Residents, Park Board debate Cedar Lake beach’s future

Shira Kantor

Tucked away at the end of a well-trodden trail cloaked in buckthorn and rife with mud holes, there is a hidden beach.

The beach, on the northeast side of Cedar Lake in Minneapolis, is unregulated and unofficial – and the source of years of contention.

Some regard it as a semi-private haven for relaxation and exposure to an eclectic mix of people and situations.

Others see it as an “attractive nuisance,” a place for drug dealing and alcohol abuse, nude bathing and decadent behavior – and a general public safety hazard.

Monday evening, at the Kenwood-Isles Neighborhood Association Meeting, Park Board members, Park Police and approximately 120 area residents gathered together to try to sort it out.

One area resident stood up early in the meeting to defend the
unofficial territory against possible regulation.

“The beach is a popular place because it is a beautiful place,” he said. “And not everyone that goes down there are a bunch of creeps and criminals.”

A Hidden Beach task force – set up in September to scrutinize the beach – reviewed a pre-existing development plan and accompanying study as well as neighbor and Park Board concerns before issuing its own report to the Minneapolis Park Board on Jan. 16.

The task force recommended spending money to remove the buckthorn that chokes other vegetation and to ban swimming and mud bathing, which they claim harms the environment.

The task force also pushed for an upgraded, paved path to the beach to accommodate bikes, wheelchairs and emergency vehicles.

Task force members plan to meet with several neighborhood groups before taking any concrete action.

Sixth Ward City Council member Dean Zimmermann – a former Park Board member and an admitted former nude bather – said he was concerned about the effects of overregulation.

“We want to be real careful that we don’t go ahead and destroy something in order to save it,” he said. But he said he was a proponent of added parking restrictions.

Michele Copperud, a long-time resident of the Kenwood-Isles area, said she fears for her family’s safety. She said her 12-year-old son has witnessed public nudity and sex acts at and around the beach area.

“I call (the police) a couple of times a week,” Copperud said. “I have to go through this whole big deal about who I am and why I’m calling, and unless there are gunshots, I often don’t get a response.”

Copperud’s concerns echo those of the Kenwood Neighborhood Action Committee, which drew up a report late last year on what it considers the precarious state of the beach.

The report cited incidents such as residents being woken in the middle of the night by distraught beach patrons seeking help.

Many proponents of leaving the beach in its natural state say they have never felt unsafe at the beach.

“I went down with my infant daughter,” said Elizabeth Streefland of her first Hidden Beach encounter. “I was greeted with warmth and love and kind of a hippie groove,” she said.

Streefland said the reform approach is far too law-enforcement oriented, and she said she’d like to see more residents involved in the process.

“And to whoever’s drumming every night by my home,” Streefland said with a smile, “keep it up.”

Shira Kantor welcomes comments at
ska[email protected]