As Hennepin County leaders commit to an ambitious new plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect residents from the perils of a warming planet, officials gathered Wednesday to show off an early step in the long-term fight against climate change — at a park in Edina.
The $3.1 million project at Arden Park included rerouting Minnehaha Creek, installing a stormwater treatment system, removing invasive vegetation and planting 400 trees and other plants — improvements designed to reduce erosion, control flooding and improve water quality.
The project showcases "the future ... of our climate work together," County Commissioner Chris LaTondresse said at an event at the park, speaking in a group that included Edina Mayor Jim Hovland and members of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District staff and board.
"What you're seeing, as you look around, represents not only best practices but really next practices," said LaTondresse, who represents Edina and other cities in the western suburbs.
The project added three bends in the creek, which once coursed across the 15-acre park in a straight line. The creek's newly meandering path slows the water flow, improves stream health and connects the creek to a flood plain, said Laura Domyancich-Lee, planner-project manager for the Watershed District.
The new stormwater management features will keep 30 pounds of phosphorus a year out of the creek while expanding pollinator habitat, according to the Watershed District's website.
The construction cost was split between the city of Edina and the Watershed District. The project also received grant funding from the Clean Water Fund, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Conservation Partners Legacy and Hennepin County's Natural Resources Opportunity Fund.
On Tuesday, the Hennepin County Board adopted a new Climate Action Plan, which outlines how the county can mitigate the effects of climate change.. Goals include transitioning to renewable energy sources, preventing food waste, building and maintaining green infrastructure, designing in anticipation of future climate conditions and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The county, which also recently committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, created a new director position to oversee the plan's implementation.
Minnesota's climate is getting "warmer and wetter," LaTondresse said — summer and winter temperatures are rising, and heavy rainfalls are becoming more common.
Rainfalls of an inch or more have become a regular occurrence, said Arun Hejmadi, a member of the Watershed District Board. Layers of ice on lakes are not growing as thick because of warmer temperatures in December and January, and ice-outs — the first day each year when ice melts enough for all parts of the lake to be navigable — "are coming earlier and earlier," he said.
Improvements like those at Arden Park are designed to strengthen the resilience of natural spaces, making waterways, trees and other parts of the environment better prepared to handle the anticipated effects of climate change, while also preserving opportunities for residents to enjoy them, LaTondresse said.
"And me being able to come here with my kids and hunt for crawdads," he said.
Katy Read • 612-673-4583