A citizen group advising Minneapolis park officials on a second round of improvements at Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park showed a decided preference for trails last week in recommending how $400,000 should be spent.
The group’s biggest-ticket recommendation from a list of two dozen possible projects was $129,700 to replace with asphalt three concrete segments of the lakeshore trail that are reputed to date back to the New Deal of the 1930s. Those segments are north of the main beach at Nokomis, east of the north side parking lot and in the lake’s southeastern section.
Another trail recommendation was $80,000 for reconstructing trails just north of the Cedar Avenue Bridge. The group also recommended a $28,200 new trail from Cedar at E. 50th Street across the athletic field complex to the main beach, as well as $20,000 for a safer crossing of Cedar at 50th.
Also on the group’s first tier of recommendations was $6,000 to install winter access gates at several points around Hiawatha golf course, which is groomed for winter cross-country skiing. It also urged drinking fountains or enclosures for portable toilets at more spots.
The group was advancing second-phase improvements carrying out the master plan it devised last year, and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board approved earlier this month. A first phase of work included beach accessibility improvements and other work in the Sandcastle restaurant concession area. Another first-phase improvement, rebuilding the Triangle Park playground area at E. 54th Street, was delayed last fall because bids were well over estimates. The project has been rebid, and a recommended bid of $485,132 is scheduled to be acted on by a board committee Wednesday.
Park planners took several planned improvements from the master plan off the list of possible second-phase projects. In one case, the Park Board is awaiting legislative action on separate funding for $440,000 in state Legacy Fund money to renovate 4,400 feet of shoreline. That would occur where there is not a stone wall, another legacy of the New Deal.
The renovation affects almost half of the lake’s shoreline. The work involves regrading shores to a more gradual slope, removing turf grass and non-native vegetation, and replacing that with a strip of grasses and flowers that averages about 20 feet wide, according to project manager Adam Arvidson.
Also delayed was the start of work to convert much of the regional park’s grassy areas to taller vegetation more closely resembling its original ground cover. Arvidson said there’s concern that park staff lack the capacity to manage the new vegetation, especially in its early years where more maintenance is required.
Also deferred for now are improvements involving the golf course, much of which was ruined by flooding last year. The park system is getting federal and state emergency funds to restore the course, but hopes to leverage that with Minnehaha Creek Watershed District funding both to protect the course in the future and make water-quality and non-golf recreational improvements, such as trails. The pace of that work could determine when the entire course is playable.