Minnehaha Creek master plan approved

Minnehaha Creek by Lynnhurst Park
The “daylighting” of Minnehaha Creek by Lynnhurst Park and the creation of a designated play space in the creek are among the many details included in a recently approved master plan that will guide the design of the parkland surrounding Minnehaha Creek for the next 30 years. Image courtesy of the Minneapolis Park Board

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has signed off on a long-range plan for the parkland surrounding Minnehaha Creek that will seek to add new recreational features and improved naturalized spaces throughout South Minneapolis.

Approved on Nov. 18, the Minnehaha Parkway Regional Trail Master Plan will guide the design of more than 200 acres of parkland along the creek for the next 30 years, with a focus on improving water quality, mitigating flooding and adding more accessible recreation features throughout the corridor.

“I really like what we came up with; there was a lot of compromise involved,” said Community Advisory Committee chair Jim Tincher.

In Southwest, the plan will add a nature play area near Penn Avenue, a new play area under the Nicollet Avenue bridge and a designated play space in the creek itself near the current location of the Lynnhurst rec center. Bike trails that today end at Lynnhurst Park will continue west to Morgan Avenue.

More “natural” trails will be added to the park in Southwest, including a natural pedestrian path along the creek and additional mountain biking trails near Girard Avenue. New pedestrian bridges are planned at 54th & Zenith, near Forrest Dale & Russell and near 52nd & Belmont. More water access will come at Lynnhurst Park and near Vincent, Morgan, Penn, Harriet and Nicollet avenues.

The plan calls for major changes for Lynnhurst Park. Today the creek’s connection to Lake Harriet is partially covered by a drain, but new designs will “daylight” the creek as it comes toward the park. The design will move the current rec center north of 50th Street and convert it to an environmentally focused rec center with exhibits on the creek system.

After lengthy CAC debate about the future of the parkway road, planners ultimately backed off from a design that would have removed small portions of the roadway near Nicollet Avenue and implemented barriers discouraging vehicle traffic on the western portion of the parkway. Some of those moves prompted loud protests from opposing residents. The final design does offer roadway changes, however, including a new raised bridge for 50th Street near Lynnhurst Park to allow the creek and pedestrians to flow underneath. Pedestrian improvements are planned at intersections throughout the park.

The project was done in coordination with a flood study being conducted by the city of Minneapolis and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and calls for several flood mitigation and creek naturalization strategies. In the Tangletown neighborhood, the design calls for creek meanders and stream restoration to improve natural conditions and reduce flooding. Stormwater wetlands — essentially, engineered small ponds — near Nicollet Avenue are planned to help manage water influxes. Underground water storage is proposed beneath the playfields at Lynnhurst Park for further flood mitigation.

The planning took place over two years and more than a dozen Community Advisory Committee meetings, which were interrupted and delayed by the pandemic. The plan will be implemented over the next 30 years depending on funding abilities. The total estimate for all planned repairs is $108 million. Financing could come from the Park Board, the city of Minneapolis, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, the Metropolitan Council and philanthropic groups.

Projects considered a high priority by the Park Board, the city and the watershed district — such as mitigating flood risk through creek restoration west of Newtown Avenue and improving stormwater capture capacity near Penn Avenue — will be among the first to be implemented. Simple projects, like restoring currently mowed grass to prairie, will also be done sooner than major, costly efforts like moving the Lynnhurst rec center.