Kenilworth Channel project will stabilize shoreline

Kenilworth Channel
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board plans to stabilize and naturalize the Kenilworth Channel between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles in 2021, replacing the existing walls with native plants. Image courtesy of the Park Board

A new project will replace the cracking walls along the Kenilworth Channel with native plants intended to stabilize the shoreline.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is planning to repair the channel between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles in 2021, with work focusing on the section west of the Burnham Road bridge.

The Kenilworth Channel was dug between 1911 and 1913, and the original intent was to have vegetated, natural channel banks, but that’s not what happened. Walls were first constructed in 1915 and reconstructed twice, most recently in 1961.

In 2002, the MPRB assessed the walls and determined the structures were failing to keep soil out of the channel, according to project manager Daniel Elias.

“It’s been on our radar for a while,” Elias said.

The primary goal of the project is to stabilize the channel and improve safety conditions. Erosion is building behind the walls, he said, and some open water has emerged behind the barriers. Left unchecked, it could wash out and lead to tree loss.

In addition to shoring up safety, the project is seen as a way to provide a more natural habitat resource in the area. Construction will include a rock-and-soil bottom intended to help vegetation and prevent boat damage. To promote the growth of new vegetation, crews will use a fabric-encapsulated soil lift, which wraps the soil in a biodegradable fabric to help vegetation take root.

An additional goal is to improve the ice composition around the channel in the winter. The channel is a popular spot for cross country skiers but has had problems maintaining solid ice. The MPRB is working with the city of Minneapolis to address the issue by adding more cover to a sanitary sewer pipe in the channel and redirecting roadway discharge from the Burnham Road bridge.

Many residents at a virtual open house asked about removing homeowners’ fencing that exists on public parkland surrounding the channel. Elias said the MPRB has been in contact with those property owners and expects all private fencing will be removed from public land by the project’s completion.

The MPRB recently began a new master planning process for the regional parkland around Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles, and an early goal has been to complete a walking path around Cedar Lake. The channel restoration project shouldn’t interfere with any potential trails in the future, Elias said.

The project is being funded via the state Park Legacy and Trails fund and has a budget of roughly $1 million. Construction is expected to occur in the fall of 2021.