See more of the story

Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes a mix of national and local commentaries online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


Ian Young ("Too many holes in Hiawatha plans," Opinion Exchange, Aug. 4) propagates the same false rhetoric that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has been putting out for the past seven years. The Hiawatha Golf Course has existed for the past 88 years and is still thriving eight years after the last flood.

The $4 million in damage to the course from the 2014 flood is a number put out by the Planning Department. The driving range and front nine holes were back in service within 13 days and 36 days, respectively. We believe that the back nine was kept closed for almost two years so that the Park Board could get a $1.1 million Federal Emergency Management Agency award — money that was never clearly used to fix the Hiawatha course but was spent at the Francis A. Gross and Theodore Wirth courses. The city's golf courses are meant to be self-sustaining, and operations are not generally funded by tax money.

The citizens group SaveHiawatha18 estimated that the cost of lost revenue after the 2014 flood was about $560,000 using Park Board revenue figures, and found that the repairs were grass seed and a pump. The $560,000 would have been much less if the Park Board had just repaired and reopened the back nine and not tried to get FEMA money.

The Park Board's planning department did not allow the Hiawatha Golf Course Property Master Plan Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to consider 18 holes as an option. But, due to the CAC's insistence for an 18-hole option, the planning department created a "compact plan" for an 18-hole golf course, but then refused to let the CAC see it. It took a public data request to get it released, and it was just a few diagrams — nothing of substance.

The review by Barr Engineering of an 18-hole plan by the Bronze Foundation and the Lehman Design Group was a total conflict of interest, since Barr would be vying for the same work. Plus, if Barr had reviewed the Park Board's nine-hole plan by the same criteria as the Bronze/Lehman plan, the Park Board plan would have suffered almost all of the same criticisms, including concerns about getting approvals from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency because of the massive amounts of fill needed to elevate the proposed nine-hole golf course above the flood plain.

And, the homes will more likely get bulldozed if the Park Board's plan goes through, because the topography and natural drainage will be drastically changed with fill across the street from the homes. The Park Board has admitted that its plan to stop pumping at the golf course will raise water levels in the low-lying neighborhoods from Lake Hiawatha to Powderhorn Lake. This is why it proposes pumps in the neighborhoods. And, the cost of pumping water will be transferred from the golfers to the Minneapolis taxpayers.

Nobody is proposing that the 18-hole golf course be elevated. The only plan that will elevate acreage is the Park Board's nine-hole plan. But, leaving the 18-hole golf course as is, and just letting it continue to serve as a flood plain once every 20 or so years (1965, 1987 and 2014) at little to no cost, is a much better option. Then, deal with the fact that the whole Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, including the city of Minneapolis, has been using Lake Hiawatha and Hiawatha Park as its dumping ground for water. A plan from Edina would send more stormwater into Lake Hiawatha so that Edina can create more flood storage for itself at the expense of south Minneapolis. That is what needs to change!

Kathryn Kelly, of St. Paul, grew up across the street from the Hiawatha Golf Course and is a member of SaveHiawatha18.