Proposed mountain bike trails cause controversy in Minnetonka

- Peaceful and serene - that's how users of Minnetonka’s Big Willow Park want it to stay.

“I just like it for walking, walking dogs, you just have to be really careful with the bikes in here, so yeah I'd like it to stay the way it is,” said Carol Dalida, a park visitor.

The City of Minnetonka is considering developing mountain biking trails through Big Willow. The mountain bikes would use dirt paths that would be separate from the walking paths, but many of the park users reside at the assisted living center right across the street. On top of ruining the serenity, people also fear there will be safety and environmental issues if the city allows the trails.

Last year, however, residents requested the city consider developing mountain biking trails. Initial research turned up Big Willow as a good option, but the city says after concerns from some residents it took a step back and is now considering all 51 parks in the city for possible bike trails.

“We've got parks in areas within the city and we want to make sure we do our due diligence and research all the different parks, so that we can present a good plan to the park board,” said Kelly O’Dea, the Minnetonka Recreation Director.

At a listening session Wednesday night, citizens voiced support and opposition for the mountain biking trails.

Bob Rabinovitz says he's concerned about the noise and the safety of the senior citizens at the assisted living facility. He feels outside groups are coming into the city and making decisions the majority of taxpayers oppose.

"So now you have a corporation that backs mountain biking people who has mountain bike clubs and wants to come in and kick us out of there," said Rabinovitz.

Minnetonka city leaders confirm they have hired an outside consulting firm to help get input and facilitate this potential project. They hope the listening sessions give people a platform to get their concerns heard.

"No decision has been made, the city council ultimately has the authority to make that decision, our Park Board is an advisory to them so we will see where we go," said Geralyn Barone, Minnetonka City Manager.

At the meeting some wore green shirts to show their support for the new trails.

"I understand these concerns are fairly over-blown because people don't understand the trails will be minimal they will not affect the planting, the wildlife they are quite quiet," said Chris Nelson.

After the two public input sessions, city leaders will make a recommendation to the Parks Board, which may or may not include the development of mountain biking trails.

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