing. It’s not the skinny dipping that has people outraged.”
With the beach closed, Moran said he expects the problems to continue and that police presence will still be needed. “Just because the lifeguards are not on duty doesn’t mean people stop showing up,” he said.
The secluded and wooded beach area is a huge draw for the kind of behavior the neighborhood wants to avoid, Tabb said.
A possible solution might be to make the beach a lot less hidden. If that is the direction park officials decide to take, the city might have to clear out many of the trees, add parking and figure out how to maintain it.
Opening the beach to wider usage might be the best option, Tabb said.
She is worried that if the city decides to shut it down, enforcement will be difficult. She said the public will still be drawn to the beach because it is a well-known public area.
“If you close down an area, people will still linger 10-feet around it, and that will spill out into the neighborhoods,” she said. “That’s not going to get you the solution that you want.”