The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will close Hiawatha Beach permanently this summer, and it’s not clear whether they will open even part of Hiawatha Golf Course for the season.
At its Feb. 4 meeting, the planning committee of the park board accepted and approved the Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park Master Plan. Their recommendation must now go before the whole board.
According to Steffanie Musich, the South Minneapolis park commissioner from the district that includes Lake Hiawatha, “The recommendation for Hiawatha Beach to be replaced with naturalized shoreline in the long term is in part due to bacterial impairments caused by bacteria entering the lake via the creek and storm sewers. There are also Zebra Mussels, an invasive species, present in the lake—they are also in the creek and Lake Minnetonka. Their shells are razor-like and when washed up on beaches cause a hazard to the public. Because of frequent closures in recent years we have not had lifeguards staffed at this beach and it is infrequently used, as we heard from several neighbors during last night’s public hearing. Nearby and equally convenient to public transportation is the 50th Street Beach at Lake Nokomis where the water quality is significantly better and lifeguards are on duty regularly each week.”
The verdict on Hiawatha Golf Course is less certain.
Commissioner Anita Tabb seems to think it is extremely unlikely that the Course will open this year. The floods that caused the damage allowed the park board to qualify for FEMA funding to cover 75% of the expense, but “We have ONE shot at doing this right.” They have been told that they will not get funding again if it floods again.
But Commissioner Musich thinks, “The damaged portion of the course is anticipated to stay closed through 2017, with as much of the course as possible remaining open for the duration of construction.” Last year they reopened the front nine for play, so it seems possible they may reopen the front nine again this season.
It’s a battle against the forces of nature. Hiawatha Golf Course was built by the fill from the dredging of Lake Hiawatha. The ground continues to settle, and it seems to want to return to the swamp that once grew wild rice and gave it its original name, Rice Lake.
After this article was published in the February Nokomis edition, the MPRB responded saying: Hiawatha Beach will NOT permanently close this summer. The Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park Master Plan does recommend replacing the beach with a naturalized shoreline, boardwalk, and over-water pavilion in the long term (between 12 and 25 years), but not this summer. The question of closing the Hiawatha Beach next summer was specifically asked at the Feb. 4 meeting by Commissioner Tabb, and project manager Adam Arvidson responded that it would be open for summer 2015.