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Arden Park Restoration


Project Type:

Project Status: 
Current Status: 

A public hearing will be hosted by the Edina City Council on Wednesday, September 6. The Edina City Council is anticipated to vote on the project on Tuesday, September 19.


At the Edina City Council meeting on Wednesday, August 2, staff from City of Edina and MCWD presented the concept plan to the City Council. We thank the public for providing valuable input and engaging with the City and MCWD on this project.

About this project: 

The City of Edina and Minnehaha Creek Watershed District are partnering to improve the creek, habitat and fishing in Arden Park. A conceptual plan was developed based on input received at three public meetings and submitted to our website over a period of six months. The plan suggests 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 with a rock rapids upstream and re-meandering the creek to improve habitat, clean up the water, and provide more  access for fishing and other recreation.  This conceptual plan will continue to be refined with additional public input to maximize natural resource benefits, minimize costs and meet community goals.

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:

In 2014 the City of Edina and Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (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. Under that 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)

Public Input

During project development, a bypass pipe alternate was designed to provide fish passage while preserving a valued recreational benefit associated with the dam. However, the standing wave no longer forms 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.

Through a public input process co-led with City of Edina staff, a draft concept plan was developed (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.

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.

Concept Plan

On August 16, 2016 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.

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. If the City of Edina wishes to partner with the District on this restoration project it would be considered 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. Likewise, 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.

Why Arden Park?

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 resource 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 would 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

Schedule (draft, proposed)

May 9, 2017: City Park Commission review and discussion of concept plan (no public comment opportunity but a good opportunity to listen to a presentation and learn more about the project)

July – Dec. 2017: Edina City Council and MCWD review, Permit initiation, consultant procurement, design initiation

Jan – Jun 2018: Complete design of creek improvements, stormwater management, trails and vegetative restoration

Nov 2018 - June 2019: Construction of creek realignment, stormwater management, demolition of shelter building, trails and vegetation

June 2019: Construction of new shelter building