Civic beat // Snowmobiles back in city? Maybe for one weekend

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September 10, 2012 // UPDATED 5:48 pm - December 27, 2012
By: Nick Halter
Nick Halter

It’s been 10 years since snowmobiles were allowed to operate in Minneapolis, but the Park Board is now considering allowing them back into the city for Yamaha convention on Wirth Lake. 

The Park Board has drafted resolution that would allow permits for snowmobiles, which would pave the way for an event this winter. 

Exactly what that event would be is still unclear. Park Board President John Erwin says he doesn’t have all the details, but believes it would be more akin to a show with demonstrations than to a race. 

Meet Minneapolis spokeswoman Kristen Montag confirmed the group was in discussions for a snowmobile convention, but declined to identify the organization or company. She said a contract with the organization was dependent upon the Park Board allowing snowmobiles back into the city.   

Park Board Spokeswoman Dawn Sommers confirmed that Yamaha was the company eying a Minneapolis lake for its convention.

Erwin said the Park Board is steering the event toward Wirth Lake because, unlike other city lakes, it’s got a buffer zone to prevent snowmobile noise from leaking into neighborhoods. He said he would not support any event allowing snowmobiles onto the Wirth Park’s cross country trails. He also wouldn’t support any event that wasn’t held on a weekend and during daytime hours.  

“We’re talking about just the lake and the area right around it, but not the park, because the park is going to be used for other things,” Erwin said. “So we’re picking a place where there wouldn’t be someone else using the area.”

In 2002, the Park Board eliminated snowmobile permitting. Erwin said there were issues with noise as well as with having ice fishing and snowmobiling on the same, relatively small city lakes. Wirth, it should be noted, is not an ice fishing lake. 

Erwin said the Park Board could also consider Lake Nokomis, but he said he would want to hear from the neighborhood before moving forward with any plans for a snowmobile event at that lake. 

A Park Board memo says the event would be a national convention and provide a $1 million economic impact to the city of Minneapolis.  

Rybak speaks at Democratic National Convention

Mayor R.T. Rybak is a long-time supporter of Barack Obama. On Sept. 4, Rybak was rewarded with a speaking slot during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. 

Rybak spoke for seven minutes on the opening day of the convention. He evoked former Minneapolis Mayor and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. He mentioned his roots in New Prague. Mostly, he touted Obama’s accomplishments over the past four years. 

“President Obama has earned every gray hair on his head fighting for the middle class and every American, now it’s time to stand up, America, and fight for this man as hard as he has fought for you,” Rybak told the convention. 

Big donations for marriage amendment opponents

Minnesotans United for All Families collected $575,000 from two donors in August, as money continued to flow into the pro same-sex marriage group’s coffers this summer.

The group last released its finance reports in June, but is required to report donations of over $1,000 within 24 hours of receiving them. Over 50 donations of $1,000 or more have come in since then, compared to just three for the group supporting the same-sex marriage amendment. 

On Aug. 8, Freedom to Marry Minnesota PAC, which is based in New York, gave $325,000 to Minnesotans United for All Families. Paul Singer a Republican donor who supports same-sex marriage, has made large contributions to Freedom to Marry Minnesota. 

On Aug. 6, Human Rights Campaign, a GLBT group based in Washington, D.C., gave $250,000 to Minnesotans United for All Families. 

Another notable donation came from Laura Ricketts, the co-owner of the Chicago Cubs and CEO of She gave $25,000 to help defeat the amendment. 

According to a June 20 Star Tribune article, Minnesotans United for All Families had raised $3.1 million from January to June.  The group supporting the amendment to ban same-sex marriage had raised $1.4 million in the same time period.