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Arden Park Restoration


Project Type:

Project Status: 
Current Status: 

The City of Edina and the MCWD approved a cooperative agreement to advance the Arden Park Restoration Project Concept Plan into the design phase. Project design based on the concept plan will progress throughout 2018 with opportunities for community engagement at key milestones throughout project development. Throughout December and January, the design team will be collecting more technical data to inform design, refining the planned stream alignment to avoid trees, and developing stormwater management designs. There will be a public open house to learn more about the progress of this effort in January 2018.

About this project: 

The City of Edina and Minnehaha Creek Watershed District are partnering to improve the creek, habitat and the public use experience in Arden Park. A conceptual plan was developed based on public input received over a period of 12 months. The plan is a balance of enhancements to the park that improve fish passage, wildlife habitat and water quality, while retaining the park’s natural character. Proposed project elements include replacing the 4-foot dam at 54th Street with a rock rapids upstream, re-meandering the creek, and providing more access for fishing and other recreation. Project design based on the concept plan will progress throughout 2018 with opportunities for community engagement at key milestones throughout project development.

Public Input

Through a 12 month public input process co-led with City of Edina staff, a draft concept plan was developed for the Arden Park Restoration Project (see link below). The concept plan was guided by a project team that included City staff, Watershed District staff, Park Board members Eileen McAwley and Julie Strother, and a consulting landscape architect.

The initial process included three planned community meetings to establish goals for the park and to develop a concept plan to acheive those goals. In order to ensure active community engagement, two additional community meetings were hosted for staff to continue to listen to and understand the goals of the community.

From the start of the development of the concept plan we have heard that the community values the natural character of the park, wildlife and recreation within the park. Other themes have included safety of people crossing 54th Street and overall maintenance of facilities.

Community engagement opportunities will continue to be available throughout the project design process, as shown in the timeline below:

Timeline for Arden Park Restoration Project

Schedule (draft, proposed)

Dec 2017 - Jan 2018: Collection of more technical data to inform design, refine the planned stream alignment to avoid trees, and develop stormwater management designs

Jan 2018: Public review opportunities to learn more about technical data gathered

Feb - Apr 2018: Design development, including trail details, overlook terraces and creek access, and stormwater management design

Feb - Dec 2018: Park shelter design developed with community input

May 2018: Public review opportunities to learn more about the first phase of design

Jun - Jul 2018: Continue to refine technical design and project details, secure permits

Aug - Dec 2018: Playground design developed with community input

Sept 2018: Public review opportunities to learn more about the finalized technical design and project details

Oct 2018: Finalize project design

Nov - Dec 2018: Solicit and award bids for project

Jan 2019: Phase one construction

May - Nov 2019: Phase two construction

Why Arden Park?

In 2014, the City of Edina and MCWD signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) identifying areas of collaboration within the realms of land use planning, stormwater management, economic development, flood mitigation, parks and public land management, greenway development, and water resource improvements.

During project development for replacement of the 54th Street bridge, a bypass pipe alternate was designed to provide fish passage in the creek while preserving a valued recreational benefit associated with the dam. However, the standing wave that used to form at the dam no longer does following flooding in 2014, eliminating the recreational value to kayaker enthusiasts. At the request of the community and written support from the kayak group the fish bypass pipe was rejected in favor of a more holistic approach of removing the dam.

It is part of the District’s long term vision to restore the creek from Minnetonka to Minneapolis in a way that connects people and communities to the creek and that leverages multiple investments. Due to urbanization over the previous century, the creek has been ditched, dammed, wetlands filled and urban runoff has increased which has led to the creek being listed on the State’s impaired waters list. Click here to find Minnehaha Creek TMDL Study and click here to find Minnehaha Creek Stream Assessment 2003

Arden Park will be the latest in a series of improvements along Minnehaha Creek that is returning the formerly ditched and ignored stream into a vibrant, healthy and beautiful natural resource that connects and enhances the communities it flows through.

The project will complement the work that’s been done upstream by enhancing wildlife habitat, treating polluted stormwater, adding flood storage and improving access for recreation. For more on the improvements that have completed so far visit

Minnehaha Creek Greenway Map

Concept Plan

On August 16, 2016 the Edina City Council authorized a Memorandum of Agreement with MCWD establishing a cooperative framework to jointly develop a Concept Plan for Arden Park which integrates channel habitat improvement and stormwater management with the goals of the City’s Strategic Plan for parks, recreation and trails, and integrates the riparian environment into the public use experience.

The Arden Park concept plan layers multiple natural resource benefits and community benefits. It includes restoration of over 2,000 feet of stream channel and the potential to treat over 100 acres of stormwater runoff which currently flows untreated off our streets into the creek – all which attract and improve conditions for fish, birds and other wildlife – layered with multiple benefits for the community: connecting people visually and physically to the creek with vegetation restoration, providing formal and informal access to new fishing throughout the park, making in-creek recreation more accessible to a larger cross section of users (tubers, kayakers, paddle boarders), providing safer, easier access and portage without crossing 54th Street, and a new, multi-purpose shelter building.

Proposed Creek Realignment MapProposed Concept Plan

Why Remove the Dam?

The River Ecology Unit of the Minnesota DNR has studied the effects of dams (which fragment rivers and streams and slow water flow) and has found a number of interesting points about the effects of dams:

  • Aquatic biodiversity declines because fish (all of which are migratory to certain extents) and mussels cannot reach spawning and feeding areas, leading to a decline in species survival.
  • The altered habitat makes the natural community vulnerable to invasive and non-native species that do better in lake-like environments.
  • Accumulation of sediment above the dam and erosion below the dam disrupts the natural movement of water and sediment, which negatively impacts native species.
  • Nutrients and pollution accumulate behind the dam, water temperatures are higher, and dissolved oxygen is lower, all of which stresses native aquatic communities and is more favorable to non-native and invasive species.

For more information about the effects of dams, check out these resources from the Minnesota DNR:

Under the 2014 MOU the District and City examined options for removal of the existing dam within Minnehaha Creek in conjunction with the City’s W. 54th Street bridge replacement project. The dam, which was installed pre-1938, is a barrier to fish passage and degrades aquatic habitat.

From an ecological view, the dam has altered the function and value of the creek system by removing a mile of habitat for spawning and forage for fish below. It increases residence time of water and surface area making the water warmer, increasing algal growth and accumulation of decaying vegetation which uses oxygen and creates an environment that is not good for fish or the in-stream insects that fish eat. To learn more about project benefits see link below.

Arden Park Dam with and without waterThe dam with water (on left) and when dry (on right)

Funding Priority and Budget Discussion

As a regional unit of government covering 181 square miles, the District’s funding priorities are evaluated based on natural resource opportunity combined with the ability to leverage a multi-agency partnership to maximize community benefit and the financial investment of the partners. This project is a high priority project for the District because it is an opportunity to remove the dam and further rectify decades of impact to the creek system in accordance with our mission in a way that leverages multiple community benefits in partnership with the City. The City of Edina has competing priorities across the City with limited funds. The opportunity to leverage outside funds for the City park may prioritize City investment in Arden Park.

There are currently no funding commitments from either agency. The estimated total project cost based on the concept plan is approximately $4 million. The draft funding plan allocates approximate 40% of the costs to the City, 40% to the Watershed District and targets 20% in outside grant funds.