NEIGHBORHOOD NOTES | Hiawatha Ski Hut open on Sundays thanks to neighborhood support


Over 550 people signed a petition asking that the Minneapolis Parks Board improve the skiing experience at Lake Hiawatha Golf Course, and they responded.

Residents asked that the clubhouse be open for a few hours on weekends so that the public, especially families with children, will have a place to warm up and get refreshments after cross-country skiing, and that the 4-mile-long trail with views of the Minneapolis skyline be groomed at least twice a week.

“We made a good impression on the Park Board, and those who signed the petition made it clear they value their nordic trail at Hiawatha,” stated Matt McKinney, who helped organize the neighbors.

“The result: the Park Board agreed to lower their price for opening the clubhouse, allowing the Hiawatha Skiklubb to pay for eight Sunday afternoons of open clubhouse time from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.,” he added.

The “Ski Hut” idea is one that neighborhood ski enthusiasts John Saunders, Pete West, and Matt McKinney pitched during the SENA annual meeting. It was selected as the winning Big Idea for 2013, which came with $1,000 to be used to accomplish the goal.

Funds for opening the clubhouse will also come from the Minnesota Youth Ski League, which has a chapter operating at Hiawatha this year.

Saunders, West, and McKinney, neighborhood ski enthusiasts have already founded a children’s ski race called the “Hiawatha Hustle.”

“Also, the Park Board responded in a big way to our request for improved grooming of the Hiawatha trail, with staff now grooming the trail four times a week,” said McKinney.

“We feel the Park Board, and in particular Park Board staff member Sara Ackmann and our new Park Board commissioner Steffanie Musich, really listened to us. We hope to build on this relationship going forward to see that the trail and winter activities at Hiawatha continue to improve. My sense is that the Park Board commissioners and staff are behind us, and may even have had some plans for improvements before we all started rattling our ski poles. If you do ski at Hiawatha, be sure to throw a thanks to the groomers if you happen to see them out there. Or to Sara or Steffanie, if you feel so inclined. There’s a lot of good momentum at our little neighborhood ski trail these days,” observed McKinney.

A $45 Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board fee is required to ski at the Hiawatha Golf Course for those 12 and up.

Local resident Maggie Mahoney posted online at the petition site: “I saw more people skiing at Hiawatha on 01/04/14 than I have ever seen in the 17 years I’ve lived in the neighborhood. Everyone I encountered asked me if I knew when the trails would be groomed again. There definitely is demand and interest!”

According to the petition 500 residents signed @

Most ski areas talk about their trails. At Hiawatha, we talk about *the* trail, because there’s just one. It’s small, for sure, but Hiawatha is a special place to those of us who use it. The wide open spaces mean parents can easily keep an eye on their kids as everyone skis at their own pace. The gentle slopes make it an ideal place for beginners, or for those who want to try skate skiing for the first time. Experienced skiiers who live in South Minneapolis can rack up some kilometers without the longer drive over to Theodore Wirth.

It’s a special place for others, too: snowshoers, skijorers, people out for a walk with or without a dog. While it’s fantastic that Hiawatha serves all forms of winter recreation, the foot traffic chews up Hiawatha’s trail. Grooming the less-than-two-mile trail at least twice a week seems feasible, and would keep the trail in good shape for skiiers.

We also want to see the clubhouse opened to the public on weekends. It’s a fantastic asset and should be put to use. It wouldn’t take much time to create a space where neighbors could meet up, share a hot chocolate and head out onto the trail. After skiing, families and groups could spend time with each other, talking about the day while people warm up.

We talk about building community in our neighborhoods, but wintertime requires some effort. It’s a time of year when people don’t linger in their yards or on their front steps. The clubhouse, if even just for a few hours on weekend afternoons, could serve everyone in the community who wants to share a space together, catch up on neighborhood news and enjoy Minnesota’s best season.

Of the four other ideas offered in 2013, two of them ‘won’ in a different way. After the vote, SENA staff member Shirley Yeoman announced that an anonymous donor would give $1,000 to fund a non-winning idea focused on improving the environment. “Save the Beach” and “Adopt a Storm Drain,” both of which addressed improving the water quality in Lake Hiawatha, will share in this award.

If you have interest in helping develop any of these Big Ideas, contact the SENA office at (612) 721-1601.

In 2012 the winning Big Idea was to create an old-fashioned holiday tree lighting event. The event was a big success and SENA hosted a second event on Dec. 8, 2013. The winning idea in 2011 was to build raised garden beds at the Southside Star Community Garden to make gardening accessible to people with limited mobility.