Facing city lawsuit, Lake Elmo homeowner's association wants to keep trails private

A Lake Elmo neighborhood wants to keep its trails private, but a lawsuit from the city may make the trails open for all to use. 

“We are willing to work with the city, it’s just surprising to have a lawsuit suddenly thrown at you,” said Nina Cooper.

It’s a case that pits the City of Lake Elmo against the Hamlet on Sunfish Lake Homeowner’s Association. At issue is roughly two miles of private trails that the city wants to make public.

“The issue for me is that the city wants our paths. Okay, that’s fine and dandy except the people who have lived here the longest have paid for 20 years to maintain and keep up the paths,” said Cooper.

Association President Bobbi Olson was one of the first residents to move in back in the late ‘90s.

“We were told this is for our enjoyment,” said Olson. “We have the ball field, the soccer field for our kids to play in.”

With no trespassing signs dotting the landscape, if the signs come down, one of her top concerns is safety. 

“Nobody wants to be policing their area,” she said.

“I don’t want to see tons of people just kind of parking themselves and using our gazebo and blocking the streets for the people who live here,” said Cooper.

The city wants to connect these trails to a new neighborhood and another area downtown. According to the city, the trails should have been made public from the start.

Lake Elmo City Administrator Kristina Handt released a statement that reads in part, “The City should have received these trails decades ago as a condition of approval of this development…As a matter of fairness, these trail easements should be provided to the City.”

These residents are seeking a compromise.

“If we could come up with an alternative plan, I think that that would be great,” said Olson. I think that this just isn’t the thing that we want to see here right now.”