Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board

Discussion Item

Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Integrated Planning and Capital Projects


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On April 12, 2017, the Board of Commissioners approved Resolution 2017-166 related to integrated planning of the Minnehaha Creek subwatershed within the limits of the City of Minneapolis. The resolution focused on the creation of an integrated planning framework between the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD), the City of Minneapolis (City), and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB), allowing better alignment of each entity’s capital projects with goals that each hold for areas influencing the creek corridor. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) describes a working relationship between the parties and outlines a commitment that would recognize the opportunity to collaborate on capital projects.


Several topical areas have become a focus for integrated planning, some even prior to the initiation of the MOU. Two areas deal with ground and surface water in Minneapolis neighborhoods, and while the MPRB is not leading efforts around the high groundwater conditions in South Minneapolis or enhanced stormwater management in Flood Areas 29 and 30 (generally, portions of the Fulton and Lynnhurst neighborhoods), staff is involved in discussions and remains aware of the impacts and opportunities that might result from eventual implementation of any solution. In these two efforts, the City of Minneapolis is the lead agency, but the MOU provides significant opportunities for the MCWD’s and the MPRB’s active involvement in the process.


Three topical areas are more directly focused on interactions of the MCWD and MPRB and opportunities for enhancing Minnehaha Creek:


Minnehaha Parkway Regional Trail


In the fourth quarter of 2017, the MCWD and MPRB embarked a closely related planning of the Minnehaha Creek corridor. Heavy rain events occurring in June 2014 damaged areas along the banks of Minnehaha Creek. MCWD applied for and received a damage award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that allows for the restoration of several stretches of damaged stream bank. During the same timeframe when the MCWD would be planning its restoration activities, the MPRB would be pursuing a master plan for the Minnehaha Parkway Regional Trail. In addition, the City of Minneapolis has several significant stormwater outfalls that feed directly to the creek. Recognizing the potential for enhancing recreation opportunities as the MCWD’s stream restoration work occurred or as any modifications to the City’s stormwater outfalls progressed, or even greater opportunities that might be revealed the during the master planning process, the MCWD, City, and MPRB combined efforts to select a consultant team to serve both projects. Work related to restoration commenced last fall under the direction of the MCWD, with MPRB and City staff remaining involved in the planning of restoration work. Work related to master planning for the creek corridor will be fully initiated in early 2018 under the direction of the MPRB, with continued involvement from the MCWD and the City.


Hiawatha Golf Course


Following extensive and sustained flooding of portions of the Hiawatha Golf Course during June and July 2014, the MPRB began a process of understanding excessive pumping conditions that were discovered as course restoration planning evolved. The study of conditions related to groundwater pumping and the development and assessment of water management alternatives was jointly facilitated by the MPRB and the City, with the MCWD being a critical partner in the work. As the work continues with master planning of the golf course property aimed at aligning use with water management, the City and the MCWD remain active and involved, with the City bringing expertise related to stormwater management, water quality, and its local systems of storing and moving stormwater, and the MCWD bringing expertise related to watershed management, water quality, and stream ecology.


Any changes to the golf course property will require the concerted efforts of all three agencies. Certainly, each might be able to pursue improvements, even using the golf course property, that would enhance its own interests. But the continued collaboration has the potential for revealing more significant, beneficial, and sustainable solutions that result in enhanced ecological conditions and recreational opportunities while protecting nearby properties and improved upstream stormwater management.


Meadowbrook Golf Course


At the same time Hiawatha Golf Course suffered from extensive rains during the summer of 2014, Meadowbrook Golf Course was subjected to extended flood conditions that resulted in a prolonged closure of the course. The MCWD and the MPRB worked to consider opportunities for making the course more flood resilient with patterns that would enhance the ecology of the property. While a large-scale renovation of the course proved unachievable due to cost, opportunities for a more incremental evolution remain, and the MCWD is keenly interested in realizing some improvements focused on the creek.


The golf course lies at the downstream end of a series of improvements undertaken by the MCWD in the most polluted reach of Minnehaha Creek, the area between 37th Avenue and Meadowbrook Lake. Upstream of Excelsior Boulevard (the property’s northerly boundary), the MCWD effected stream enhancements under its balanced ecology goals, with water quality and habitat improvements coupled with recreational facilities. The MCWD realigned the creek, worked with two municipalities to adjust their corporate boundary to allow for improved water quality facilities, introduced extensive walking trails and boardwalks, and created a new park. The remaining reach of the creek, that portion between Excelsior Boulevard and Meadowbrook Lake, lies on the golf course and exists as a ditch. The MCWD and MPRB are studying opportunities to improve this last stretch of creek and enhance the golf course as one of the incremental changes to the property.


Next Steps


The three areas described above pose important implementation opportunities for the parties to the MOU (except that the City could not be involved in any work related to Meadowbrook Golf Course). While no decisions will be made as a part of this Discussion Item, MPRB and MCWD staff are interested to gain a general sense of the support from commissioners related to collaborative pursuit of projects in the three areas.


The relationship among staff at the three agencies is oriented to move beyond planning to implementation of tangible improvements, with the opportunity of realizing a more holistic improvement being a key goal. It is MPRB staff’s understanding that this opportunity must be recognized and embraced by the Board of Commissioners, particularly relative to continued pursuits with the MCWD as it considers investments in the Minneapolis reach of Minnehaha Creek relative to other areas of its 178-square mile watershed.

Meeting History

Feb 7, 2018 5:10 PM  Planning Committee Committee Meeting