MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A major park project is causing controversy.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board approved agreements Wednesday night to allow the Loppet Foundation to build a new recreation center in Theodore Wirth Park. The goal is to have a year-round facility that would become a biking and skiing destination for guests from all over the Twin Cities.
“Increasing the level of services at Theodore Wirth Park for the region is a big deal,” Loppet Foundation adventures director Anthony Taylor said.
Critics are concerned about costs, privatizing public land, and park jobs, as the foundation would take over administering the new activities in the park.
“This plan outsources between six and seven thousand hours of labor right now, and it’s going to be turned over to low-wage benefit staff,” Tony Kelly, a member of City Employees Local 363 Union, said.
Dozens took to the podium during the public comment portion of the park board meeting.
“I have a lot of pride in what we do, but this is not what we should be doing,” one woman said.
“To me, the adventure center is bigger than a training center or anything like that,” a supporter said. “To me it’s bringing people like myself who never would have skied.”
Four people were arrested as several people interrupted the meeting shouting at board members, including accusations of racism in hiring and promotional practices.
“Now you want to take away more jobs that could be benefiting people of color with your Loppet Foundation,” NAACP Minneapolis second Vice President Cathy Jones said at the podium.
On Thursday, members of the local NAACP demanded an apology from the board for the arrests and asked that the superintendent resign. They plan to continue going to meetings to express complaints of discriminatory hiring and promotional practices within the park system and the city.
Loppet Foundation leaders say the facility will create new jobs and help redevelop the local community.
The Loppet Foundation is paying 75 percent of the estimated $8.5 million project, with the rest being paid for by the park board and the state. The plan still has to be approved by the state but the goal is to break ground on the facility by the end of 2016.