Work Begins to Restore and Revitalize Minnehaha Creek

Updated: 12/20/2012 12:11 AM KSTP.com By: Michelle Knoll

Trees being cleared is usually a sign new development is on the way, but along Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park trees are being cleared to help undo some of the damage created by urban sprawl.

Crews began phase two of the Minnehaha Creek Restoration Project this week. It will focus on 4,500 feet of the creek between Louisiana Avenue and Meadowbrook. The project is a collaboration between the Minnehaha Watershed District (MCWD) and the City of St. Louis Park.

MCWD Director of Planning, Projects and Land Conservation James Wisker says in the past, wetlands near the creek have been filled in and the creek was straightened to make way for new development. He says that has led to increased storm run off and pollution in the creek and downstream. "As a result", he says, "Minnehaha Creek and Lake Hiawatha are on the states impaired list for fish, chlorides and nutrients."

To help remedy that, crews are clearing the trees to create new wetlands that will serve as a natural filter system for the creek. They will also be adding the bends back into the creek, and reusing those tree and their roots along the bank to help slow the flow of water and filter out sediment. Wisker says the changes will help improve fishing and water quality downstream.

In addition, the city will be building trails, a boardwalk and canoe landings to enhance recreational use of the creek.

City Manager, Tom Harmening says in the past, development turned its back on the creek, creating structures that face away from the water. He says this project aims to put the focus back on the creek. He says eventually it will connect St. Louis Park and Hopkins by way of a greenway.

Officials say the project will also improve the look of the area and property value for nearby residents.

The project will cost $1.1 million to complete. $300,000 of that will come from a state grant. The remaining cost will come out of the MCWD's budget.

Phase one of the project focused on the stretch of creek directly behind Methodist Hospital. The next phase will take place west of the current project. The MCWD has already purchased and demolished two apartment buildings, two homes and an office building near Blake Road and Lake Street. That area will be developed into a park, with similar work scheduled on the creek in that area.