CITY STATEMENT ON LAWSUIT OVER YOUTH ACTIIVTIES IN BEDERWOOD PARK
The City Council believes strongly that our City parks should be available for our entire community, but especially children, for enjoyment, exercise, and a variety of recreational activities.
In June 2021, the City Council adopted Resolution No. 7195, which allowed the Orono Mountain Bike Team, a youth club, to use a section of Bederwood Park for skills training. The City authorized the team to make minor improvements to the area to facilitate mountain bike training, subject to approval of the Orono Parks Superintendent. Minor improvements include removal of debris and clearing of dirt tracks to supplement the preexisting dirt tracks running though that portion of the park.
Shortly thereafter, Barbara Schmidt filed a lawsuit, naming as defendants the City of Orono, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, and the Orono Public School District. This lawsuit solely concerns the bike trail approval for Bederwood Park and alleges that allowing the mountain bike team to use the public park is a violation of the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act
In motion papers before the Court, the DNR confirmed that no DNR permits required for the proposed bike trail, that the DNR has no responsibility for environmental review of the bike trail, and that there are no public waters within Bederwood Park. Ms. Schmidt subsequently dismissed the DNR from the lawsuit.
The Bederwood Park woods do not contain wetlands that would trigger permitting actions. The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District has confirmed this fact with City staff on multiple occasion. It is no surprise that Ms. Schmidt dismissed the Watershed District.
Ms. Schmidt has never actually served the school district with the lawsuit. Therefore, the only entity remaining in the lawsuit right now is the City of Orono.
In a recent order, the Court denied a temporary injunction sought against the City. The Court found that, “the plaintiff has not shown irreparable harm will occur without the temporary injunction.” More importantly, the Court concluded, “at this stage, it is unlikely that the plaintiff will succeed on the merits.”
Finally, the Court acknowledged that, “Public policy favors that all residents enjoy a public park for recreational activities (including hiking and biking), and a number of them should not be enjoined from doing so because of a neighbor’s complaint. Orono has the authority to maintain its public parks, and pass ordinances regarding citizens’ use of the parks.”