The Edina City Council gave the go-ahead Tuesday night for a $4 million restoration of a neighborhood park that includes Minnehaha Creek, culminating months of debate.
The project would restore Arden Park, located southwest of the 50th and France shopping corridor, and the section of the creek that runs through it. Crews would remeander the creek, address runoff that regularly swamps portions of the park and remove a 4-foot dam that many neighbors wanted to save.
The council voted 4-0 to approve the concept plan and partner with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District on the project. Council Member Mike Fischer recused himself from voting after he learned the design firm he works for has two open contracts with the watershed district.
The watershed district board will take its own vote on the project in October. The project bid would be awarded in late 2018 and construction could begin by early 2019, according to the plan.
“I favor this project because on balance, to me, it’s more important to do it than not to do it,” Edina Mayor Jim Hovland said before the vote. “If we improve the creek the benefits to our town will be priceless.”
The council acted against the wishes of a group of neighbors called “Save the Waterfall,” which for months has urged city officials to leave the dam as it is. The dam creates rapids that rush under the 54th Street bridge, leading to a large fishing hole and swimming area.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Stan Davis, an Edina resident and one of the leaders of the group. “It was going to be an uphill battle.”
Davis said he spent about 200 hours and $2,000 working to oppose the project. “It’s sad, but at least I tried,” he said.
Council Member Mary Brindle said she received hundreds of e-mails from residents regarding the project. Those in favor of it shared arguments based in science, she said, while others were mostly against it for “emotional issues.”
The council still shared concerns about the number of trees that would have to be removed and the noise from crews involved in the restoration. They asked project leaders to continue to collect feedback from neighbors and stakeholders as they work to create a more detailed plan.
Project costs would be split down the middle by the city and watershed district. The city would pay to upgrade park facilities as well as a portion of the cost to install new paths and trails.
Proponents say that remeandering the creek and removing the dam will permit fish and smaller organisms to swim upstream toward Lake Minnetonka, giving the park a more natural feel.
“It’s not just Edina’s resource, by any means,” Brindle said. “I would look for the health of the creek to be improved.”