Edina Council Rejects Proposed Braemar Ski Trail, Snowmaking

On September 7, the Edina City Council did not approve the current proposed project for Braemar Park – which included the addition of a 50-foot-wide Nordic Ski Trail and an11-lane tubing hill, with snowmaking for both. Most Council members based their rejection on the high cost of the proposal, the inherent noise and light pollution, the dangers to public safety that snow-making machines would introduce, and the incredibly rapid pace at which the project was moving forward. The Council asked the Parks and Recreation Department to instead refocus attention to resolution of the neglected 2015 list of priorities, which includes a “master plan” for redevelopment of the Braemar area.

This "mistake" cost taxpayers some $150k - 200k in "exploratory" (feasibility) studies that should not have been implemented prior to the completion and approval of a master plan for the golf course. We Edina residents need to put continued pressure on this Council and demand better stewardship of our tax dollars so that this type of waste doesn’t happen again. Indeed, the articulate and respectful outpouring of opposition to this proposal had an impact, something Mayor Jim Hovland acknowledged thoughtfully at the public hearing.

To the Mayor’s and Council’s credit, they devoted substantial time weighing the opinions and views from both opponents and the pro-Nordic ski supporters. With the exception of one Councilmember, all wholeheartedly rejected the proposal. Yet, concerns remain. The fact that the Parks and Recreation Department was able to move this project as far along as it did with inadequate due diligence is troubling. What’s more, the subject of impartiality and potential conflict of interest arose at the public hearing; voters should know there is currently no formal Conflict of Interest policy / Code of Ethics in place for the Council and city employees, something that most cities, corporations and nonprofits consider essential for transparency and sound fiscal management.

While the outcome demonstrates that common sense ultimately prevailed, and that some Councilmembers exhibited genuine concern for good stewardship over our tax dollars, the fact that the proposal moved as quickly as it did and was up for a vote as soon as it was is troubling. Most glaring was the fact that the proposal did not arise organically from taxpaying Edinans; it was a packaged proposal “pitched” to the Parks and Recreation Department, who then presented it to the Council. It begs the question: Should tax dollars be devoted to the latest sales pitch or “fun-to-have” idea, or to what taxpayers actually need and want?