Letter to MPRB from Friends of Lake Hiawatha

Hello Park, Commissioners,

Friends of Lake Hiawatha object to any plan that damages, alters, or eliminates existing habitat. We object to any plan that kills, displaces or threatens existing wildlife residents. We object to any plan that drains or damages Lake Hiawatha and its aquatic, avian and terrestrial inhabitants. We object to any plan that separates Lake Hiawatha from Minnehaha Creek. We object to any plan that deprives the community of the recreational asset of Lake Hiawatha by draining and reducing it to a stagnant holding pond. 

We support the Hiawatha masterplan because we worked with the community, golfers and the Park Board for seven years to ensure that it did none of the above.
We object to the Lehman Plan because it proposes to do all of the above.
Friends of Lake Hiawatha

The Lehman plan proposes to channelize and “berm” Minnehaha Creek, separating the creek from Lake Hiawatha entirely. After that they would drain Lake Hiawatha to become a “dry reserve floodplain” and a remnant, stagnant, swamp deprived of the necessary flow of the creek. This “reserve floodplain” where Lake Hiawatha was would only be filled in the event of a ten year flood event and thus they believe it will protect Hiawatha Golf Course from flooding and allow 18 holes to remain rather than reduce it to an elevated 9 hole course. The Lehman plan would move the pumps to the east side of “where Lake Hiawatha was” and expand pumping to include not only the sinking golf course but also Lake Hiawatha itself. Minnehaha Creek would be extensively dredged below Lake Hiawatha. The Lehman plan appears to entirely eliminate the Lake Hiawatha Delta Habitat area. Hundreds of FOLH volunteers have labored to restore this important regional habitat for years. Volunteers have worked to protect resident wildlife, which includes numerous endangered, threatened and vulnerable species that rely on Lake Hiawatha. We have planted hundreds of plants that we grew from seed. We have worked with our Dakota friends to restore the foods and medicines that were eliminated from this area by Wirth and the Park Board in 1929. We have worked in collaboration with nature to transform this area from a polluted and trash choked monoculture to a growing haven of biodiversity. The Lehman plan would wipe out all of this work we have done.

The Lehman plan was made only in consultation with the golf community and reflects only golf interests. Friends of Lake Hiawatha were not allowed to attend the Lehman plan’s “public meeting” where they presented their plan to the “public”. Park Board President Meg Forney invited us to this meeting and encouraged us to attend. Before this meeting started, members of FOLH, including the FOLH chair were removed and blocked from the meeting without explanation.

Despite this recent escalation that proposes to annex Lake Hiawatha, we still support the compromise plan which retains 9 holes of traditional golf in the Hiawatha masterplan. We still wish to honor the history of Black golfers. We still support the conitinuation and expansion of youth golf programs and practice facilities. We hope that golfers will adopt the same spirit of compromise and join us in supporting the community collaboration that is the Hiawatha masterplan. The Hiawatha Golf Course Property Masterplan, in contrast to the Lehman plan, was made in consultation with the entire community and was crafted over seven years through extensive public engagement. This is not an either or proposition as it is often portrayed. We can have a clean lake and the historic golf course.

To see the video of the Lehman plan’s recent “public meeting”. visit this link: https://youtu.be/6nu9JfNFvyc?t=456

Thank you for your attention and consideration.
Sean Connaughty and Friends of Lalke Hiawatha

FOLH Land Acknowledgement: When we visit Lake Hiawatha we remember, acknowledge and honor that this area (Bdote) is the sacred homeland and birthplace of Dakota Peoples, from which they were forcibly removed and the land stolen.  Dakota and other Indigenous peoples were stewards of this land for millennia prior to the arrival of white settlers. We recognize that since colonization there has been a failure in our stewardship of Lake Hiawatha that continues to this day. We humbly ask permission to do restorative work here. We want to work together with our Dakota and Indigenous friends to bring healing to the land. We will strive to treat the land, water and its inhabitants with the respect that is accorded those of familial status. Dakota people lived here in a reciprocal relationship with the Earth, understanding the necessary give and take that is essential to survival of our species. We aspire to this ethos. FOLH 2020


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