Hiawatha Golf Course – what is the Met Council’s stamp of approval worth?


On March 22, 2023, the Metropolitan Council voted to amend the Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan to the Nokomis-Hiawatha Master Plan. This opens a potential spigot of Met Council money to fund the Hiawatha Golf Course project.
What was wrong with this vote?
A Met Council member rightly asked why they were considering a golf course project because they are not allowed to fund golf courses. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) responded that the project would also create items like boat storage and rentals, a fishing dock, sledding, ice skating and cross-country skiing. The problem is these items already exist, so no funding is needed. Some proposed items, like an observation tower, can be built just outside of the golf course property. The new restaurant that they have been talking about for six years is, all of a sudden, described as a “main park building.” A park building can be funded with Met Council money; a restaurant cannot. So which is it? And a park building already exists at Lake Hiawatha. Why build a second one? That leaves trails. They talk about a loop trail around the lake using the existing berm. Initially, the MPRB stated that this berm was unstable and could collapse and drown golfers. Now, it is part of their plan with water on both sides that may really make it unstable and likely to collapse. They also say that the proposed trails through the golf course may need nets to protect people from golf balls, which illustrates the danger. So, will any of these “new” amenities really be built? It seems very unlikely. Which begs the question of why taxpayers should be soaked for the planning of these items when the items will ultimately be discarded from the plan. This appears to be typical smoke-and-mirrors from the MPRB to get money from the Met Council.
Another problem is that the Metropolitan Council adopted an equity policy in December of 2020 for regional parks. The MPRB states that “the park planning process does still meet the equity analysis guidelines adopted in December 2020 by the Met Council.”  If so, why did the MPRB ask the Met Council to exempt the MPRB from the Met Council’s equity guidelines?  The MPRB claims that development of this plan amendment began nearly eight years ago before the Equity Analysis requirements were in place, thus this plan should be exempt.  So it seems as if the MPRB is admitting that its plan does not meet the equity guidelines. A review of the Met Council guidelines does show that the Hiawatha plan does not meet guidelines for recreation and climate change.  Yet, the Met Council allowed this exemption. So are the Met Council’s guidelines essentially meaningless, to be thrown aside at will? See this article about how this project does not abide by the Metropolitan Council equity guidelines: https://southsidepride.com/2021/05/09/equity-and-the-hiawatha-golf-course-master-plan-2/.
Finally, there were seven new members on the Met Council who had been there only two weeks. One new member asked if consideration of this proposal could be delayed so that new members could have some time to understand the proposal and absorb the large amount of public feedback that was received. The question was never really answered, and the vote proceeded. Thus, it appears that this decision was pushed through without proper knowledge and consideration. Will this project be a follow-on to the light rail project that is currently in big trouble?

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