Meneyata Park Lot Owners Association History

In 1934, the Meneyata Park Private Lot Owners Association (MPPLOA) was formed. The association was not registered so we would assume it was a casual association that oversaw the three beaches.  It could be surmised that an organization was formed at this time to protect the access rights of the lot owners to the lakefront since about this time most lakeshore property had been purchased for private use.

In 1954 the association was registered and a proposed constitution and by-laws for an organization was presented. At the July 22 meeting of the Meneyata Park Private Lot Owners Association, dues were set at $1.00 and the purpose of the association was stated.

“To Protect the interests of the individual lot owners in Meneyata Park.

Objects:

  1. To cooperate with the Council of Wahpeton, and with the Iowa Board of Conservation in the improvement and development of the lake shore and other public and community areas on the west side of lake Okoboji, particularly in Meneyata Park.
  2. To protect the interests of the individual lot owners in Meneyata Park.
  3. To cooperate with the other organizations interested in the protection and development of the shores of the Iowa Great Lakes.

It appears the organization was guided by these principles and by laws for the next fifty years. Over time the name changed to Meneyata Park Lot Owners Association. There were some legal challenges from the DNR in the 1980's and they were directed to remove the "private" designation from signage on the beaches.

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Sign at Hiawatha until the 80's. Whoops on the Meneyata spelling!
Sign at Hiawatha until the 80's. Whoops on the Meneyata spelling!

None of these challenges were taken to court so the ownership of the beaches remained somewhat murky.  In this time period, the city of Wahpeton was designated by the county assessor as the title owner to the beaches; however, the association continued to maintain and manage the beaches. In fact, the city of Wahpeton even requested an easement for stormwater drainage on Arrowhead beach from the association.

Arrowhead Beach sign in 1980's
Arrowhead Beach sign in 1980's

Association members also disagreed on who was eligible for membership. At times, lakefront owners and canal residents were not included. In fact, some asserted that only backlot owners were entitled to the use of the beaches.  The 2012 judicial findings cleared this up and all lot owners in Meneyata Park with the Flindt dedication are included and eligible for membership in the MPLOA Inc.

In spite of some challenges and differences, the residents of Meneyata Park continued to maintain the beaches for all of the lot owners.  They mowed, installed community docks, sidewalks, made improvements and provided all of the maintenance for Arrowhead, Papoose and Hiawatha Beaches.

In August of 2009 the City of Wahpeton passed Ordinance 130 granting it the right to issue permits for commercial docks on any “public access property” and simultaneously defining, for the first time, Hiawatha, Arrowhead, and Papoose beaches as “public access property”.

The City’s action laid a pathway for an outcome that a number of lot owners found unacceptable. The idea that the city could turn Arrowhead, Hiawatha, or Papoose into a commercial dock or worse sell to developers was too much to accept without a fight. A number of lot owners organized and incorporated the MPLOA to protect the beaches from any possibility of development or sale.

The case reached the court in September 2012.  The court struck down a number of provisions from Ordinance 130 and clearly stated that we, the Lot Owners, have a perpetual easement and exclusive right to use the beaches. The details of the ruling are outlined below and clearly and unequivocally determine that the Beaches will never be sold or commercially developed.

Review of Initial Judicial Findings

Page numbers refer to location in the court document. Click for Final Decree.

  • “owners of lots within the Plat of Meneyata Park the exclusive right to use the Beaches for bathing, boating, dock and hoist installation, and related recreational activities” p.1
  • City can enforce regulations that are “consistent with and do not violate the limitations set forth in the dedication” p.13
  • “usage was subject to reasonable regulation by the City pursuant to its ordinance powers” p. 14
  • Chapter 139, Section .03 and .04 “setting forth criteria for permitted docks and related structures, do not in any manner interfere with the lot owners’ exclusive rights to use the Beaches” p. 16-17
  • Section 139.02 stating that all residents and property owners shall be allowed to apply for dock permit is invalid as applied to MPLOA beaches as it infringes on the exclusive use.
  • Section 139.04(1) – “Public Dock” sign requirement is invalid
  • 139.06 – City is not permitted to issue commercial dock permits

Second Order – City of Wahpeton Motion to Amend or Enlarge. Click for Second Order.

The City had 30 days to appeal the ruling. Following the ruling, the City of Wahpeton asked the court to modify the ruling. They asked for specifics regarding whether residents in Reservation B (canal area) were included in the ruling, they asked about taxes and they asked for who was responsible for maintenance.

  • Exclusive Easement: Upholds previous stated position regarding exclusive use of the beaches AND specifically includes the “Reservation B” lots as those enjoying the benefits of the easement. p.2
  • Taxation: Court refuses to address as it was not raised in trial, however gives some suggestion as to its leanings that the beaches are not taxable when it states “a review of the record shows that evidence relative to the tax exempt status of the beaches was offered by the City in support of its contention that the dedication of the Beaches was to the public, and not to the owners of the Lots of Meneyata Park.” p. 3
  • Maintenance – “the court will enlarge its final decree to now declare that the responsibility for the maintenance of the beaches rests solely with the owners of the lots within the Plat of Meneyata Park, including but not limited to, any costs associated with that maintenance” p.4