WAYZATA, Minnesota — Leaders of cities along Lake Minnetonka are hoping to boost tourism by rebranding the area as a year-round regional destination, one modeled after popular cities in California and Florida.
Officials from 14 lake cities will gather this month to discuss creating a scenic byway around the lake. New restaurants are already in the works and construction is expected to start this summer on a boutique hotel, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported (http://strib.mn/1eCp8R4 ).
"It's an exciting time," said Terri Huml, who owns a Wayzata restaurant and is on a committee that oversees the lakefront plan. "We just have this beautiful jewel here."
Lake Minnetonka, which has 42 bays and 125 miles of shoreline, has been a major attraction in the Twin Cities since the late 1800s. Now local communities want to capitalize on the popularity of Minnesota's most heavily used lake.
"People know Lake Minnetonka, but people don't know each of these communities," Wayzata Mayor Ken Willcox said.
Wayzata, a town of 4,000, has spent the past two years giving feedback on the Wayzata Lake Effect project. The goal is to boost access to its lakefront for pedestrians and boaters, creating communities similar to Key West, Florida, or San Diego.
Patrick Seeb, a consultant leading the project to remake the lakefront, is scheduled to present a draft plan Tuesday to the City Council, which could vote on it next month.
Tentative plans call for new bike lanes, temporary boat slips and a food vendor.
Some cities see expansion as a way to drum up money, but critics have said there are already enough lake visitors, and further expansion risks eroding the small-town character.
Leaders in Excelsior are meeting with legislators this month to discuss a sales tax on food and beverages that could raise $5 million over 25 years. That money could fund Excelsior's own makeover of a lakefront park and port, perhaps with a new band shell or lake walk.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com