Park Board seeks feedback on 25-year vision for lakes

Illustration of lower East Harriet Pkwy adapted for pedestrians. Image courtesy of MPRB
Illustration of lower East Harriet Pkwy adapted for pedestrians. Image courtesy of MPRB

A 25-year draft plan for Lakes Harriet and Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska is posted online, offering strategies to improve the trails and honor the area’s Dakota history.

Most of $2.5 million in 2017 funding is slated for trail resurfacing and trail access. Out of 5 million annual visitors to the Chain of Lakes (up to 10,000 on a summer day), an estimated 80 percent come for the trails. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is seeking input on the plan through March 4.

Recommendations include the following:

— Convert lower East Harriet Parkway (Lower Road) to a two-way bike trail. Traffic would move uphill onto an existing parallel parkway. “The CAC (Community Advisory Committee) and many from the local community want less vehicular traffic on parkways,” states the draft plan. “They object to the use of the parkways as commuting corridors.” A pilot study could conduct traffic counts before full implementation.

— Develop a circulator bus route or shuttle around the lakes, in lieu of adding parking lots.

— Decongest the northeast area of Lake Calhoun.

A semi-circular pier near the Lake Harriet Band Shell could provide access to the water and help capture water pollutants. Image courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
A proposed semi-circular pier near the Lake Harriet Band Shell. Image courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

— Add a semi-circular pier behind the Lake Harriet Band Shell to allow visitors to sit along the shore and put their feet in the water, without blocking walkers and cyclists passing through. The pier could incorporate stormwater infrastructure to capture pollutants entering the lake.

— Add a wide promenade through the green space at northwest Calhoun to provide a connection from the trails to the West Lake commercial area and Midtown Greenway.

— Improve the safety of crossings at heavily traveled roads including Excelsior Boulevard, Lake Street and Richfield Road

— Provide more space for pedestrians on Lake Street between Thomas Avenue and East Calhoun Parkway.

— Maintain and improve water quality. Lake Calhoun has high water quality, although Lake Harriet’s water quality slipped a bit in 2016. Steps in the 1990s to install wetlands and grit chambers help remove sediment and trash, and alum treatments help reduce the dissolved phosphorous that creates algae blooms.

— Remove the bike trail under the Lake Street bridge, replacing it with a trail crossing on the west side of East Calhoun Parkway.

This rendering shows a hypothetical green “lid” over West Lake Street connecting Lakes Bde Maka Ska (Calhoun) to Lake of the Isles. A new boat launch and dock is pictured at left. Image courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
This rendering shows a hypothetical green “lid” over West Lake Street connecting trails to Lake Bde Maka Ska (Calhoun) and Lake of the Isles. A new boat launch and dock is pictured at left. Image courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

— A long-term idea to bridge the heavy traffic on Lake Street is to depress the roadway between Thomas Avenue and the channel and build a wide green roof or “lid” holding trees and trails. The CAC said it did not want this “exciting idea to be relegated to the shelves,” according to the draft plan.

Although many cyclists advocated for two-way bike paths, the CAC decided against that recommendation. A two-way conversion was deemed dangerous during crowded peak periods, and a wider trail would result in the loss or damage of several hundred trees. Some segments of the trail are recommended as two-way paths, however, including the aforementioned Lower Road and a new two-way trail along the eastern edge of William Berry to improve access to 36th Street.

The first round of improvements would begin this spring.

Meetings this month discuss public art to honor the Dakota people who lived near the shore of Lake Calhoun. Park Board and city officials recently started meeting with descendants of Mahpiya Wicasta (Cloud Man) to collect stories that will inform the artist’s work. The next public meeting is Feb. 27, 6-8 p.m. at the Minneapolis American Indian Center auditorium, 1530 E. Franklin Ave.

According to the draft master plan, archaeological evidence shows that Native Americans lived near the Chain of Lakes for thousands of years. The Dakota people referred to Lake Calhoun and its white sand beaches as Bde Maka Ska, or Lake White Earth.

George Catlin painting of Cloud Man Village. Minnesota Historical Society image courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
George Catlin painting of Cloud Man Village c. 1835. Minnesota Historical Society image courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

As European settlers arrived, game became more scarce. Cloud Man successfully grew crops for a decade on the east side of the lake at Heyata Otunwe, or the Village to the Side (roughly between 34th Street, Fremont Avenue, Lakewood Cemetery and the lake).

“It was a pretty unique village and experiment on the part of the Native Americans,” said Project Manger Deb Bartels. “And it was successful.”

Cloud Man relocated to present-day Bloomington to find better protection from the Ojibwe. Following the Dakota War of 1862, Cloud Man and 1,700 other Dakota people were imprisoned at Fort Snelling, where he and many others died.

“Dakota returning to the Chain of Lakes area have expressed that they do not feel welcome in the park because there is little recognition or expression of their history,” states the draft master plan. “The only acknowledgement of Native American history or of the Dakota inhabiting the area within the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park is a small plaque on a boulder on the south side of Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska near a cedar tree. The very name Lake Calhoun is particularly onerous to Native Americans because John C. Calhoun, as Secretary of War, drafted the treaties that removed indigenous peoples from their homelands and set up the Bureau of Indian Affairs as part of the War Department.”

The CAC supports the official and legal restoration of the name Bde Maka Ska.

To view the draft master plan, visit minneapolisparks.org.

The online survey is available at surveymonkey.com.

  • JDO1947

    My “vision” for the Park Bored is that they take a walk around the Isles and count the number of benches one may rest at. Of course they could stand on the concrete pads that used to have a bench.

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