Park Board master plan lays framework for nearby green spaces

The Mississippi Gorge Regional Park Master Plan covers a wide range of parks along the river, mapping out the next two decades of improvements.

Bohemian Flats Park is seen on Friday, Sept. 8. The Mississippi Gorge Regional Park Master Plan is underway, so the Minneapolis Park Board is taking suggestions from the public on what needs to change or stay the same.

Tony Saunders

Bohemian Flats Park is seen on Friday, Sept. 8. The Mississippi Gorge Regional Park Master Plan is underway, so the Minneapolis Park Board is taking suggestions from the public on what needs to change or stay the same.

J.D. Duggan

Plans set forth for a 132-acre park cutting through the University of Minnesota campus will preserve and improve green space with an aim to draw more visitors to the area.

The Mississippi Gorge Regional Park spans both banks of the Mississippi River from Northern Pacific Bridge No. 9 on the University campus to Minnehaha Regional Park. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is currently soliciting feedback and planning initial upgrades to the park, beginning with updates to two West Bank parks in November.

“This is a huge regional park and it’s really special,” said Ellen Kennedy, project manager for the plan. “[It] flanks the gorge and it basically serves as … a retreat to nature just in the heart of the city.”

Annie Young Meadow and Bohemian Flats parks will be among the first to receive updates. Other opportunities have been identified for East Bank parks, including a shelter, amphitheater and cleared river views in East River Flats.

The community engagement process seeks input from current residents, students and visitors in the area who use the park, helping the Park Board decide what to preserve or add to the green spaces. This input is collected to assist in mapping out key features throughout the next two decades.

“The student community is really important in this plan,” Kennedy said. “Because this is the regional park that is closest to your campus that in some way defines the character of your campus.”

Zev Radziwill, a resident of Cedar-Riverside and representative for the Community Advisory Committee for the project, said the CAC and Park Board have been heavily engaged with neighboring groups to help draft the master plan.

“Every single person that I’m serving with, they’re very passionate about parks, green spaces, activities and trails. It’s really a … chorus of people,” Radziwill said.

Precursory rehabilitation projects will begin in November while the community engagement process is still underway for the rest of the regional park. Because rehabilitation projects focus on improving existing amenities rather than brainstorming new additions, public input is not necessary to allocate funds.

These initial rehabilitations include upgrades and replacements in Bohemian Flats and Annie Young Meadow in Riverside Park, where the Park Board will install new walkways, updated lighting, picnic spaces and an upgraded shelter, said Tyler Pederson, project manager and landscape architect. 

A former Dakota homeland, the Mississippi Gorge is a part of an “ecologically rich” critical corridor comprised of many city parks of environmental and historical significance, Kennedy said. 

“It is an extraordinary place and it’s one where you see a lot of community investment,” Kennedy said. “The protection of these important natural spaces is really our first priority in regional parks and everything else follows that goal of … maintaining these spaces so they do last for generations to come.”