City Council denies use of Lakefront Park for sailing schoolAlderpersons voted 4-2 against allowing St. Croix Sailing School to fence in a 2,468-square-foot area on the back (south) side of the city's Buckeye Street garage. The organization wanted to store 20-plus dinghies there for youngsters learning to sail.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
A group looking to begin a sailing school for youth was denied use of Lakefront Park for its operations on a 4-2 vote of the City Council last week.
St. Croix Sailing School was requesting to fence in a 2,468-square-foot area on the back (south) side of the city’s Buckeye Street garage, where it hoped to store the 20-plus dinghies that would be used by the student sailors.
The city’s Park Board had recommended leasing the area to the organization for $600 a year, and requiring it to put up a fence that met city approval.
The alderpersons who voted against the lease – Council President Randy Morrissette II, Alan Burchill, Pam Brokaw and Lori Bernard – were concerned about establishing a precedent.
“I think it is a great program, (but) I don’t think we should start leasing park space out like that,” said Morrisette.
Mayor Dean Knudson had expressed the same concern earlier, saying that leasing park property to a private group would be an unprecedented move. He called Lakefront Hudson’s “premier park property.”
Alderperson Scot O’Malley argued that allowing the school would enhance the beauty of Hudson.
“When you’re driving across the (I-94) bridge and see those white sails, you’re going to say, wow, that’s a nice place,” O’Malley said.
Jon Morris of St. Paul, a member of St. Croix Sailing School’s board of directors, presented the plans for the school.
He said it would be geared toward youth ages 7 to 17, who would learn to sail on 10 Optimist dinghies and 10 Club 420 dinghies that the school would be purchasing.
The program would be modeled on ones offered by the Minnetonka, Wayzata, White Bear Lake and Lake Calhoun sailing schools, Morris said.
He said his organization had filed for federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and expected to receive it like other sailing schools have.
Classes would begin in June and run weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for eight weeks, he said. The classes would be held, he noted, during a time of day, and the week, when park use is at a lower level.
The school needed the fenced-in area behind the city garage to store the dinghies. Optimist sailboats are a little less than 8 feet long, and Club 420 boats are nearly 14 feet long.
Morris said the dinghies would be pulled on dollies from the storage area behind the garage to the nearby city boat landing or a sandy area south of it for launching.
He said the sailing school was confident it could raise the $170,000 it needed to purchase dinghies and equipment. It already had verbal commitments for about half that amount, without having begun its capital campaign, he said.
Morris said the school intended to keep student fees low – about $195 for a week-long class – so the cost wouldn’t keep children off the water. There would be a scholarship program for low-income children who wanted to learn to sail, he indicated.
When asked how many students they anticipated having at Hudson, Morris said the White Bear Lake Sailing School serves 300 to 500 a summer.
He said Lakefront Park was an ideal site for the school because it is located on a protected bay. And the park is a comfortable and attractive place for parents to wait while their children learn to sail, he said.
Gordy Bowers, director of the Minnetonka Sailing School and a former U.S. Olympic sailing coach, also asked the council to allow St. Croix Sailing School to locate in the park.
Learning to sail as a youngster had changed his life, Bowers said in impassioned appeal to council members. He saw the world and had a sail-making business because of it, he said.
The school would have a “huge upside” for Hudson and its youth, Bowers said.
The council members who voted against allowing the school to locate in Lakefront Park didn’t need convincing about the value of the program. Their concern was about opening up the city to other requests for the use of park property.
“This is somewhat problematic,” said Alderperson Burchill. “How about a youth jet ski club? Are we going to say no to them?”
Burchill said the Hudson Boosters serve far more children with their summer baseball and softball programs, and fall football program, than the sailing school would.
He asked the sailing school representatives if they had talked to YMCA Camp St. Croix about running their program out of the camp.
Morris said he had talked to a Camp St. Croix official, but the conversation “didn’t go far.” He said the school would prefer to operate on the protected waters at Hudson.
Mayor Knudson said the St. Croix Rowing Club had wanted to locate in Lakefront Park, too, when it organized a few years ago. The city instead leased a storage building at the end of St. Croix Street to the club, he said.
He said he doesn’t consider the city property there – at the end of the Lakefront to St. Croix Street walking and bicycle path – to be a park.
Alderperson Wyland said Lake City, Minn., where he once resided, had a sailing school similar to the one proposed for Hudson. The small Sunfish dinghies were leaned against the city beach house and added to the charm of the community, he said.
Wyland, the council’s representative on the Park Board, said he would vote to allow the school because it would be a good use of an underutilized area of Lakefront Park and serve the youth of the community.
Hudson residents Paul Paulisich and Tim Delaney spoke in support of the sailing school at the Park Board’s Feb. 3 meeting.
Bill Friedlander, another local supporter of the school, attended last week’s City Council meeting but didn’t address the council.
After the council rejected leasing the Lakefront Park site to the school, Mayor Knudson said the issue would go back to the Park Board for reconsideration.