WAYZATA — About 98% of Lake Minnetonka’s shoreline is not accessible to the public — it’s privately owned. Wayzata is trying to make a small slice of the publicly owned shoreline a place where people from all over the state can come and enjoy Minnesota’s ninth-largest lake.
That’s the message city leaders gave the state Senate Capital Investment Committee on Thursday, Oct. 24. The committee visited Depot Park as part of a bonding tour to hear a presentation on the Wayzata Lake Effect project. The city is hoping its request for $10 million in state funds will be included in next year’s bonding bill.
“This lake is virtually inaccessible to the public and that’s why this community has spent over 10 years coming up with a plan to reimagine this space,” Wayzata City Manager Jeffrey Dahl said.
The space, which includes about 2,000 linear feet of shoreline, Dahl is referring to is the area between the railroad tracks and Lake Minnetonka’s Wayzata Bay, along Lake Street East in downtown Wayzata. The reason that space exists is a “good news, bad news combination,” Wayzata Mayor Ken Willcox said, noting the railroad tracks separate people from the lake (the bad news), but if it were not for the railroad tracks, the area along Lake Street in downtown Wayzata “would all be built up and we wouldn’t have any access to the lake at all.”
The Lake Effect project is a $20 million project that is shovel-ready, fully designed and the result of a 10-year public process, Willcox said.
“We are committed to $10 million of that, and we are respectfully asking the state to consider coming up with the other $10 million for us. It’s a regional, statewide amenity. We think it’s very important,” Willcox said.
The “crown jewel” of the Lake Effect project is a 1,250-foot boardwalk that would stretch from the historic Wayzata Depot and Depot Park east to the historic Section Foreman House, Dahl said during the presentation. In total, the project will encompass about 15 acres and will create three new smaller parks, as well as make accessibility improvements to the area.
The $20 million price tag is the current estimated cost for the entire project, Dahl told Lakeshore Weekly News via email on Oct. 28. The city of Wayzata plans to move forward early next year with making improvements to Lake Street and nearby railroad crossings, as well as constructing the Lake Street Plaza in the parking lot by Cov and the Dakota Rail Regional Trail Extension. The $10 million the city is requesting from the state would, generally speaking, help fund the boardwalk, the eco-park at the Section Foreman House and Depot Park improvements, Dahl explained, adding that he’s hoping the money would also cover restoration of the Section Foreman House.
“Most folks think that the city of Wayzata is much bigger than it actually is. As a small city with significant budget concerns, we think it is more than appropriate that the state of Minnesota contribute its fair share given the amenity this project will be both to Wayzata residents and the region,” Dahl said.
Wayzata has a population of fewer than 5,000 people. Wayzata High School, located in Plymouth, has more students than the city of Wayzata does residents, Willcox said during the presentation.
Sen. Osmek to draft bill
Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, who represents Wayzata, was not able to attend the presentation, but he told Lakeshore Weekly News via email on Monday, Oct. 28, that he “will be drafting a bill for submission and consideration at the beginning of the 2020 session.”
“I also will be pursuing the replacement of critical infrastructure within my district, including a bridge in Deephaven that emergency vehicles cannot cross and water system upgrades for Minnetonka Beach,” Osmek said. “As a member of the Capital Investment Committee, I am hopeful that these projects are considered for assistance in the 2020 bonding bill.”
There are about 400 projects amounting to over $5 billion that have been submitted to the Senate Capital Investment Committee ahead of the 2020 session, Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, said following the Lake Effect project presentation. Wayzata was the committee’s last stop on its multi-day tour of southwestern Minnesota to learn about potential projects.
“So we have some big decisions to make,” Senjem said, noting the Wayzata Lake Effect project is among them. “We look forward to that as we go into the 2020 session next February and we will be steadfast, we will be dutiful, we will be fair, and we will make good judgments, I can assure you of that.”
When asked what if the city of Wayzata doesn’t get full the full $10 million in the bonding bill, Dahl responded with a laugh, saying “Well, we’re planning on getting all the money.”
“But fortunately, the project can be, for lack of a better term, split up. The gem is really the boardwalk. It’s bookended by the Depot Park and the Section Foreman’s House area, which we call the Eco Park, so there’s really three chunks that it could be split into if we had to,” Dahl said.
The Lake Effect project’s website is www.wayzata.org/392/Wayzata-Lake-Effect.