Enthusiasts about local food are cooking up a new idea for the flood-prone Hiawatha Golf Course: an edible “food forest.”
In place of fairways and greens, they envision a wetland, berry bushes and fruit trees. The pitch proved popular in northeast Minneapolis on Thursday, where an event drew more than 150 people to talk about food in parks.
“A part of parks’ mission is to help people connect with their communities and with nature,” said Russ Henry, a candidate for an at-large Park Board seat who spearheaded the event. “The food system is the way that would do that.”
But Park Board officials are urging those pushing the idea to slow down. While plans for the golf course are still uncertain, an edible “food forest” isn’t among them — yet.
In the meantime, talk about the idea has sparked concerns, said Park Commissioner Steffanie Musich, whose district includes the Hiawatha Golf Course. The group pushing for the food forest must follow the planning process and gather broader feedback, she said.
“There are a lot of angry people that feel like the planning process is not being respected,” Musich said.
The golf course closed in 2014 after severe rainstorms caused $3.5 million in flood damage. In 2015, Park Board reopened nine holes for play. Last year, the board worked with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to restore the full 18-hole course and allow flood control along the creek bordering the course.
Adam Arvidson, the Park Board’s director of strategic planning, said consultant Barr Engineering is developing alternatives for the course, but no conclusion has been reached on reconfiguring it.
But Ryan Seibold, organizer of the Hiawatha Food Forest group, said he’s concerned the Park Board may opt to privatize the golf course.
“By bringing back the wetland and nurturing nature, it inspires the community of Lake Hiawatha to become better stewards of the environment,” Seibold said.
Musich said some sort of “urban agriculture zone” is being considered as the Park Board develops the new master plan for the golf course and surrounding park. That zone could include fruit and nut trees. But more community input is needed, she said.
“We can’t just vet the idea with a group that’s already excited about it,” Musich said. “We need to vet it with the entire community and all the people that have shown interest in the future of this park.”