New bridges, more water access and fewer cars

Changes proposed in Minnehaha Creek master plan 

Community Action Committee meeting
A packed house filled a public Community Action Committee meeting at Lynnhurst rec center on June 17. Photos by Andrew Hazzard

When Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board planner Adam Arvidson brought up the proposal to close Minnehaha Parkway to vehicles from Humboldt to Portland avenues, the packed crowd at the Lynnhurst rec center let out a chorus of nos.

Several changes are proposed along the Minnehaha Creek Regional Trail Master Plan in the preferred concepts released by the Park Board in late May, some of which are drawing more attention than others.

The call to divert vehicle traffic on the parkway in Southwest to 50th and 54th streets is among the boldest of those changes.

Between Portland and Hiawatha avenues, planners believe Minnehaha Parkway serves as a vital east-west commuter route, Arvidson said. But the area from Humboldt to Portland is seen as primarily park access, planners believe. The plan calls for establishing blockades to vehicles at Humboldt, Lyndale and Nicollet avenues, in addition to removing a short one-way stretch of the parkway from Pillsbury Avenue to just east of Nicollet Avenue.

Park Board’s plans for Lynnhurst Park

Park Board’s plans for Lynnhurst Park

  • The existing rec center would be torn down and replaced with a naturalized area that can support flooding, including a creek play space.
  • A new environmentally focused rec center would go north of 50th Street.
  • A new ADA-accessible boat launch would be added.

Image courtesy of the Park Board

“I believe there are other ways to calm traffic on the parkways than to break up the continuous roadways,” said Julie Durand, a longtime Lynnhurst resident who has been engaging with the MPRB throughout the process.

While the future of cars on the west side of the parkway is up for debate, planners are committed to making changes to the intersection of 50th Street and Minnehaha Parkway near Lynnhurst Park. Right now, the preferred concept calls for a new bridge for 50th Street over the parkway, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to pass through uninterrupted.

“The intersection of Minnehaha Parkway and 50th Street is difficult,” Arvidson told community members on June 17.

Under the preferred concept, the rec center would be moved north of 50th Street and a new parking lot would be placed across the street from Burroughs School. Some members of the public and Community Action Committee members voiced concern about vehicle bottlenecks, and a suggestion was made to move the parking lot to be accessible from James Avenue, which planners said they were open to considering.

Durand said she feels park planners have been receptive to the ideas from the public and likes several ideas in the plan, but she has enjoyed driving the slower parkway streets and hopes they stay open.

“I don’t get the feeling that they’re backing off these roadway closures,” Durand said.

Minnehaha Creek
The proposed master plan for Minnehaha Creek and Lynnhurst Park calls for removing the tunneled portion of the tributary between Lake Harriet and the creek, seen dumping out here in June.

Rearranging Lynnhurst Park

The Minnehaha Creek master plan calls for major changes to Lynnhurst Park designed to both mitigate frequent flooding issues in the area and to convert the park into a place to learn about and recreate in the creek.

Designs propose demolishing the current rec center and building a new one north of 50th Street. That area floods a lot, Arvidson said, and planners want to convert the area to a naturalized green space with plants that can withstand flooding when needed.

A new ADA-accessible boat launch would be added near the rec center, as would a boat storage area designed to look like a treehouse.

The tributary that runs from Lake Harriet to the creek is currently routed through a culvert under 50th Street before dumping into the creek. But plans call for removing that culvert and “daylighting” the stream. Along the aboveground stream, designs call for a creekside nature play area. The wading pool at Lynnhurst would be removed.

Some in the room called for the Lynnhurst wading pool to stay. But MPRB planners said they feel the daylighted stream is a unique place for them to offer a more naturalized water play area.

“This is the only location that lends itself to this kind of play,” Arvidson said.

The new Lynnhurst rec center would be intended as an environmentally focused community center, planners said, with opportunities to learn about the creek and the Chain of Lakes. The rec center would have an indoor gym as well.

Designs call for two full-court basketball courts at Lynnhurst, which currently has one full-court and one half-court set up. The tennis courts would be moved from the side of the creek to near James Avenue.

To help with flooding, planners are proposing an underground water storage area beneath the diamonds and playfields. The technology is commonly found under parking garages and is proposed at several sites near water bodies in the Southwest Area Master Plan.

“It’s a pretty proven technology,” Arvidson said.

The MPRB is holding further public meetings about the Minnehaha Creek Plan at 6 p.m. on June 27 at Lake Nokomis Community Center and at 6 p.m. on July 9 at Lynnhurst rec center. Designs may be altered before being adopted in late summer. The plan would be phased in over the next 20 years.