Powderhorn Park Update

Posted by Doug Shidell, September 1st, 2008

Joel Cahalan, of the Hub Bicycle Co-op, has been trying to get the necessary permit to run the Powderhorn Park Cyclocross race this fall. As previously reported here, the director of Powderhorn Park rejected the first application for a permit. At the time, Peter Yaeger, Powderhorn Park Director, gave no reason for his refusal. Since then, Cahalan has received a written statement outlining the Park Director’s reasons for refusing the permit. Below is Cahalan’s point by point response. He addresed his response to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board of Directors.

Park Commissioners,

I have read Peter Jaeger’s statement regarding the Powderhorn bike race and I feel it full of distortions and misstatements. I would appreciate the opportunity to rebut his views in the hopes that you will reconsider his denial of our permit this year. I would like to state that seeing his letter yesterday was the first that many of these concerns have been presented to me. To me, Peter Jaeger’s procedure for dealing with this issue has not been one in which he openly communicated his concerns and allowed us the opportunity to address them. Instead there has been a complete lack of dialogue. I have lived in South Minneapolis for 13 years and have many friends who live within blocks of Powderhorn Park. We are your constituents and we are park users. I urge you give us the courtesy of seriously considering our viewpoints before reaching a decision on this important issue.

Following is a point by point rebuttal of Peter Jaeger’s stated reasons for denying our permit:

Extensive damage to the grounds that is still evident
We are more than willing to have a rain date or call off the event if the park is too wet. We had no prior experience with the effect our event would have on the park last year due to the record rain fall. As Peter states in his letter he did not either and we relied on park officials to make this judgment.
Drought resistant ground cover in effected areas that is a darker shade of green does not seem to me to be ‘extensive damage’. We have held the event three years running and have always had the course in a slightly different spot. There are no visible marks on the park from the first two years. This leads me to believe that last year was an exceptional year due to record rain preceding the event.
The arts fair and other large events have a much larger impact on the park.
Numerous complaints from neighborhood residents
I have had numerous complements about bringing a positive event to the park and neighborhood.
Mud pit was never graded
We did in fact have one of our club member’s rake out some of the ruts after the race.
We offered to do more in a phone conversation with Dave Garmany in October 23, 2007, two days after the race. We were told this was not possible due to union concerns and were told we should pay an additional $500 for grass reseeding. We immediately agreed to this and I have bank statements to verify that indeed $505 was charged to our account on behalf of Minneapolis Parks on October 23, 2007
Concerns organizers will not take environmental factors into account and call the event off.
As stated above we relied of park officials last year and had no prior experience with what effect the event would have. There is no evidence to support the idea that we would proceed with the event without park official’s approval.
Participants continued to use the course after the event
It is more probable that area residents who ride bikes enjoyed using the path post event.
In the event that there were any race participants using the course in the weeks after the race the promoters could have been contacted by park officials and we would have been happy to spread the word within the racing community that it was not okay to ride on the course post race. In the past when these type of concerns have been raised the bike racing community has been very responsive to requests.
Failure to provide youth programming as agreed upon
I personally suggested that The Hub Bike Co-op partner with the park to do some youth programming and got the distinct impression from park staff that this would be a waste of time as area youth would not be interested in attending. To now hear park officials assert that this is something we agreed to do and did not follow through on is personally insulting and I feel another example of poor communication.
I believe that this type of program could still be organized if the will was there on the part of park staff.
Permit fee was set too low and organizers complained that it was too high.
Regardless of whether this is true this is not a reason to deny a permit. We have paid every fee that park staff requested.
Livability factor for neighbors to Powderhorn Park
Livability to me means having local events such as ours that are inspirational and exciting to watch.
Many event participants arrive by bike for our event thus reducing environmental impact and increasing livability.
Overall safety to park users; high speed of biker’s through the park.
The course is clearly marked with caution tape and or flagging.
We had volunteers at critical spots throughout the park monitoring pedestrian crossing.
There were no incidents that would justify this concern that were ever brought to my attention.
The average speed in a race such as this is about 15 mph.

In closing it seems that there are many issues that could be resolved simply by better communication between park staff and our club. I do not believe any of these issues are insurmountable but I have felt a lack of willingness to have an open dialogue about how we can work together. Please consider our request to have park staff work in partnership instead of adversarially.

Joel Cahalan
Development Coordinator
The Hub Bike Co-op
Minneapolis MN

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