Neighbors push for changes to stretch of Minnehaha Creek

Neighbors exploring making improvements for a stretch of the creek between Lynnhurst Park and the Edina border.

Credit: By Nick Halter

If there’s a body of water in Southwest, there’s always a paved path next to it, except for in one place: a one-mile stretch of Minnehaha Creek between Lynnhurst Park and the Edina border.

Neighborhood leaders now are starting to explore what, if anything, should be done to improve access to the creek.

“Does the neighborhood in general think that this is underutilized, or do they love it just the way it is?” said Paul Ragozzino, president of the Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association.

Neighborhood associations in Lynnhurst, Fulton and Armatage have sent letters to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board asking for improvements to that stretch of creek, which touches each of the neighborhoods.

Originally, the letters were straightforward: The neighborhoods wanted new trails to be built along the creek. But since speaking with the Park Board and neighbors, they’ve backed off that request and instead begun a planning process to find exactly what the community wants.

“We started out with just wanting to talk about a trail, but the Park Board had what I thought was really good advice, which is, let’s not start with a solution, let’s pull back and talk about access and talk about what does that look like?” said Jim Tincher, Fulton Neighborhood Association president.

Paved trails along the entire stretch could be difficult. Although the Park Board owns a buffer of land along the entire creek, in some places it is narrow or steep.

Edina is adding bike lanes on 54th Street and the city of Minneapolis is considering bike lanes on Upton Avenue from the Lake Calhoun to Highway 62. A trail along, or near, the creek would link with both of those lanes.

If paved lanes are possible, other improvements could be done. Could the Park Board add more access points where the creek is much lower than the street, such as at Penn Avenue? Could Minnehaha Creek have more water access points so that people could launch tubes or kayaks? Should the area be kept rustic and natural?

The two hope that if nothing else, environmental improvements would be made to decrease runoff from dirt trails near the creek.

Tincher said he and his family like to tube the river in the summer, but they have to go to Edina to launch their tubes, and there aren’t many good places to pull out in Minneapolis.

The Park Board, in its 2013 budget adopted in December, has planned for $2.5 million in improvements to Minnehaha Creek in 2018. But Bruce Chamberlain said that doesn’t necessarily mean that money would go to improving that stretch of the creek.

That gives the neighborhoods plenty of time to get feedback from residents. Starting next summer, Tincher and Ragozzino plan to start discussing the idea with people at the Fulton Farmers Market and at neighborhood festivals.

Then, in 2014, when they’ve gotten plenty of ideas, they hope to do a survey of neighbors.

“So the question is, how could this be done in such a way that we could increase access to the great resource in a more sustainable way?” Tincher said.