Minnehaha Creek Methodist Hospital Re-meander

Restoring Minnehaha Creek to a more natural shape
6500 Excelsior Boulevard, St. Louis Park, MN

Project Type:

Project Status: 
Completed
Year Completed: 
2009
Current Status: 

Restoration work at Methodist Hospital completed in 2009. The creek, restored wetlands, and educational boardwalk is available for the community to enjoy. 

About this project: 

For much of the first half of the last century, Minnehaha Creek was treated as a sanitary sewer and a ditch. Land use decisions filled and drained wetlands and straightened sections of the creek, increasing the amount of polluted runoff reaching the creek. The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) began a long-term initiative to clean up the creek with the Methodist Hospital re-meander, a partnership with Park Nicollet Health Services that re-established the Creek’s natural curves and wetlands. It was the first project in what is now known as the Minnehaha Greenway, a stretch of more than 50 acres of continuous green space constructed or planned for construction along Minnehaha Creek. 

The partnership enabled MCWD to implement a project that enhanced a regional resource (Minnehaha Creek), provided benefit to its private partner and its clients while also providing for increased recreation and education within a heavily urbanized area of the Minnehaha Creek corridor. All of these project elements are mirrored in the MCWD Mission Statement.

The work returned the creek to a more natural shape, restored wetland vegetation, constructed an elevated boardwalk and canoe landings to increase public access, and added educational signage throughout the site. Studies have shown that proximity to nature can speed up recovery time for patients.

Park Nicollet received a 2008 Watershed Heroes Award in the Excellence in Development category for the project. 

Hover your mouse over the photo below to see the creek channel's significant change. 

Methodist Air Photo 2005

Background

The District began working with Park Nicollet Health Services in 2004 when Park Nicollet applied and received funds for an educational signage project from the Cynthia Krieg Watershed Stewardship Grant program. The hospital wanted to construct raingarden with education signage on the Methodist Hospital property in St. Louis Park to improve the quality of stormwater runoff draining from the site into Minnehaha Creek.

The goal was to incorporate stormwater management within the landscape by creating areas where people could interact with the outdoor environment while simultaneously providing educational opportunities.

Given Methodist Hospital’s proximity to the creek and dedication to improving it, the MCWD Board of Managers directed staff to investigate other opportunities in collaboration with the hospital. In the fall of 2004, MCWD hired a consultant to develop a concept plan of potential environmental improvements for the site to improve the existing conditions, restore natural features, provide amenities to the hospital and its visitors, increase public access and provide for educational opportunities.

Innovative Thinking

This project provided a positive impact within the community on many levels. Channel sinuosity was increased promoting water to leave the banks in certain flow conditions and interact with the adjacent riparian wetland. Residents from the neighborhood will have a recreational amenity to enjoy nature throughout the year. Further, patients at the hospital will receive therapeutic benefits and safe access to a natural area. Research shows that patients recover more quickly when they are able to experience the outdoor environment — directly or visually –- while healing. The wetland and creek at Methodist Hospital increase the hospital’s connection to the outdoor environment in a beautiful way that goes far beyond the traditional “healing garden".

The boardwalk trail through the wetland at Methodist Hospital provides a safe and secure way for patients and their family and friends, as well as the surrounding community, to enjoy the diverse natural environment along Minnehaha Creek. Resting stations with seating and interpretive signs, access to the creek, wildlife habitat and observation, and the ever-changing palette of native grasses and wildflowers throughout the seasons make it a rich sensory experience.

The concept was inspired by Methodist Hospital’s new Heart and Vascular Center. Like the human heart’s four chambers, the trail design is composed of four spaces: three trail loops and an area designed to attract wildlife. A new re-meander in Minnehaha Creek, which restores the channel more closely to its original morphology, is the hydrologic circulatory system that ties the entire design together.

Outcomes

  • Increased capacity for floodwater
  • More stormwater captured before it enters the creek
  • Slowed flow to allow for the filtering of pollutants
  • Enhanced fish and wildlife habitat
  • Enhanced recreation and public access

Prairie Restoration Inc., a sub-contractor on the project, put together a nice summary video: