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Ski Foundation December, 2010 (Annotated by the Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3) September, 2011 The purpose of this annotated version of the original “Vision” document is to correct some impressions given about golf, golfers, and the Theodore Wirth Par 3 by the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation. Notwithstanding the fact that the Nordic Ski Foundation has issued a more recent document nominally modifying its position it is still important that we provide this response. Since the original “Vision” Document was addressed to the MPRB we feel it is necessary to provide our response to all board members as well as the Theodore Wirth Citizen’s Advisory Committee. At the outset we must say that this is not a criticism of skiers or a condemnation of their Foundation. The City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation is well know for its success stimulating the growth of cross-country skiing and other winter sports activities within the Minneapolis park system. They have contributed expertise and establish programs and activities involving school and neighborhood groups, youth and adults, and have helped make the City of Minneapolis prominent as a location for regional and national events for these sports. They have been successful at raising funds for their own programs, for activities programs facilities and equipment for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and for various individuals. (below we will italicize the portions of the original vision document which are of particular concern)
The Park Board is poised to start a new citizen’s advisory committee process for Theodore Wirth Park, with the charge of improving the winter recreation facilities, adding active sports facilities, consolidating operations facilities and improving trails. The City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation has partnered with the Park Board to improve and promote use of the park for the past eight years. (See appendix). This document provides the Nordic Ski Foundation’s vision for Wirth Park – a vision that we believe is in line with the Park Board’s charge to the advisory committee. The Foundation hopes that the Park Board formally adopts this vision as its overall framework in shaping the park through the advisory committee process. II. Executive Summary While the strengths of Theodore Wirth Park are trails and silent contemplation this document focuses on trails. Hiking trails, walking trails, trails leading to quiet spaces, ski trails, mountain bike trails and asphalt bike trails – Wirth Park is built on trails. Wirth Park’s strength is also its weakness. In general, the trails are not signed or marked, they run through brambles of 1
buckthorn, they are often in a dilapidated state and there is no infrastructure – like coordinated and adequate maintenance facilities and a public building with related concessions – to support the trail network. In fact, dilapidated is the common theme of the entire park. Rather than spend precious resources analyzing a dartboard full of disparate ideas, the Park Board should, to coin a new phrase, un-dilapidate the park and invest in making trail experiences better for all. Investing in trails makes sense for several reasons. Over the past 30 years, with little planning and almost no investment trails use in Wirth Park has skyrocketed: • • • • • •
(see Assumptions in the Appendix)
Cross country skiers now make approximately 55,000 trips to the park, logging more than 500,000 kilometers – or 310,000 miles – over little more than a 60 day season Conservatively, mountain bikers make some 50,000 trips to the park, logging some 250,000 miles. Everyday bikers make more than 250,000 trips through the park, logging more than one million miles each year. Runners: 25,000 trips and more than 100,000 miles Walkers and hikers, including birder and nature watchers, make more than 75,000 trips and log more than 150,000 miles In-line skaters, roller-skiers and other like users make some 10,000 trips, logging more than 40,000 miles.
Trail use by young people in particular has increased dramatically. (See Appendix). From a societal perspective, Wirth Park’s trails are more important than ever. Sedentary lifestyles and obesity are at epidemic proportions. This is particularly true in North Minneapolis, where lowincome and minority populations have the greatest health problems in the city. The reader should check with members of the North Minneapolis neighborhood community to see how they feel about this statement. Because Wirth Park is North Minneapolis’ largest park, Wirth should be a place that helps inspire an active lifestyle throughout the year. Despite years of neglect Wirth Park’s trails have been doing that. With a little investment and un-dilapidating, Wirth Park’s trail infrastructure can inspire more and more people to stay active throughout the year. III. Vision The Minneapolis parks system has lakes and riverfronts with asphalt walking and biking trails. It has dramatic features like Minnehaha Falls. It has pocket parks within reach of most citizens. It has soccer parks and baseball fields, and hockey rinks and ice arenas. What it does not have is a park devoted to lifetime activities – also known as active or silent sports. The northern portion of Theodore Wirth should be that park. Throughout this document, and in others produced by the Nordic Ski Foundation, and others that are byproducts of their message, you will see references to lifetime, active and silent sports. These terms are often accompanied by a list of sports. The lists always exclude golf, as though golf is not a lifetime activity, or as though carrying a golf bag or playing 9 or 18 holes is not 2
really being active. Whatever the original definition of silent sports, the terms lifetime, active or silent, in this document are being used to ignore or diminish golf in comparison to the sports favored by the Foundation. This is common propaganda technique designed to redefine the reader’s thinking. When you see lifetime, active or silent in this document it is meant to communicate that the author’s sports are better than the excluded sports. The idea is to create a central location for silent sports like cross country skiing, mountain biking, trail running, disc golf, cyclo-cross, hiking and perhaps BMX bike riding. These cyclo-cross and BMX ideas also appeared in the subsequent North Wirth Park Study Team Report. Both the City of Minneapolis Nordic Ski Foundation and the Minneapolis Off road Cycling Advocates were represented in this Study Team. But in subsequent documents the MOCA, the organization that maintains the mountain biking paths in North Wirth Park, has made it clear that they did not propose and do not support establishing cyclo-cross, BMX or pump track facilities in North Wirth Park and in particular do not support displacing the Par 3 with these facilities. Therefore there is serious doubt as to the authority with which the Nordic Ski Foundation can speak to or identify the needs of the cycling community. The central location would act as a hub for these activities, with a central building, parking lot, and facilities catering to the silent sports community. For instance, the building would contain a great room for meetings, a bike and ski shop (a North Minneapolis version of the Midtown Bike Station), office space for organizations devoted to increasing all, but especially youth participation in these activities, and a restaurant or coffee shop. The proposal for a new facility of this kind is discussed later in this document and will be commented upon at that point. The trailheads for the various activities would all emanate from this central location. Over time, this central location would help solidify this community and help young people develop a passion for lifetime sports. Non-profit organizations would run programming designed to encourage activity in North Minneapolis residents. This has already been happening to some degree – with organizations like the Nordic Ski Foundation (see appendix), V3 (a North Minneapolis based triathlon training club) and Trips for Kids all working with youth in Wirth Park on a regular basis. Other organizations, like Bolder Options and Big Brothers/Big Sisters, have expressed interest in further development at Wirth Park as well. There is significant momentum for this idea. Cross country skiing, trail running and mountain biking have blossomed over the past several years. The golf operation recently added a disc golf course, cyclo-cross is a growing sport with a presence in Wirth, and there are strong proponents of adding a BMX course to the park system generally. Other cities, like Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colorado, have added silent sports centers already. We have been told that successful cyclo-cross events have been held at Theodore Wirth Park for sometime. There is no indication that they have been done on the golf course or at the expense of any other of the activities at the park. It seems as if a cyclo-cross course and a pump track are depicted in the North Wirth Park Study Team Report on the current 17th hole just to help justify the Nordic Ski desire to displace that hole in favor of permanent winter sports facilities. In any case, if better cyclocross course or pump track facilities are needed we would like to hear from a cycling organization about that and not the Nordic Ski Foundation. 3
While ski, bike and running trails pass through the entire park, the most intense use and the center of activity would be better placed on the northern side of the park, with the current Par-3 building being the most likely location for the silent sports center. This site attracts users from south Minneapolis and the suburbs, but is actually closer to North Minneapolis – making it well-suited to creating a mix of user groups. While building on Wirth Park’s strengths, this would be a new signature park in the Park Board system. The park would feature world class cross country ski trails, a feature that only a northern city like Minneapolis could boast. With Wirth Park’s woods and hills, it could also provide world class mountain biking and trail running experiences. This is what the Park Board should strive for: a world class park that can be used by all and that will be particularly effective at introducing and retaining young people to lifetime sports. IV. Specific Plan To make this vision a reality, there are four primary areas to address: the golf courses/winter recreation area, trails, maintenance and management. A. Create World-Class Ski Trails Prompted by the 1922 National Ski Tournament and 1924 U.S. Winter Olympic Ski Team trials, both held in Glenwood Park (now Theodore Wirth Park), then-Park Superintendent Theodore Wirth wrote in the Board’s 1924 Annual Report: “The prospects are that the Olympic winter sports games will be held in Minneapolis in 1928 or 1932.” The Olympic Games have not arrived in Minneapolis yet, but the Junior Olympics are coming this March and, pending park improvements, a Paralympics World Cup is poised to come to Wirth Park in 2012. It is our understanding that Minneapolis is under consideration for a Paralympics World Cup Winter event in 2012. The Nordic Ski Foundation should be commended for promoting events such as this. There should be no reason why these events can’t be successful without damaging or having to modify the golf course or any of the facilities for other park users. For cross country skiing there are two distinct sections of trail: the snowmaking/competition area (those trails on the north or west side of Wirth Parkway) and the recreational trails, which run through the remainder of the park. There are six elements to our plan to make the snowmaking/competition area into a premiere local, regional, national and th international destination for both everyday skiing and major competitions: 1. Move the 17 and th 18 fairways, 2. Upgrade the snowmaking facilities, 3. Upgrade the lighting, 4. Create a permanent staging area that is handicapped accessible and visible to the public, 5. Widen and grade a short section of the “Back-40” section of trails, and 6. Build a dedicated year-round welcome center for silent sports. 4
1. Move the 17 and 18 fairways For better or worse the golf course and the winter recreation area are inextricably linked. It is impossible to have an intelligent discussion of one without discussing the impact on the other. The challenge is figuring out how the two can co-exist with the best chance for both to succeed. After years of working on these problems, the Nordic Ski Foundation and the golf staff th th have a solution: move the 17 and 18 fairways of the 18-hole golf course. The 17 and 18 fairways are problematic for several reasons. First, neither are great golf th holes. Among other problems, it is difficult to grow grass on the 17 fairway because it runs th through a ravine-like area. The 18 is even worse. It is, apparently, not a good thing to end a th th course with a par-3 hole. But that is exactly what the 18 is. Moreover, the 18 green is overly challenging – with an uneven camber that causes balls to run back off of the green. This may be okay for championship golf, but it is frustrating – and a terrible way to end – for a municipal golf course. It is unnecessary for the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation to feign concern over whether a golf hole is great, or good, or bad. Clearly their objective is to advance ideas which enhance their sport or “silent” sports in general, whether or not there is a negative effect on golf or any other less favored sport. The Nordic Ski Foundation is not qualified to express opinions on the quality of any golf hole; no more that the Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3 should be determining which ski trails are good and which are bad. There are no bad golf holes at Theodore Wirth, either on the Par 3 or the 18 hole course. Some golfers may not like a hole because it is difficult; other golfers like the same hole because it is a challenging. The 17th, a par 4, has a narrow fairway down into a valley with trees close on both sides. About at the maximum of an average player’s tee shot it doglegs right with another 100+ yards before you reach the green. The 18 th, although a par 3, goes from an elevated tee to an elevated green. Hitting and/or holding the green is very difficult. The green, because of its slope, is the most difficult one on the course. If we wanted to make this hole easier the slope of the green could be changed at a relatively small cost. You can be sure that when you do get a good score on these holes you are particularly pleased. These holes are consistent with the theme of the course. With its hills, trees, and now its yardage, the Wirth 18 hole course is perhaps the most challenging in the MPRB system. Historically it has been a home court advantage for the Wirth teams that compete in the various leagues. However, it is true that there are problems maintaining the grass on several holes both on the 18 hole course and the Par 3. These problems have to do with the location of trees and their effects on air circulation and sunlight, or with drainage and the type of soil in certain areas, particularly at tees and greens. These are all solvable problems provided enough additional money was available in the course budget. As for the erosion problems on the 17 th fairway a careful study should be made to determine whether they are being caused by the increase in winter sports activities in this area, particularly the additional snowmaking. We do not expect a perfect course. The maintenance crew deserves particular praise for the job they do. Things could be improved; but to a degree there are certain problems you have to expect if you want 5
to play on a beautiful mature parkland municipal course. Finally, as to ending the course with the 18 th hole as a par 3: The Nordic Ski Foundation, in this document, has the case exactly the wrong way around. The USGA does frown on the last hole being a par 3, but they are against it when they are considering a course for one of their national events. Their feeling is that, if a championship comes down to the 72 nd hole, a player should have to use his full range of shots on that last hole. So, they have asked courses to modify their last hole or play the holes in a different order when a USGA event occurs. It makes little difference to the regular user of the With 18 hole course whether or not the last hole is a par 3. There may not be any USGA event scheduled for Wirth in the near future but if one does come here the simple solution is to play the nines in the opposite orde r, the front nine becoming the back nine and vice versa. In fact, that is the way the course was originally designed. What is the 18 th hole now, was originally the 9 th. The MPRB may have switched the nines around with the idea of getting golfers off to an easier start, or maybe they thought they could sell more nine hole tickets by starting the course on the easier (now front) nine. The par 3 18 th hole is sometimes referred to as “the shortest par 5 on the course”.
Second, it is impossible to run the winter recreation area without significantly impacting th the 17 and 18 fairways. The snowboard hill runs right into the middle of the fairway – with the tow rope actually crossing the fairway itself. In fact, the last tow rope pole has to be removed each spring and replaced again each fall in order to allow for golf to happen in the summer. The cross country ski trails also crisscross the fairways – creating sub-optimal conditions for both the skiing and the golf.
Third, the winter recreation area is in desperate need of a pond for cold water. Currently the water comes directly from the golf well – with water at around 55 degrees. Optimal snowmaking happens with near-freezing temperature water; in other words, water from a pond where it can cool before use. But building a pond with the current golf alignment is problematic. th th Moving the 17 and 18 fairways will allow for the construction of a pond in a location near the snowmaking system. Finally, while the 17 and 18 fairways take up relatively little space, they “hem in” a large swath of land that could or should otherwise be home to the cross country skiing and endurance sports communities in the summer months. We understand, the Nordic Ski Foundation wants more land so golf should have less. That’s pretty clear. The 17 and 18 fairways should be moved in order to disentangle golf and winter th th recreation while making both better. (See Appendix for proposed plans for new 17 and 18 th th fairways). The estimated cost to move the 17 and 18 fairways is $350,000. As we understand this proposal the changes would actually involve changing four holes on the 18 hole course. The 18th hole would be removed entirely in favor facilities to support winter sports. The path of the 11th hole would be changed to go through what is now a wooded area so that sports favored by the Nordic Ski Foundation could have the hill that the 11 th is currently on. A new 6
th th th th
short par 3 would be added as the 12 th hole, in that same currently wooded area. And the 17 th hole would be moved from the valley and instead go across currently wooded hills to a new green, thus leaving the valley for the exclusive use of sports approved by the Nordic Ski Foundation. It would be the 18 th and final hole on the course. It is not clear whether the cost of all of these changes could be limited to the $350,000 figure. Certainly the figure does not include the lost revenue to the golf course during the construction period. The whole back nine of the golf course would have to be closed during construction. If the construction period lasts one season and the lost revenues are half the normal revenues for a year, the lost revenue could amount to as much as $500,000. And, after construction is complete, it would likely take considerable additional time before the number of golf rounds returned to normal. This whole idea is NOT regarded as an improvement for the benefit of golfers. And, it remains to be seen as to whether the resulting holes would be any easier to maintain. It comes about only because of the desire of the Nordic Ski Foundation to gain control of more of Wirth Park. Even the casual observer might conclude that it would be far easier to move winter sports to another area (or find a way to minimize their adverse effects) than it is to move entire golf holes. 2. Upgrade the Snowmaking Facilities With minimal public investment, the Winter Recreation Area has become a premiere destination for cross country skiing. Through private donations the Nordic Ski Foundation has been able to work together with the Park Board on several infrastructure projects: • upgraded the electrical transformer, replaced the old electrical panel and ran threephase 480 volt power to stations throughout the 2.5 kilometer Hap Lutter Snowmaking Loop; ran 6” water lines 7’ under the surface throughout the Hap Loop and added hydrants at periodic intervals to facilitate snowmaking operations; purchased snow guns and booster pumps; and designed, created and widened this portion of the trail system to accommodate U.S. Ski Association and international standards for both ordinary and adaptive cross country skiing.
• • •
But the demands on this system have quickly outstripped its ability to produce. With warm water from a well, the current system can only produce snow at extremely cold temperatures. The current pumphouse cannot provide water for more guns. The system is labor-intensive, requiring the dragging of heavy hoses and electric cords all around the course. Necessary improvements include: • • • • • Run electric lines and add power stations at more locations in order to avoid running high-voltage extension cords; Run water lines and add hydrants in more locations to avoid running long lengths of fire hose; Add a holding pond to ensure that water used to make snow is cold; Add a new pumphouse that can accommodate more snow-guns; Add submersible booster pumps at hydrant and electrical locations; 7
• • •
Add permanent “stick” snow guns at select locations; Acquire new snow guns; and Acquire a new snowcat-style grooming machine for pushing snow. The estimated cost for upgrading the snowmaking facilities is $1.5 to $2 million.
3. Upgrade the Lighting System Lights are an essential element for a successful cross country ski area. During the heart of ski season the days are short. Lights are the only way to extend the hours of operation – significantly increasing the number of people who can use the park on a daily basis. The current lighting system dates from around 1980 – when a series of street lights were erected on a now obsolete ski trail. There are a number of different chains of lights – like strings on a Christmas tree. And like strings on a Christmas tree, it seems that one chain or another is always blinking off. The wires for the lights are strung from pole to pole or from tree to tree. Some of the lights themselves are also mounted in trees. Many or the trees have actually grown around the lights over the years. The big problem here is the overhanging wires. During the snowmaking process, ice builds up on the wires until the weight finally breaks the wires. Modern lighting systems for cross country skiing have buried wire, and the lights are directional (the lights shine along the trail so as not to blind the skiers), lower to the ground, more efficient and more reliable. Modern lights should be installed on the Hap & Judy Trails at Wirth Park. The estimated cost for modern lights is between $150,000 and $200,000. 4. Create a Permanent Staging Area Over the past few years the Nordic Ski Foundation added a staging area on the top of the hill near the snowboard area. This staging area is minimally sufficient for the upcoming Junior Olympics, but has several problems. • • It is too small and cannot feasibly get bigger. It is at the top of some 120+ stairs. This has two impacts. O First, it is very difficult for small children to access and use as a learning area (one of the primary uses of a staging area for cross country skiing). O Second, the stairs and the surrounding hilly terrain make the staging area almost completely inadequate for paralympics/adaptive uses. It is invisible from the road. And It does not meet most national and international standards.
On top of all that, the new 18 fairway would bisect the staging area, rendering it useless for its intended purpose. There is a fairly simple and obvious solution. A new staging area should be built in the area around the first fairway of the Par-3 golf course. (A n in te re s tin g se qu en ce o f e ven ts : In c re as e th e win te r sp o rts us e o n a golf f ai rwa y c rea ting co nfli ct. S olu tion : Mo ve th e g olf f ai rwa y to ano the r l oc a tio n wh ich n o w in te rfe res wi th wi n te r s tag ing fa cil i tie s . So lu ti on : Mo ve s tag ing fa cili ti es on to a no the r golf co u rs e fai rwa y.) This area has several features to recommend it. It is already almost completely flat (a precondition of a cross country staging area). It is immediately adjacent to the existing parking lot and Par-3 building site and, thus, it is easily accessible to both children and handicapped athletes. It is easy to connect to the existing snowmaking loop, but is also immediately adjacent to easier terrain that is more appropriate for sit-skiers and children. It is visible from the road. And, whether the Par-3 continues as a golf course or is re-purposed, the new staging area can work in conjunction with summer uses of the area. The cross country staging area should move to the Par-3. There are three distinct parts to this move: 1. grading and site work, 2. lights, and 3. snowmaking ability. The grading work should be minimal, with a price tag of less than $25,000. The lights and snowmaking projects are potentially more significant. However, if done as part of broader lights and snowmaking projects (see above), would add little to the overall cost. Wirth Park has the opportunity to host a Paralympics World Cup in 2012. To host an international event designed for people with various handicaps it will be necessary to have an adequate staging facility in an area that can work for the athletes. The Par-3 staging area would work whereas the existing staging area presents significant problems. The Nordic Ski Foundation would like to see the staging area moved to the Par-3 location in the summer of 2011. 5. Widen and Grade the “Back-40” section of trails The current “competition loop” consists almost entirely of challenging terrain with numerous up- and down-hills. The loop is good for national competitions like the Junior Olympics, Senior Nationals and even the World Cup, but it is lacking in easier terrain necessary to host events like the State High School League’s cross country ski meet, the Paralympics World Cup and the National and World Masters competitions. The solution lies in widening and grading a few hundred meters of trails through the Back-40 section of the park (near Twin Lake). This would create a 7.5 kilometer competition loop that could accommodate a number of skill levels and events. (Note that this work could be compatible with a plan to better access Twin Lake in the summer). The cost to widen and grade these trails would be $10,000 - $20,000. 9
6. Build a Dedicated Welcome Center for Silent Sports and Winter Recreation Theodore Wirth Park spans 743 acres. There are 25 kilometers (15 miles) of ski trails. Well over thirteen miles of hiking and running trails. Four miles of mountain bike trails. Five miles of asphalt bike paths. (compare the statistics. The Par 3 is 1240 yards, or .7 miles. The 18 hole course is 6575 yards or 3.74 miles. Total playing length of both courses is only 4.74 miles) There are swimming beaches and wildflower and vegetable gardens. There is a tubing hill and snowboard area. And yet, outside of dedicated golf buildings, there are essentially no public buildings in the entire park. But even without any facilities various organizations have begun to use the park extensively to introduce young people to a variety of outdoor activities, including biking and mountain biking, orienteering, paddling, roller-skiing, capture-the-flag, triathlon training, gardening and nature hiking. A few of the organizations that use the park to work with young people include the Nordic Ski Foundation (Adventure Camps, Bryn Mawr Skis, Anwatin Ski Team, Farview Park Ski Team, Trips for Kids mountain bike program), the V3 Triathlon Program (teaching North Minneapolis kids the basics of triathlon training), Bolder Options, Go!Training (a high-level cross country ski program), the Minnesota Youth Ski League and the JD Rivers Garden Project. For nine months of each year there is no indoor facility, no interpretative staff, and no place that can act as a base of operations for these various groups. The park is such a good place for these activities that these groups meet here anyway. But with a public building the use of the park would increase dramatically. A public building/welcome center should be built on the location of the current Par-3 building. With the new cross country staging area right there, this building would act as the hub of activities for cross country skiing in the winter and mountain biking, disc golf, hiking and running in the summer months. Ideally, the building would house a bike shop, a restaurant and/or coffee shop, and a great room and office space that would be used by various non-profit partner organizations (organizations like the Nordic Ski Foundation, Bolder Options and V3) that have a specific mission to engage North Minneapolis youth. (It’s clear here: listed sports are in, golf is out. What do you need a Par 3 clubhouse for if you are not going to have a Par 3 course?) With the proposed change in the 17 and 18 fairways, the current parking lot could be th expanded to the north – where the 17 green and fairway are now. There is no evidence that any other locations have been considered for the parking lot expansion other than one which would impact the current 17 th hole. Similarly the configuration or location of the Welcome Center in the preceding paragraph does not consider options other than those that would have detrimental effects on the Par 3. In fact in various documents the Welcome Center has been referred to by different names and different locations, but except for a recent MPRB staff report, has always been described as supporting a variety of sports, but not golf. There is no doubt that expanded and improved facilities of this kind are necessary to support the increased numbers of winter sports participants, and golfers, bikers and hikers in the summer. These improvements are needed at the location of the Chalet, and/or in the Chalet itself, as well as at the location of the 10
Par 3 building. The Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3 support the idea of improvements of this kind for the benefit of all park users. However the character of the new facilities is also an important consideration. Putting higher end for profit facilities such as a restaurant / coffee shop in the new center would make many potential users feel unwelcome. The center should have a community or park building atmosphere where users can rest and visit in between their rounds of golf or their use of the trails. Having a privately owned Bike shop, Ski shop, or expanded Golf proshop in the facility would increase the pressure to make changes so as to generate profits, whereas these facilities are normally run by the MPRB so as to cover their costs at the most. Remember, the Par 3 is a place many golfers go to play at a price they can afford. The estimated cost of a new Welcome Center building is $2.5 - $3 million. B. Improve Trails Throughout the Park Trails are the backbone of Theodore Wirth Park. But, like the entire park, the trails have been largely neglected for years. The trails and infrastructure surrounding the trails need to be re-built. Improvements are needed in the ski trails, mountain bike trails, hiking trails and asphalt trails. 1. Finish the Improvements of the Ski Trails The ski trail system itself is in relatively good condition. However, the Park Board needs to address signage, bridges, and miscellaneous grading and soil stabilization in order to create a top-quality ski trail network: a. Add Signage Probably the largest impediment to greater use of the park’s ski trail network is signage. Current signage consists of Nordic Ski Foundation-produced map boards and scattered “carsonite” arrows. There is no consistent signage, trail junctions are often unmarked and skiers are left to guess at the level of difficulty of the various trails. Because of the challenge of knowing the trails and the difficulty of the trails, there are no Park Board staff members who could complete this project independently. Instead, the Nordic Ski Foundation recommends that the Park Board employ the Foundation to lead the signage project. The estimated cost for this project is $10,000. b. Add or Improve Necessary Bridges To accommodate modern ski trail grooming equipment, the trail system needs five new or upgraded bridges. The estimated total cost for the four bridges is in the neighborhood of $500,000. However, there is a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources administered federal matching grant available for projects like these. That matching grant would effectively cut the cost of these projects in half. The application for these grant funds is due in March. To ensure that this opportunity is not wasted, the Nordic Ski Foundation recommends that the Park 11
Board employ the Nordic Ski Foundation to apply for these grants on behalf of the Park Board. The specific bridge projects include: i. A bridge over the one-lane maintenance/access road leading to the rear side of the Chalet.
ii. A second bridge over Wirth Parkway in the vicinity of the current par-3 building. Iii. A concrete bridge from the golf course to the asphalt trail running through the east side of the park needs to be updated or replaced. iv. A wooden bridge running over Bassett Creek just south of Highway 55 needs to be augmented with a new biking and skiing bridge that can accommodate a snowcat grooming machine. v. A new bridge needs to be erected over Wirth Parkway near the Quaking Bog parking lot. By connecting two large swaths of the park, this bridge would benefit both cross country skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer.
c. Grading and Soil Stabilization There are a number of small grading and soil stabilization projects that should be addressed throughout the park. In general, the work will not be difficult; grade and/or bring in some soil, disperse some seed, and, in a few cases, place erosion control mats while the seed comes in. The total cost of all of this work is probably $10,000 - $20,000. However, it is not worth allocating resources to these projects without a shift in park maintenance practices. Currently, Park Board employees routinely drive a variety of vehicles on the trails. Some of this driving is necessary. Most is not. And driving on the trails while they are wet is almost never necessary, but is, unfortunately, also common. Before spending more resources on erosion issues, the Park Board needs to address the practices that cause the majority of the erosion. (Note that by bringing the mowers, the garbage collectors and the forestry crew together in one place, a new Wirth Park maintenance facility may help with this problem.) 2. Mountain Bike Trail Improvements The Nordic Ski Foundation cares about the mountain bike trails in Wirth Park for a number of reasons. First, many if not most of the Foundation’s members are mountain bikers in the summer months. Second, the Foundation runs the City of Lakes chapter of Trips for Kids – an organization that takes inner-city youth on mountain bike rides in Wirth Park. Third, the Foundation runs Adventure Camps designed to teach the basics of lifetime sports, and mountain biking is a main staple of the camp activities. Finally, a major component of the Foundation’s mission is to engage inner-city youth, and mountain biking is one of the best ways to do this. 12
A good mountain bike system needs a variety of trails: technically and aerobically easy trails for beginners, trails with challenging obstacles for more advanced riders, and longer trails with significant climbs and descents for the more fit rider. The current trail system could easily be augmented by adding trails for beginning riders as well as more physically challenging trails, in order to attract riders who currently travel long distances to ride at Lebanon Hills or Murphy Hanrehan in the south suburbs. The Park Board should add technically easier trails for beginning level riders as well as more physically challenging trails for riders who want more of an aerobic challenge. With the reth th alignment of the 17 and 18 fairways of the 18-hole golf course, there is an opportunity to add these trails without infringing on the golf operations. The estimated cost to add five to seven miles of mountain bike trails is $50,000 – $60,000. 3. Hiking Trails Hiking, Nordic walking and trail running are increasingly popular activities. With its wilderness feel and plethora of trails, Wirth Park lends itself to these activities. All told, there is more than 13 miles of inter-connected hiking trail in the park. There are narrow intimate-feeling trails and wider, more open trails. Both have their place. The problem is that very few people can follow the trails without feeling lost, disoriented or, as a result, unsafe. The Park Board should add unobtrusive signage to guide people through the park. The Park Board could either hire an “expert” in this area or contract with the Nordic Ski Foundation to mark the trails in an unobtrusive fashion. Because the Nordic Ski Foundation already knows the trails and routes through the park, the Park Board should contract with the Nordic Ski Foundation to coordinate the signage through the park. Note that in the process of looking at the trail network, the Park Board should retain both narrow, more intimate trails and wider trails in the park. 4. Asphalt Trails There are a variety of asphalt trails in the park. With the exception of the main northsouth bike trail and the newer Luce Line segments, most of the trails need to be repaired or replaced. Specific trails include: a. East side trail running under Highway 55. This trail is in terrible condition and needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, because the trail is in the Bassett Creek flood plain, wood chips will not work. This section of park must have been a dump at one time as there is old concrete and asphalt scattered throughout the area. During the re-paving process, the old concrete and asphalt should be removed. b. Various trails through the “Eloise Butler” quadrant (that portion of the park that lies between Glenwood on the north, Interstate 394 on the south, the Bryn Mawr 13
neighborhood on the east and Wirth Parkway on the west). There are a number of very old asphalt trails through this section of the park. These trails should be converted to woodchips. c. North-south trail connecting Cedar Lake and Wirth Parkway. This short section of trail is narrow and dangerous with older asphalt. This is the only piece between Webber Park and Cedar Lake that has not been re-paved in the recent past. It should be repaved. C. Maintenance facilities. The maintenance facility for the golf course/winter recreation area at Wirth Park is in an abysmal condition. The cart barn is old and rickety with gaping holes in the walls. The “office”/garage space is too small, it is infested with mice, it is depressing, and much of the modern equipment used at the facility does not even fit through the vintage garage doors. The road and parking area are in atrocious condition and eroding asphalt and gravel regularly wash into the storm water system. Equipment sits out in the elements – reducing its useful life and also costing the Park Board in repair time and replacement costs when it is stolen or vandalized. Any new maintenance facility should be a system-wide facility rather than a golf-andwinter-recreation-only facility. Wirth Park is too big to have disparate crews acting without any coordination. Currently, the forestry crew comes from one place, the lawn mowing in South Wirth from another, the electricians form another and the golf maintenance from yet another. This results in an annual game of “Who’s on First?” There is no coordination in when activities occur, resulting in waste and mismanagement. The solution: create one maintenance facility in Wirth Park that can act as a base for all of the crews. With a single, re-done base the various maintenance crews can communicate, plan, and coordinate their activities through one central facility. The Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3 agree that the maintenance facilities are in dire need of upgrade and expansion. We support the idea of improvements of this kind. We do not support the solution identified as Concept A appearing in the subsequent North Wirth Park Study Team Report which places the new maintenance facility on ground currently used for one of the Par 3 fairways. It is not clear why sufficient improvement in maintenance facilities cannot be achieved at the present location of the maintenance yard. There may be no need to move the location of the maintenance facilities. The estimated cost to re-build the maintenance facility is between $1 and $1.5 million. D. Additional Thoughts Regarding Silent Sports Center Ideally, the new Silent Sports Center would include activities like disc golf and BMX, would include areas of the park that are now in use as the Par-3 golf course, and would be run by a non-profit organization with a mission of youth involvement and a vested interest in the success of the silent sports center idea. Turning the new center over to a private concern or a non-profit to run is a really, really, bad idea. In this regard there are two things that the MPRB commissioners need to ensure. (1) That all users of the center and of the park activities, including Par 3 golfers, are treated equitably, and (2) the people working at and running the 14
center are MPRB employees responsible to the commissioners. a. Include additional activities The idea behind the silent sports center is to provide a myriad of silent sports activities so that both adults and children are attracted to the area throughout the year. Ideally, the silent sports center would include activities like BMX, disc golf (the Park Board added disc golf this fall, but because it overlaps with the par-3 golf course its chance of success is minimal) and, perhaps, a skate park. The Park Board should consider adding these activities along with the mountain biking and skiing referenced above. That relations between golfers and disc golfers at the Par 3 might fail appears to be wishful thinking on the part of the author. The Nordic Ski Foundation seems skeptical as to whether golfers can adapt to anything new. In fact the integration of disc golf at the Par 3 has gone very well. Staff personnel at Theodore W irth, at the initiative of the Par 3 staff, are work ing with some disc golfers in the hope of setting up a regular week ly league at the course. b. Re-purpose the par-3 golf course. As referenced with regard to skiing, the success of these activities will hinge to some extent on the curb appeal. Can people see the activities from the road or bike path? Currently, the par-3 golf course occupies the curb appeal location. (i .e . T h e N o rd i c S k i Fo u n d a ti o n c o ve ts th e c u rb s i d e l o c a ti o n o f th e P a r 3 ). The par-3 also sits squarely between the th th current mountain bike trails and the area currently used for the 17 and 18 fairways. The par-3 golf course was added in the 1970s – when golf was on the upswing. Since then numerous golf courses have come on-line throughout the area. However, in recent years, the popularity of golf has declined, and hence both the 18-hole and par-3 courses at Wirth Park have significant excess golf capacity. (Request spreadsheet on golf play and revenues from golf staff). It is true that golf rounds in general and at the Theodore Wirth courses are down over the last 15 years. The statistics provided by the golf staff show a significant drop around 2002-3 and another around 2005-6. However, since 2005 the rounds at the MPRB courses including the Wirth 18 hole course and the Par 3 have remained stable. Over the same period (since 2000) the local unemployment rate has continued to rise, particularly in the last 4 years. MPRB courses have done relatively well in part because of efforts to keep the costs, and fees, down. The Par 3 remains your least expensive golf alternative in the MPRB system for which many golfers are thankful. The Nordic Ski foundation might want to imply the loss in number of rounds is a trend. We believe it is part of a cycle. In any case, while golf in some areas may have overbuilt in the short term, this is definitely not the case for the MPRB system. Aside for the Fort Snelling 9 hole course (which the MPRB manages but does not own) the MPRB has had the same number of golf courses, and golf holes since it added the Par 3 in 1962. The Par 3 filled, and fills today, a unique need (see “Value of the Par 3” at the end of the document). The MPRB has had the same number of 18 hole courses, and holes since Hiawatha was completed in 1934. The MPRB has not overbuilt and has, in the long term, no excess golf capacity. 15
But golf rounds are not the only statistic that is relevant. The Par 3, and golf operations in general, continue to do well financially. Except for occasional bad weather years, revenues exceed expenses to the extent that the excess can be used to help cover the losses incurred by other activities, help pay debt service, and make contributions to the general fund. Winter sports generally, and cross-country skiing in particular (in spite of recent increases in revenue) do not cover their costs through fees, and are not provided or managed with that objective in mind. They are part of the wide variety of MPRB activities that are intended to be supported in whole or in part by the tax dollar. To put this in context for individuals, a golfer playing 3 times a week at the Wirth Par 3 will spend $300-$400 for rounds of golf in a season, a skier using the MPRB ski trail system, city-wide, as many times a week as desired, will spend only $45 for a season pass. At the same time, obesity has grown to epidemic proportions, particularly among poor and minority groups. The Nordic Ski Foundation might be better served if they simply stated their own motives for the changes they recommend rather than claiming they are acting for the benefit of others. That would be more genuine. But at times it would also make it more evident that they simply want something that someone else has. We believe it is time for the Park Board to consider bold action to help combat these problems. The area currently used for the par-3 golf course should be re- purposed. This does not mean losing the par-3 course entirely. Instead, with forward tees a par-3 could be built into the Front-9 of the 18-hole course. Because there is excess capacity in that course, the addition of a new par-3 on the Front-9 would help the Park Board retain more revenues at a lower cost. In fact there are efforts under way nationally to provide a wider variety of teeing options on regulation courses. This is sometimes referred to informally as Family Friendly golf. The PGA and USGA endorse more formal standards for this objective under their “Tee it Forward” recommendation. In theory “Tee it Forward” would provide up to 8 different teeing locations on each hole (or at least on the par 4’s and par 5’s) with total yardage on the course ranging from 6900 yds down to 2100 yds. This extreme of course is not practical and each course must decide how to implement the program for best results. The objective is to give the players the option of playing a course from a tee consistent with their own skill levels while maximizing their enjoyment and maintaining the place of play for all golfers on the course. We can see how this concept is being applied by checking some courses on the internet or by phone. More than half of the courses claiming to participate in this program are resort courses. Some of these claiming to be Family Friendly are only referring to nongolf amenities, or offer lower rates for kids on their regular course. . Many however have golf training programs for kids and may have a pitch and putt course, or a par 3 course, or an executive short course available for kids or less experienced family members. Many of these courses have modified a regular 18 hole course to provide forward tees. When they have forward tees they generally have no more than 4, maybe 5, tee positions on a hole and the total forward yardage is usually around 4900 – 5100 yds for 18 holes. These resort courses usually have 54 or more golf holes, at least three courses, so there are plenty of golf available on holes that are not part of the “Tee if Forward” concept. Also available for review were many private courses or country clubs. Some of these had more than one course, sometimes including a par 3 or executive course that provided their Family Friendly opportunity. When they did have forward tees on their regulation 18, again they had no more 16
that 4 or 5 tee locations on a hole (usually less on a par 3) and forward yardage was in the 4900-5100 yd range. The remainder of courses reviewed were community or public courses in areas noted for golf including some local Minnesota courses. Some of these were turned out to be only executive length (i.e. 9 hole) courses in the first place which provided forward tees which brought the total yardage down to that of the 9 hole par 3. But most were regulation 18 hole courses with forward tees again with no more that 4 tee locations on a hole and the same total range for forward yardage of 4900-5100 yds. NOTE: 9 holes on one of these “Tee it Forward” courses would consist of a yardage of about 2500 yds, or twice the yardage of our 9 hole Theodore Wirth Par 3 (1240 yds). U. S. Kids Golf is another variation of the “Tee it Forward” concept. In this program sets of tee markers are provided so the course can place the forward tees anywhere on the fairway it thinks appropriate and does not need to build new tee boxes each time the teeing locations are changed. We contacted the seven local course identified under this program. One turned out to be an executive 9 hole course which brought the yardages down to a par 3 length by using the forward tees. Only one claimed to have par 3 length forward tees on their regulation 18 hole course. That was a private country club. The remainder had forward tee yardage in the 5000 yd range for 18 holes, like the vast majority of courses participating in the “Tee it Forward” concept. These same parameters are found when you look at the U.S.G A Junior Golf Program standards. Play includes par 4s and par 5s, with teeing options, but with existing hazards, some handicap scoring modifications, but with total yardages still in the 4000 -5000 yd range. W hether on a resort course, a country club, or on most oth er regulation 18 hole courses, you can generally assume that the course will require that the players playing the forward tees or in the Junior’s program have achieved a certain skill level, and/ or are accompanied by a parent, and/or are restri cted to certain playing times, and play with scheduled tee times. Theodore Wirth has the good fortune of meeting the needs of their more experienced golfers on the regulation 18 while providing an open door policy to a variety of golfers at its Par 3. Theodore W irth already has Family Friendly golf and the Par 3 is an essential element in that achievement.
Why Par 3 tees should not placed on the front 9 at Theodore Wirth Placing par 3 tees playing to the same front nine greens on the main course would be seriously problematic. There are five fundamental problems with this. First: Pace of Play: A higher
proportion of expert golfers play the main course. They would have to wait for the less experienced or more casual golfer to get to the tee and complete their shots and putts on the same hole. The par 3 player would feel pushed by the golfers playing the full length of the same hole. Neither type of golfer would be satisfied. Fewer of both type of golfers would use the course. There would be a significant drop in customers and revenue. Pace of Play may be manageable on a curse where forward tees are maybe as much as 120 yds ahead of the first tee on a par 4 or par 5. But it becomes impractical to place a Par 3 tee 300 yards or more ahead of the longest tee. Second: Par 3 golfers would have to
make tee times. First come first serve par 3 golf would not be possible on a course making tee time reservations on the same 9 holes for regular golfers. Third: Par 3 golfers would have to deal with a water hazard on the first hole and sand traps on several holes that they don’t have to deal with now. Fourth: The par 3 golfer would have to walk the full length of the front 9 of the main course to play 9 holes of par 3 golf. Instead of walking and playing approx. 1240 yards of golf in 9 holes they would have to walk approx. 3100 yards to play approx 1240 yards. Fifth: The Par 3 can usually be played
in about an hour to an hour and a half. This is important to a lot of golfers looking for a good experience but whose time is limited. The length of time required would at least double. In the alternative, the Park Board could replace a portion of the existing par-3 with a smaller 6-hole practice course for children Our Par 3 serves children, youth, adults, seniors, elderly, the disabled, and golfers who only have time to play a short 9 holes or less. There are a number of ways of managing golf so it works for children: insuring they are supervised, limiting the number of strokes per hole, modifying the length of the holes, or limiting the number of holes they play in a round. As their skill level progresses these modifications can be adjusted until they are playing at level appropriate for the full par 3 course. So they may progress from playing five holes to playing the full nine. The Theodore Wirth Par 3 is designed in three loops, a five hole loop, followed by a two hole loop, followed by another two hole loop. This gives any golfer a very practical opportunity to walk in after playing five holes, or go on and walk in after playing seven, or to finish the full nine, whichever is their desire. Of course you can’t do this if the full nine holes are not there. In a subsequent document the Nordic Ski Foundation has implied that there is a recent trend to 6 hole par 3 courses. This is a complete myth. A search for 6 hole courses on the internet yielded only a handful of results. Most of these courses were in England. Some were parts of larger golf complexes of that included multiple 18 hole courses. It is likely that they added six holes because that is what they had remaining room for. Six holes is not a magic number. All, except for one, had par 4’s and/or par 5’s included in their layout. The one with only par 3 holes was listed as a championship six hole course. Except for one which was just a pitch and putt, none of them were designed with children, beginners or youth in mind. More recen tly there a re so me advoca tes for allowin g fewer holes fo r a ro und of golf. Although, this is no t reall y a new idea ei ther as it appea red in golf jou rnals as earl y as 195 1. The idea no w is to p ro vide a course where the time, the co st, and the challenge is more flexible Forward tees a re a p art of this concep t als o But the main idea i s to build o r modify a cou rse so th at i t can be pla yed in loops (eg . a course may be th ree o r four 4 hole loops, or three 6 hole loops , o r four th ree hole loops, much the same wa y tha t man y cou rs e s now ha ve th ree 9 h ole loops). The pu rpo se of a “6 hole course”, o r loop, in th is contex t is no t the reduction in the number of holes available to pla y, but configuring the holes to maximize their use b y a large r number and va riety of golfers. Of cou rse this is easier to acco mplish when creating a cou rse fro m scratch . It is often very cos tl y to con vert an exis ting course to this k ind of configuration. In the l itera ture on this subject you rarel y see that a course simply removes holes to help mak e the tr ansi tion u nless it is done when pa rt of the course is sold for commercial or residential de velopment. There 18
was a t least one cou rse mentioned where they increased the nu mber of holes to achieve their goal . Th e litera ture is solely a bout regulation golf c o urses and has nothing to do with Par 3’s . Or with a driving range. A driving range is considered to be a good revenue feature for a golf course. It would be a positive asset within the Theodore Wirth golf complex. But it should be considered only as an addition to, not instead of, the Par 3 or any part thereof. However three of the other MPRB 18 hole courses already have driving ranges and we would not want to have a negative impact on other MPRB operations. Further, it would be difficult to place, or add, a driving range without having an impact on the wooded areas around the course. The preservation of the parkland nature of the course is one of our primary concerns. The MPRB with three courses having learning centers and driving ranges, and its only Par 3 (at Theodore Wirth) is in a strong position to continue to develop lifetime golfers into the future. The Theodore Wirth Par 3 is a unique asset of the MPRB and the community. By re-purposing the par-3, the Park Board can create one system of mountain bike trails, and activities like BMX, a skate park and independent disc golf will have the space and the visibility to succeed. The Park Board should consider re-purposing the par-3 area. c. Non-profit management In order to be successful, the silent sports center must be run by an organization equipped to market to and recruit a variety of users. Moreover, with shrinking finances the Park Board cannot afford to take on additional ongoing costs. By contracting with an organization like the Nordic Ski Foundation, the Park Board can provide better services and, at the same, avoid additional expenses. The Park Board should build the silent sports center and surrounding facilities with the idea of non-profit management in mind. The non-profit would run the new building, lease space to a restaurant or coffee shop and to a bike and/or ski shop, and run the concessions like disc golf, BMX, and cross country skiing. Ideally, the Nordic Ski Foundation would be a partner in the planning and development process. One can understand after working at expanding winter programs, fundraising, and park facilities improvements successfully for so many years that the Nordic Ski foundation might develop a sense of entitlement and a proprietary perspective about the park and the proposed new Welcome Center. In recent months it has become evident that there is not enough objectivity to let any one user group or association take over the park or any of its facilities. This would only lead to more conflict. V. This plan maintains the natural character of the park Silent sports enthusiasts go to the park because they enjoy woods and trees and wildlife. The intent of this plan is to leave the natural character of the park intact and to leave places for silent contemplation. In fact, by re-purposing golf facilities and concentrating the majority of the more significant uses in the golf course section of the park, the plan is designed to actually 19
decrease the impact on the natural areas of Wirth Park. (Again, the Nordic Ski Foundation sees no value in golf. Note that this statement refers to golf and does not limit itself to the Par 3.) The plans for the southern reaches of the park are modest: • • • • Add discrete signage for hiking and skiing; Remove and/or replace corroding asphalt trails; Grade and stabilize soil to prevent erosion in a few select locations; Add a bridge over Bassett Creek and another over Wirth Parkway near the Quaking Bog parking lot.
There are no plans for more or wider trails in this section of the park. Instead, the idea is to leave the area to the south of Highway 55 largely intact – except to un-dilapidate. Indeed, this plan serves to move at least two more intensive elements that had been proposed for the southern potion of the park to the golf course section instead: • • Consolidates the golf maintenance facility with the general use maintenance facility that had been proposed at Glenwood and Xerxes; Moves proposed concessions from Wirth Beach area to Welcome Center in northern portion of the park;
The hope is to capitalize on the natural character of Theodore Wirth Park. That is what attracts all of us to the park. VI. Conclusion Wirth Park has been largely neglected for years. The Park Board has an opportunity to re-shape the park in a truly inspiring fashion. With this investment the park can go from dilapidated feeling to world class, with an innovative silent sports center that can serve both North and South Minneapolis, creating a truly unique regional park. The Park Board should act boldly and with vision. Only by coming into the Advisory Committee process with a cohesive vision can the Park Board hope to achieve a park that is more than a potpourri of disparate ideas. This vision is in line with the Park Board’s direction to address recreation and active sports facilities, operations facility consolidation, and trail upgrades. The planning staff should go into the process with this broad vision and use the advisory committee to shape the details of the plan. Appendix: Nordic Ski Foundation has been a Park Board partner for eight years. O Direct Investments: Invested over $400,000 in cash improvements in the park Invested over $200,000 in in-kind improvements, including donation of 20
o o o o o o o
snowmobile and groomer Invested roughly 14,000 of hours of volunteer time in the park • Trails days – 100 people/year * 4 hours * 8 years = 3200 hours • Loppet shoveling of trails – 9 years * 200 people in average year * 3 hours/person = 5400 hours • high school shoveling under bridges – 9 years * 50 kids * 2 hours/kid = 900 hours • other general work on trails – 9 years * 10 people * 50 people = 4500 hours Managed various projects in the park, including: snowmaking, trail development, new staircases, cross country skiing staging area Raised profile of park throughout the community Brought thousands of new visitors to the park Helped Winter Program increase revenues over 500% In absence of planning attention, designed and purchased signage for cross country ski trails Advised Park Board on website for winter recreation programming Brought national events like the Junior Olympics and – hopefully next year – a Paralympic World Cup to the park Serve hundreds of kids in North Minneapolis every year:
Teach lifetime activities to 500+ elementary students each year (some programs take place directly in Wirth Park, others take Foundationfinanced field trips to Wirth Park): • Bryn Mawr Elementary • Nellie Stone Johnson Elementary • Cityview • Hall • Loring Inspire middle school students to a more active lifestyle (using Wirth Park as a base of activities): • Anwatin Middle School • Farview Park • North Commons • Harrison Run ski camps and adventure camps in Wirth Park in conjunction with Park Board • Scholarships for underprivileged kids Runs Trips for Kids mountain bike program in Wirth Park • Work almost exclusively with North Minneapolis parks Foundation is volunteer-driven Includes 21
o o o o
400+ members 1,000+ annual volunteers 9,000+ event participants Hundreds of individual donors that have helped pay for improvements throughout the park
Trail use by young people in particular has increased dramatically: • High school skiers swarm the park on most weekday afternoons in the winter. O On an average winter day the park hosts six high school teams with 50 skiers per team. O There are two to three days of racing per week – oftentimes with two races happening simultaneously. On these days, upwards of 500 students use the park in a single afternoon. The Minnesota Youth Ski League has clubs across the state. The biggest club in the state meets at Wirth Park – with 200 children coming every Sunday through the winter. Students from Anwatin Middle School, Bryn Mawr Elementary and Farview Park ski in Theodore Wirth Park every week throughout the winter. The Mayor’s Challenge and the Midwest Junior Championships are now annual events bringing nearly 1,000 skiers from across the Midwest The Junior Olympics will bring the best young skiers from across the country to Wirth Park this year. The City of Lakes chapter of Trips for Kids brings groups of kids mountain biking each week throughout the summer and fall. Children mountain bike with their parents on a regular basis North Minneapolis’ V-3 Triathlon program uses Wirth Park as a base for training. In conjunction with the Park Board, the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation runs Adventure Camps that bring kids to the trails of the park (mountain biking, roller-skiing, orienteering, etc.) all summer. Local schools like Anwatin and Bryn Mawr Elementary use the park for adventure learning throughout the year.
• • • • • • • •
Assumptions on trail use by user groups:
(The Friends of the Theodore Wirth Par 3 support the success of the programs and activities listed below, however in view of the Nordic Ski Foundation’s propensity to put a face on its presentations it would be a good idea if some objective group or expert checked these assumptions)
Cross country ski trips per year: (2000 passes x 15 + 2000 loppet day + 600 Mayors Challenge + 10*250 (high school) + 500*15 (high school passes + 5000 (day passes) + 10,000 (uses by non-pass holders)+ 200*8 (MYSL) + 8*100 (Bryn Mawr) + 20*30 (Anwatin)+12*100 (adult groups)+40*20 (Go!Training) = more than 55,000 uses) Mountain bikers 180 days * 200 trips 22
Everyday bikers 250 days * 1,000 trips/day Average four miles per trip Runners 250 days * 100 runners Average 4+ miles per trip Walkers and hikers 300 days * 250/day Average two miles per trip In-line skaters, roller-skiers and other like users 200 days * 50 trips/day Average four miles per trip
Improvements - Quick Reference Guide with Proposed Phasing: Estimated Cost 2011 Projects Hiking trail signage Move 17th and 18th fairways $10,000 Spring 2011 Timeline for completion Notes
Break ground in 2011 for spring 2012 completion Complete work in fall 2011, in time for 2012 Paralympics World Cup Complete work in fall 2011, in time for 2012 Paralympics World Cup Fall 2011
Create a permanent staging area
First phase of snowmaking upgrades – add snowmaking capability to new staging area Add ski trail signage Replace/repair maintenance facilities Upgrade the Lighting on the Snowmaking Loop
$1 - $1.5 million
Summer and fall 2011
Summer 2011 – in time for Paralympics World Cup Complete work in fall 2011, in time 18 Foundation to raise private funds for this project
Re-grade the Back-40 section of
for 2012 Paralympics World Cup $10,000 $20,000 Summer 2011 Foundation to raise private funds for this project, but would require change in Park Board policies or practices Remove signage and miscellaneous
Grading and soil stabilization
Re-purpose par-3 golf course
$1.7 – $2.3 million
2012 Projects Second phase of snowmaking upgrades Add bridges $500,000 Add pond and new pump house
Federal matching grants available. Start applying for matching grants in March 2011? Would happen after 17th and 18th fairways are moved
Add mountain bike trails Remove and/or reconstruct asphalt trails Add BMX facility
$50,000 $60,000 $500,000
Possibility of grant funding from Bikes Belong
Subtotal - 2012
2013 and beyond Build a Welcome Center Complete upgrade of the snowmaking facilities $2.5 - $3 million $.8 - $1.3 million 2012-2013 Possible bonding project?
Add water and electric infrastructure, permanent submersible booster pumps, additional snow guns and snow cat
Subtotal – 2013 and beyond
$3.3 - $4.3 million
$6.6 - $8.2 million
Value of the Par 3
The Theodore Wirth Par 3 serves children, youth, adults, seniors, elderly, and the disabled. Expert, veteran, casual, weekend, occasional and beginning golfers all share this golf course. The Par 3 is used by youth golf programs including First Tee, the Minnesota Minority Junior Golf Association, the Fairway Foundation, the MPRB Golf Academy and golf camp, as well as by several high school golf teams, both boys and girls, both Minneapolis and suburban. A corporate league and a woman’s Park Board League play the course each week. Hopefully soon there will also be a disc golf league. Grandparents come in with grandchildren, fathers with daughters, mothers with sons, and couples on a date. Many golfers drop in on the spur of the moment relying on the first come first serve policy. This includes business people sent by local hotels who are looking for golf that they can fit into their limited available time. The course is ideal for anyone wanting to get in a quick 9 holes or less. At the same time a golfer can also can spend much of the day there and play the 9 holes more that once. Various groups hold golf events at the Par 3 over the course of a season including associations, clubs churches, companies, and family reunions etc. In 2010 5 events of this kind were scheduled at the Par 3 and 31 events were scheduled at the 18 hole course. But Theodore Wirth has an advantage since people not wanting to play in an event at the 18 hole course can go over and play, first come first serve, at the Par 3 and still be a part of the day’s festivities. The City of Minneapolis Employees Tournament schedules both courses when it plays at the Wirth Par 3. Then there are the informal groups such as the Lincoln 20
Teachers who play every Monday, the Puzzle Workers who play on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and the Kings of the Par 3 who play on Fridays and Saturdays. All of these people enjoy the hospitality, good fellowship, and great golf available at the Theodore Wirth Par 3.
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