Over the past several months, the Museum of Lake Minnetonka Board of Directors has worked directly with the Mayor of Excelsior to explore potential options for a permanent home for Minnehaha in Excelsior. Minnehaha was the lead agenda item at the City Council’s regular meeting on Monday, March 2. The MLM Board of Directors presented an overview of its history with Excelsior, its current need for a new home, and its vision of the opportunity for Excelsior. The widely publicized meeting was packed with a standing-room only crowd. The MLM was very appreciative of all who attended, voiced their support, and challenged the City Council to solve this dilemma.
Although conversations between Excelsior and the MLM have been ongoing for several years, none of the previously identified options can accommodate Minnehaha’s unique requirements. For this meeting, the MLM’s goal was to finally determine the Council’s level of commitment to partnering with the MLM on a new home. Although no decision was taken at the meeting, it was resolved that a four-member group would meet to discuss options, process, et cetera. The Council set a timeline of 60-90 days to determine what viable solutions, if any, exist. The MLM Board of Directors is confident that it has already completed much of this work, but welcomes this development as we continue to believe that Excelsior is where Minnehaha belongs.
Meanwhile, the Board will continue its work narrowing the selection of alternative sites elsewhere on the lake. We will continue to share updates with the MLM membership as we are able to do so.
Regretfully, the Museum of Lake Minnetonka Board of Directors is forced to cancel the 2020 sailing season for the steamboat Minnehaha, which has been a summer fixture on Lake Minnetonka for the past 24 years. It is particularly disappointing to have to cancel what would have been Minnehaha’s 25th anniversary season. The reason for the cancellation is the loss of access to the only boat launch ramp on the lake that can accommodate the very unique requirements of the steamboat.
When asked to comment, MLM president Jeff Schott stated: “The launch requirements for Minnehaha given its length, weight, and the fact that it’s wood, which requires up to 24 hours to stabilize once launched, make it arguably the most challenging boat on Lake Minnetonka to launch. There is only one boat ramp on the lake that meets our launch requirements and we’ve been fortunate to have use of that ramp for the past 24 years. The property is being sold and the launch site will not be available in 2020 and beyond. Given the prohibitive logistics of modifying another ramp and transporting the boat to it, there are unfortunately no viable options to get the boat in the water this year.”
When asked what steps the MLM Board of Directors are taking to finding a new, permanent home for the boat, board member Tom McCarthy stated: “The Board’s top priority is to find a permanent home and launch site for the boat so it can remain an ongoing part of Lake Minnetonka’s history for generations to come. We have been and continue to be in discussion with a number of communities on the lake and have identified multiple locations that initially appear to be viable solutions. We are moving quickly to assess each option, with the goal of identifying the permanent home site by the end of this summer. At that point, site development will begin along with a fundraising campaign for the new facility. While we are saddened to miss this season, creating a long-term permanent solution for the boat is critically important for Minnehaha’s long-term survival and viability.”
The Minnehaha volunteers and organization have been very gratified by the outpouring of support from local residents, government, and civic groups. We plan to work closely with these stakeholders to find the best solution.
The MLM wants to clearly state that this is not the end for Minnehaha on Lake Minnetonka. This summer will allow extra long-term maintenance to be done so that when the boat is back in service it will be in the best condition it’s been in since its relaunch 24 years ago.
As new information on a permanent home becomes available, the board will provide updates.
Earlier this year, the MLM received notice that Minnehaha will no longer be granted access to the privately-owned launch site at 600 West Lake Street, Shorewood after December 31, 2019. The launch site is only used twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, for the sole purpose of launching and hauling Minnehaha in and out of the water. Since this is a critical component of Minnehaha’s operation, a new launch site is needed.
Minnehaha is typically launched in the water in May and hauled out in October. While in the water, she is stored at a leased dock slip on Excelsior Bay (687 Excelsior Boulevard, Excelsior). The MLM is guaranteed to keep this slip through 2023.
During the winter months, Minnehaha needs to be stored indoors so that she can be properly preserved and rehabilitated. Minnehaha is currently stored in a large pole barn structure at 140 George Street, Excelsior. This structure is owned by the MLM but sits on land owned by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority.