Minnehaha Creek Preserve trail system open in St. Louis Park
Minnehaha Creek is back at center stage in St. Louis Park.
Community leaders celebrated the grand opening of the Minnehaha Creek Preserve on Thursday, hailing the renaissance of the iconic waterway after one of the largest urban stream restorations in Twin Cities’ history. The Preserve features 2,200 feet of boardwalk and 4,600 feet of paved trail around a restored stretch of Minnehaha Creek between Meadowbrook Avenue and Louisiana Avenue in St. Louis Park.
The project is a partnership between the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) and the City of St. Louis Park that was financed, in part, by a grant from the Clean Water Fund. It is part of a larger effort to improve Minnehaha Creek through its most degraded stretch in St. Louis Park and Hopkins, where the stream had historically been straightened and hidden from sight. The Preserve creates access to 39 acres of green space that was previously inaccessible and provides a range of benefits for both water quality and the community.
"This is a historic day for Minnehaha Creek, and it was made possible by the cooperation and teamwork of many different groups," said Sherry White, President of the MCWD Board of Managers. "By figuring out where our goals overlap, we were able to achieve much more than any one group could have achieved individually, and the result is a significant and lasting improvement to the creek and the community."
The restoration work, which was completed in 2013, returned natural curves to the previously-straightened stream, lengthening the creek by 1,600 feet. The project treats polluted stormwater from more than 80 acres of surrounding area that previously flowed untreated into the creek, prevents erosion by slowing down water, creates fish and wildlife habitat, and connects the creek to its historic wetlands. It has a significant impact on water quality in Minnehaha Creek and downstream Lake Hiawatha, both of which are on the state’s list of impaired water bodies.
“As our community grew, unfortunately we turned our back to this phenomenal resource in Minnehaha Creek,” said Tom Harmening, City Manager for the City of St. Louis Park. “Thankfully, by working with MCWD we’ve been able to turn toward the creek and weave the creek and all the benefits it provides back into the fabric of our community.”
An outdoor education area tells the story of the creek and how to protect it, and creates an outdoor classroom space for schools and community groups. Located behind Meadowbrook Manor, the trail system brings more than 600 housing units within walking distance of transit connections. There are locations for learning, sitting and peaceful reflection, as well as two new canoe launches.
“It is no easy task to complete a major restoration of a stream in a heavily urbanized area, and it takes a lot of teamwork and creative problem solving,” said Steve Christopher of the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, which administers the Clean Water Fund. “This project is an example of how all different types of organizations can come together on a project that benefits the environment and the surrounding community.”
Additional support for the project was provided by Excelsior Townhomes, Japs-Olson Company, Meadowbrook Manor and the Minnetonka and St. Louis Park Sunrise Rotary Clubs.
You can learn more about the project and find a map of the trails at www.minnehahacreek.org/minnehaha-preserve.