The Legend of Hidden Beach

The Twin Cities' most infamous party spot has undergone a makeover—but try telling that to the regulars

The water tastes earthy and pure, if not clean. It tastes like Johnny Love lives.

• • • • •

COOL HANDS is on a roll.

Nick Vlcek


See the photo slideshow of the Twin Cities' most infamous party spot.

A skeletal figure with sandy blond dreads and fierce blue eyes, the 33-year-old Hidden Beach regular is in the middle of an impassioned, THC-induced rant about the merits of the beach he and his drum circle buddies call home on hot summer days.

"It don't matter whether you're from North, Steven's Square, Uptown, whether you're black, Hispanic, white, whatever," he says. "This beach belongs to Minneapolis."

A quick survey of the beach corroborates his theory. It's impossible to sketch an archetypical Hidden Beach dweller. It's a melting pot of old hippies, young families, Rastafarians, gutter punks, hacky sack wizards, college students, queer folk, and unclassifiable outcasts who could be considered hipsters were they not so genuine.

But for the second summer in a row, park police are horning in on the hideaway, and Cool Hands is pissed.

"These rich motherfuckers think they own the beach," he says of the nearby residents who spearheaded the extra police detail. "I don't know if anyone owns it. Not even us. The last thing we need is more cops patrolling here. We're not hurting anybody."

He cuts his rant short and abruptly stoops down to pick up a few shiny trinkets in the sand. As he does so, he mutters to himself, "Someone's going to fuck up their feet—"

"Red alert!" interjects one of his comrades. "Babylon's coming." ("Babylon" is a common Rastafarian term for the white power structure.) A hash pipe is quickly stashed out of sight.

Sure enough, like a lone cheetah stalking a herd of gazelles, a police Blazer idles ominously where the road meets the beach. The shaven-headed officer inside gazes nonchalantly across the sand.

The attitude toward Hidden Beach has changed over the past few years. Not everyone takes such a casual attitude toward the debauchery—least of all nearby residents with kids. It's one thing to teach your seven-year-old the importance of looking both ways before crossing the street; it's quite another explaining why the smelly man with the glass bottle is sleeping in the sandbox.

One resident, who asked that her name be withheld for fear of having her house egged, recounts an early morning in which she and her husband heard a rustle in the kitchen. They went downstairs to investigate only to find a scruffy, middle-aged man—evidently inebriated to the point of oblivion—sloppily putting a sandwich together. The couple called the cops, who promptly arrived and tackled the intruder to the floor.

"It turned out to be a harmless situation," chuckles the resident. "He couldn't understand why he was being arrested. He thought he had made it home."

In 1995, a neighborhood organization representing the area, Kenwood-Isles Area Association (KIAA), used its Neighborhood Revitalization Plan funds to hire off-duty police officers to patrol the beach an extra two hours at night. Residents cited safety concerns in their push for the clampdown on booze, parties, and skinny-dipping.

Kenwood boasts the highest median income—$71,200—in all of Minneapolis, as evidenced by the soaring Mediterranean homes and terraced lawns that line Kenwood Parkway. Hidden Beach regulars, with a few exceptions, are a breed apart from the stuffy golf courses and swank sushi bars of the upper class.

"It's always been framed as Kenwood snobs vs. people with dreadlocks," says Chris Shaheen, a 45-year-old resident of seven years and former chairman of Kenwood-Isles Area Association. "We're very liberal people and we like the diversity of the beach. It's a classic example of 5 percent ruining it for the other 95 percent. It certainly felt like there was drug dealing going on, and there was crime spilling over into the neighborhood."

In August 2001, concerns escalated when a high-profile case shook the neighborhood to its core. Two men abducted two women in south Minneapolis, raping one before kicking her out of the car in Richfield. The duo drove the remaining captive to a spot near Hidden Beach. Once there, she escaped and ran toward the beach crowd, who called police. The rapists were arrested.

While Hidden Beach clearly wasn't the scene of the abduction, the citizens of Kenwood weren't exactly thrilled to read in the next morning's paper that rapists had driven a woman down their block with a shotgun to her head.

"I don't know if there was any one straw, or if it was just a series of events," says Alex Zachary, the city's Lakes District Planner. "Why wait for something bad to happen to clean up an area?"

Adds Paul Hokeness, the Lakes District manager: "We can tell who's hanging out. Needles and Ice House beer is a dead giveaway."

On a frigid, decidedly un-beachlike day in February 2006, recently elected District 4 Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom toured the beach with a handful of concerned residents. For the next three months, The Kenwood-Isles Area Association held multiple public meetings to brainstorm ideas on how to clean up Hidden Beach. Some residents wanted to make it an authorized beach in order ratchet up enforcement. Others disagreed, predicting that such a move might attract even more derelicts, and worse, create parking problems.

« Previous Page
Next Page »