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Mountain bikers and environmentalists collide in Minnetonka trail dispute

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A map of paths covering a park
An earlier rendering of the planned mountain bike trail for Lone Lake Park in Minnetonka.
Courtesy of the city of Minnetonka

The city of Minnetonka is moving forward with controversial plans to build a mountain bike path in one of its parks. The route would take riders through Lone Lake Park, which covers nearly 150 acres.

On Monday evening, the council approved the plan on a 5 to 2 vote. 

Some residents and environmental advocates oppose the trail. Chief among their concerns is the potential impact the path could have on the habitat for the endangered rusty patched bumble-bee.

Legal challenges by trail opponents have fallen flat. An appeals court ruling supports the city’s decision to avoid completing an Environmental Assessment Worksheet. Plaintiffs are petitioning the Minnesota Supreme Court to hear their case.

Previous rulings have stated that the city followed proper environmental review protocols. City officials also stress that the path — 4.7 miles in length — would only be present in a small portion of the park.

Habitat effect

Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who have been studying the decline of the endangered bee, say it’s hard to say just how damaging to these projects can be to the bee’s habitat.

Staff biologist Tamara Smith says while any distribution has the potential to be harmful, a lot of it depends on the timing.

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“The species moves around a lot, so it’s not always in the same spot,” Smith said. “And so for example, in the summer foraging habitats, there’s probably not as much of an issue than if the [work] was being done in the winter habitats.”

Smith notes that greater threats to the species include pesticides and warmer temperatures brought on by climate change.