Park near St. Anthony Main to receive $1 million investment

Students weighed in on improvements to Father Hennepin Bluff Park Thursday.

by Emma Dill

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is seeking input from students and other stakeholders for a $1 million renovation to a park near St. Anthony Main. 

University of Minnesota students discussed future improvements for Father Hennepin Bluff Park with representatives from the park board and the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association on Thursday. Although much of the money for the park will be used for lighting and trail improvements, other possible initiatives include sidewalk improvements, new paths along the bluff and a new performance space.

The student input meeting is the first of five park board-sponsored focus groups that will take place over the next month. Each meeting aims to gather feedback from a different community group, said project manager Kelly Wilcox.

“We want public feedback on what they think the priorities should be because, essentially, we’re not going to be able to do all … of these initiatives for the first $1 million,” Wilcox said.

Sean Cochran, a graduate student in the University’s Landscape Architecture program, attended the meeting to learn about the changes. Cochran worked on a potential redesign for the park as part of an architecture class.  

“We’ve had a couple projects that have dealt with this park. I think part of that is its proximity to the U campus … but it’s also a park that needs a lot of help, too,” Cochran said.

Ward 3 Council member Steve Fletcher said the park investment will improve the neighborhood’s access to the Mississippi River. 

“We want the river to be a real central focus of the neighborhood and to really be an asset for everybody that everybody can access, and so improving both the trails up above that are the most high traffic but also creating good pathways down to the river is a good priority,” Fletcher said. “It’s a good goal.”

The park’s location near St. Anthony Falls, a sacred site for the area’s native people, makes it especially important to consider Native American views, Wilcox said. A Native American listening session will be held on Saturday.

Chris Lautenschlager, executive director of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, also underscored the diversity of the surrounding neighborhood and the need for varied perspectives.

“There’s a lot of different communities within this particular area … whether that’s people who live in million dollar condominiums [or] students who live in apartments,” Lautenschlager said.

Fletcher and Lautenschlager said Marcy-Holmes residents have expressed safety concerns in the lower bluff area.

“There’s a vast park that is near the river that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable going down whether it’s because of the stairways leading down to the river, whether it’s the trails or whether it’s, quite simply, the lighting,” Lautenschlager said.

Wilcox said the park board anticipates future investments in the park that could fund these improvements.

Work will start on the park in August 2019, Wilcox said.