Park Board 'disappointed' in Star Tribune for glorifying trespassing at Minnehaha Falls

Today, the Star Tribune published a cool slideshow of scenes behind and around frozen Minnehaha Falls.

There's just one problem -- just about everyone shown in the photos is trespassing, as the area featured is behind a barricade and "no trespassing" sign.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board spokesperson Robin Smothers says that when officials saw the slideshow, they "sent [the Strib] a direct email asking them to please remove the photo gallery or at least talk about the fact that [going back there] is dangerous and illegal."

Smothers acknowledges there was no ill intent on the Strib's part -- "it's beautiful, absolutely stunning back there," she says -- but adds that the concern "is more about safety than anything else because it puts police and emergency personnel at peril."

Park Board officials received more reports than usual today about people trekking behind the falls, Smothers says.

"The only way to get down there is to go down stairs past a barricade," she adds. "The bottom gate is closed with 'no trespassing' signs, so you have to climb over that to access [the area behind the falls]... there's no trail, it's just kind freestyling."

We called up Smothers after reading the following statement, which was distributed by the Park Board in response to the Strib's slideshow (emphasis in the original):

While Minnehaha Falls is breathtaking in its current frozen state, visitors are reminded that the safest and only authorized areas to view this local treasure is from the footbridge above the falls or the overlook area near the pavilion/SeaSalt restaurant.

Because of moving water, boulders, slippery slopes and other unsafe conditions, it is unsafe to access the base of the falls any time of year. In winter, the stairs leading down to the creek below the falls are cordoned off. Visitors accessing the falls area by sliding down or using ropes to the gorge's slopes are not only putting themselves at risk for injury, they are also endangering the lives of police and other emergency personnel who will need to respond when an injury does occur.

In addition to putting themselves and others at risk, individuals behind and at the base of the falls are also trespassing. (No Trespassing signs are posted in the area and additional signs are being posted to increase awareness.)

The Park Board is disappointed that local media is encouraging this behavior by covering it without explaining that it is dangerous and illegal. We have asked that they promote viewing the falls from a safe and appropriate location.

The Strib, for its part, changed the introduction to the slideshow to read, "Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis is a frozen wonderland in January, and many people ignore 'No trespassing' signs to climb behind and along the slope of the falls, something the Park Board stresses is illegal and dangerous due to moving water, slippery slopes and generally unsafe conditions."

We asked the Strib's social media manager if that language was added in response to Smothers's concerns:

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