The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Board of Managers will hold a public hearing Oct. 26 on a plan to restore the creek in a section of Edina.
The board will take comments on the plan, which calls for the removal of a four-foot dam at 54th Street and the re-meandering of the creek as it runs from 52nd Street to 54th Street through Arden Park. The plan also calls for a new multipurpose shelter building, new access points for fishing, new walking trails and potential new bridges.
The Edina City Council approved the plan on a 4-0 vote last month after significant discussion within the community. Supporters argued that the plan would help create a more sustainable environment and allow more people to enjoy the creek. Opponents argued that while there are some good aspects to the plan, removing the dam wouldn’t be worth the money or disruption to a resource people enjoy in its current form.
“To me it’s a very special pocket of Edina that’s unique,” resident Martin Freeman said at a public hearing on Sept. 6. “You have to realize that bringing bulldozers, re-engineering that, putting walkways in will change that forever.”
The project originated with a 2014 memorandum of understanding between Edina and the Watershed District. Under that memorandum, the city and Watershed District examined options for removal of the dam, in conjunction with the 54th Street bridge-replacement project.
Edina authorized a memorandum of agreement with the Watershed District in August 2016 that established a framework for jointly developing a concept plan for Arden Park. The process to develop the plan included three community meetings, two Parks and Recreation Committee meetings, a City Council work session and two ad-hoc meetings.
The City Council was supposed to hear the plan in June, but that was delayed until August. The council in August decided to hold a public hearing before voting.
According to the Watershed District, the dam has altered the ecological function and value of the creek system by removing a mile of habitat for spawning and forage for fish below. It also leads to warmer water temperatures, which increases algal growth and the accumulation of decaying vegetation and it creates an unhealthy environment for fish and the in-stream insects they eat.
The proposed project would improve the stream’s habitat and health, treat more stormwater and decrease phosphorus runoff, according to the Watershed District. The concept design indicates that about 90 trees would be removed and re-used during construction, though Watershed District staff aren’t sure on the exact number.
Community benefits would include the new multipurpose building, multiple access points, buckthorn and invasive species management and new bridges, trails and sidewalks, according to the Watershed District. The project would also result in the park being drier and having more usable green space.
Before voting, Edina City Council members talked about how the proposed project aligns with the city’s goal to be a good environmental steward. The council members said they recognized the disruption the project would cause but that the ecological and recreational benefits would outweigh that.
“On balance to me, it’s more important to do this than not to do it,” Mayor Jim Hovland said. “… If we improve the creek, the benefits to our town will be priceless.”
He and others said they want the residents to be involved on key issues going forward.
The project is projected to cost just over $4 million. The draft-funding plan allocates approximately 40 percent of the costs to the city, 40 percent to the Watershed District and targets 20 percent in outside funding grants.