John & Kim's Tour

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Like many of you, John and his family are long-time users of Minnesota’s extensive parks, trails, recreation areas and natural resources. To know and better appreciate the regional parks that our communities treasure, John and his wife Kim revisited each and every one of the Three Rivers parks and facilities during the summer before his election in 2012.

They learned a lot talking with the many visitors and dedicated employees who work at our parks, and invite you to read about their adventures on this page (in reverse order). One of the most rewarding things about running for a public office is the opportunity to meet new people, and to talk about their interests in our parks and trails. Following his election, John has continued that practice, so plan on seeing him around!

 

Glen_Lake_golf.jpgGlen Lake Golf Course in Minnetonka offers affordable golfing for all ages in a beautiful setting of rolling hills and forested backdrops, and it’s only five minutes away from our home – we saved the closest Three Rivers facility for last! Kim surprised me with this spiffy new hat from the pro shop as I talked with a young father introducing his son to a sport that has both plagued and inspired us both over the years. In a partnership with the city I once managed, Three Rivers also offers cross country skiing on those same rolling slopes. Cooperative partnerships like that will be increasingly important to effectively leverage our available resources so that we can continue to provide the excellent services our visitors have come to expect.

 

French_sailing.jpgKim and I were already very familiar with French Regional Park in Plymouth, because our boat was at a Medicine Lake slip for many years. It’s the perfect sailing lake – good winds, open waters, and not as overwhelming for smaller craft as Lake Minnetonka! We spent more time at the swimming beach and creative play area on the day we visited, and learned that GPS units can be checked out free of charge for use in the park. As two of the most directionally challenged people in the upper Midwest, we agreed this was an exceptionally valuable Three Rivers service!

 

Silverwood.JPGSilverwood Park in St. Anthony is the newest crown jewel in the Three Rivers system. Several of our five children are artists, so Kim and I were especially taken by the blend of natural beauty with the exhibits of creative artworks from aspiring artists of all ages. My favorite in the current exhibit was this ceramic piece entitled, “Deer Mug for my Dear.” The architecture of the new amphitheater, gallery and classrooms at the visitor’s center skillfully integrates the natural setting of Silver Lake and the surrounding oak forests. It’s an experience well worth the trip – be sure to check out the year-round calendar of exhibits, performances and classes!

 

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The unique Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park touches both banks of the Mississippi River in Brooklyn Park and Coon Rapids. There’s a view of the river (and a whole lot of rushing water!) like no other from the walkway and bikeway on top of the dam. One of the other visitors on the day we hiked the neighboring trails pointed out the handicapped-accessible fishing and viewing area below the dam. We also learned that the area is a popular winter destination for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

 

Kroening.JPGThe views from the west bank of the river at North Mississippi Regional Park are truly spectacular. It was difficult to believe that we were still in an urban area, and we had fun discovering things we never knew about the history of the Mississippi at the Carl Kroening Interpretive Center. The kids who were there the day we visited loved the hands-on activities – as did their parents! I was mostly interested in our logging history, because my great-grandfather was a lumberjack in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Owned by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and operated by Three Rivers, the park is an excellent example of the kind of partnerships that can stretch our tax dollars to provide the quality services we have come to expect from our public agencies.

 

Elm_Creek_playarea.jpgElm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove is the largest of Three Rivers' parks, and it offers a full range of four-season activities. On the day we visited, Eastman Nature Center was closed for renovation, so Kim and I took in the natural beauty of the area on the trails. We particularly enjoyed the swimming pond and spectacular play area, where an obliging dad snapped this picture of us. We got a kick out of the “Summer Unplugged” t-shirt we saw on a young visitor! The popular winter recreation area was populated by disc golfers, and the helpful attendant in the beautiful chalet offered us an overview of the cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing and snowshoe activities that will soon populate the slopes – day and night with their lighted hills and trails!

 

Hyland_skiing.jpgLocated in western Bloomington, Hyland Lake Park Reserve offers the full range of recreational opportunities - everything from active snow and water sports (in season, of course!) to hiking and biking, to picnic and creative play areas to the Richardson Nature Center. This largest of Three Rivers’ many nature preserves has year-round indoor and outdoor interpretive displays, active exploratory trails and a truly amazing clay exhibit. The naturalist shared with us how popular the center is with school groups for nature-focused education - one of the key Three Rivers missions. The driving rangers and disc golfers were making good use of the facilities when we visited, so here’s a pic from another season of family memories at the Hyland Ski and Snowboard Area. I moved here from Colorado nearly 30 years ago, but our kids grew up racing at Hyland, where they periodically enticed their parents to join them on the slopes - despite our antiquated gear!

 

Lake_Rebecca.JPGThe Lake Rebecca Park Reserve and Crow-Hassan Park Reserve are both on the Crow River, one of THE Three Rivers, along with the Mississippi and Minnesota. Kim and I visited both one weekend, and had a picnic lunch on the Lake Rebecca beach before watching all the kids playing on the very clever Big Woods playground. I only ride every year or two now at a buddy’s ranch, but Crow-Hassan has miles of equestrian trails through restored prairielands that made me wish it was more often. There were about 30 horse trailers in the main lot when we visited, and one of the riders told us there are group ride-in and drive-in horse campgrounds. Crow-Hassan also includes the Three Rivers tree farm, which is used to reforest the parks – part of the complete bio-system!

 

Cleary_golf.JPGWe were so impressed by the golf facilities at Eagle Lake Regional Park, located between Plymouth and Maple Grove, that Kim and I decided to incorporate a golf component to our tour! Here I am with former Met Council Chairman Peter Bell and the nephew of my other golfing partner Chuck Slocum on the Cleary Lake Executive Course. Nephew Scott works at Cleary, and he explained that the 30 or so boys and girls on the course that day were part of their “Hooked on Golf” program, one of many that Three Rivers offers for youth as part of their popular Golf Academy. I hope you will please consider a donation to The First Tee program, which provides affordable and accessible opportunities for young golfers.

 

Fish_Lake_beach.jpgWe visited Fish Lake Regional Park on a hot summer day, and after spending some time on the trails, the swimming beach was a welcome respite for our feet! Several families were enjoying the slower pace of the wooded lakeside setting, and we explored the modern pavilion that’s available for small receptions. When we heard that Fish Lake is a popular ice fishing destination, Kim suggested I might want to consider joining those other “grumpy old men” we saw in the movie . . . hah! Those scenes were filmed on Lake Rebecca!

 

Baker_Park.JPGBaker Park Reserve in Maple Plain is another of those exceptional gems of the Three Rivers system. Like my family did regularly when I was growing up, Kim and I spent last weekend there camping, hiking the trails and lazing on the beaches at Lake Independence. Most of the 200 campsites are large and wooded, and we enjoyed talking with the many extended families who were using the campground as a base for their trail and water sports. We even sat in on a nature talk on insects one evening, and can verify that kids think bugs are pretty cool! The extraordinary Near-Wilderness Settlement learning center for group nature camping brought back memories of my Boy Scouting days at Camp Lakota. Most area golfers are more than familiar with the truly outstanding Baker National Golf Course, and those of us struggling with our long, mid and approach games greatly appreciate the excellent driving range!

 

Cleary_fishing_pier.jpgWe explored the new regional trail being developed at Spring Lake on our way to Cleary Lake Regional Park and the Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve in Scott County. These two parks are operated cooperatively with the county, and offer year-round recreation for south metro visitors. The golf course, beach and picnic areas at Cleary were busy on day we visited, and a 90th birthday party was being hosted at the lakeside pavilion! We spent some time talking with this young fisherman at the pier, since he and his buddies weren’t having much luck with their corn bait. Kim and I also learned about mountain biking from some aficionados at Murphy-Hanrehan, and checked out the park's horse campsites and trails. One visitor noted the extensive acres of undeveloped forests and trails makes it an important bird watching preserve. We were particularly intrigued by Cleary’s island campground, thinking maybe we could borrow our daughter’s canoe, and return someday . . .

 

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When we arrived at Bryant Lake Regional Park in Eden Prairie, Kim and I stopped to watch the disc golfers negotiate the popular 18 hole course, quickly concluding that the sport is about ten rungs up the evolutionary chain from Frisbee in the college dorm quad! The visitor center was hosting a festive baby shower, and Kim picked up a brochure of Three Rivers Programs for Women. Heading for the well-liked beach, we slipped our sandals off to feel some warm sand between our toes, one of Kim’s guilty pleasures. She also opted for one of the best cola deals in town, complete with a Three Rivers commemorative cup! Unlike many utilitarian off-leash dog areas, Bryant’s is beautifully landscaped, and a visitor’s dog pointed out that he was even welcome on the paved trails if he kept his human on a leash . . .

 

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We visited The Landing during the annual Minnesota River Arts Fair in late July. Formerly Murphy’s Landing in Shakopee, it was a 150 year trip back in time with the restored buildings and delightful costumed interpreters of the “Eagle Creek” settlement. The 1845 fur post was one of my favorites, evoking both my French Canadian heritage and English great-great-great grandfather, who ran the first trading post on Ohio’s Hocking River during the same historical period. I most enjoyed talking with the two 1889 cabinet makers, since I had inherited many of my grandfather’s antique hand tools – I even picked up a few woodworking tips! We also decided the rote learning methods and disciplinary practices of the school teacher were not all that removed from our own experiences! A friend who accompanied us declared the vintage corset she tried on at the millinery shop was not quite the torture instrument she had always imagined. All in all a very enjoyable time!

 

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We bought this wool Christmas tree ornament for our grandson Max at Gale Woods Farm – it was handmade by a local high school girl. His Auntie Em (really!) got a couple of skeins to feed her knitting habit. Not many folks are aware that this Three Rivers park is an actual working farm that produces everything from meat, veggies, fruit, eggs, maple syrup, honey, and even wool – most of which we sampled on our visit! As we left, a wedding party was gathering at the Pavilion overlooking Whitetail Lake. The friendly and helpful attendant (which all of Three Rivers’ employees seem to be!) said it was a popular venue, and told us the education programs fill up quickly. We plan to return for Breakfast on the Farm. Growing up in a small farm town, I can assure you, nothing beats really fresh eggs!

 

 

Noerenberg_gardens.jpgNoerenberg Gardens is one of those hidden gems of the Three Rivers system, the grounds generously donated by a civic-minded family and held in trust for the public. Kim and I visited on a warm summer afternoon, and had a nice talk with a Canadian couple in the gazebo overlooking Lake Minnetonka’s Crystal Bay - shown in the background of this pic she took. The men folk discussed the roped off area protecting turtle eggs, while Kim marked the dates of the daylily sale on her calendar.

 

Carver_camp_beach.jpgCarver Park Reserve lies at the western end of the Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail that runs past our home in Minnetonka, and it’s heavily used by the Three Rivers District 4 residents I would represent; it was a natural first stop on our tour. We are truly fortunate to have such ready access to such a wonderful outdoor amenity. A camper from Hopkins snapped this pic of Kim and me cooling our feet at the swimming beach and fishing pier near the campground. It was a hot Sunday afternoon, and her kids didn’t think our lack of swim suits should deter us from joining them for a dip! We also spent some time exploring the Lowry Nature Center, enjoying the kids fascinated by all things wriggly. Carver Park offers just about everything, from extensive wildlife sanctuaries, to picnic, play, boating and archery areas, to the historic Grimm Farm to off-leash dog areas, with a separate low impact aerobic area for our oldest daughter’s ancient dog. The trails that accommodate bikers, hikers and equestrians brought back memories of my riding days at our Colorado saddle club; sans mountains, of course . . .

 

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Trails! As bikers, hikers and skiers, Kim and I have long enjoyed the 60 miles of paved trails that wind through Three Rivers parks, plus hundreds miles more of Regional Trails maintained by the district. In fact, we downsized a few years ago into a townhouse located right on the Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail!

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We are particularly excited that the Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail, which has been in the works for more than a decade, is finally moving ahead in the communities I would represent. Just last week, Three Rivers received funding for the eastern portion of the trail, and funding options are being prepared for the western section. I strongly support this commitment to making the trail a reality.

images-2.jpegOur long-awaited Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail will connect the existing Minnesota River Bluffs Regional Trail in Hopkins and Minnetonka, run through Edina into Richfield, and link up with the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington and Grand Rounds Trail System at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis.

images-3.jpegWith all of us baby boomers shifting to more age-appropriate activities, Three Rivers trail usage is growing exponentially - up to an estimated 3.5 million visitors last year! That presents funding challenges for both new trail development to meet the growing demand, as well as ongoing maintenance. Three Rivers needs an ongoing, secure and stable funding plan for the popular trail system.

images-4.jpegAs Minnetonka’s city manager, I initiated a trail improvement program based on just such a sustainable funding structure. We reprioritized existing resources rather than raise taxes, and integrated our local efforts with regional partners, including Three Rivers. As your commissioner, I will continue to be a strong and effective advocate for the trails that connect our communities, neighborhoods, schools and businesses.

 

 

 

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John Gunyou
Three Rivers Parks Board Chair