Edina residents call this section of Minnehaha Creek a “treasure,” “charming,” a “wilderness experience” and a “community asset.”
Its main feature is a fishing hole, formed by rapids that rush under the 54th Street bridge, marking the southern border of Arden Park. Filled with cold water and bordered by lush trees, it’s frequented not just by the neighborhood kids who fish after school but by kayakers and nature lovers from around the Twin Cities.
A proposed renovation of the creek and Arden Park, however, would remove the dam that creates the rapids, naturally causing the fishing hole to fill with sediment. Opponents plan to gather at the site Tuesday and ask the Edina City Council to reject the plan.
“This is an urban waterway,” said Stan Davis, who is organizing the rally. “It’s about as wild as it’s ever going to be right now, and anything you do is probably going to take away more wilderness, to my eye.”
The $4 million plan, going back to 2014, is a collaboration between the city and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, which has renovated other sections of the 22-mile creek. Their goal is to “re-meander” the creek to improve habitat health, clear vegetation and add trails and recreational spots throughout the park.
“[The hole] is a cool feature, but ... it’s not super exciting in the rest of the park,” said Jessica Wilson, Edina’s water resources coordinator. “We’re saying that we can extend that excitement throughout the rest of the creek.”
The partnership hopes to pay for the project with funding from the city, watershed district and outside grants. But it moves forward only if the City Council approves cooperative and professional services agreements at its June 20 meeting.
Like a main square
Removing the four-foot dam, built before 1938, would make several improvements along the creek, which is on the state’s impaired waters list, Wilson said.
It would smooth the water flow north of the bridge, which currently moves at a sluggish pace. Fish would be able to swim upstream with ease instead of getting stuck at the fishing hole. It would reduce algae growth, drop the water temperature before the bridge and keep water from expanding into the edges of park, now soggy and inaccessible.
Over time, sediment would move under the bridge and fill the fishing hole. The rapids — known in the area as the “waterfall” — would be gone, and the fishing hole would look more like the rest of the creek.
If the council approves the project, it would enter the design phase and construction could begin in late 2018, Wilson said.
“This whole park has the potential to be a much more exciting place besides just this real energized area of the bridge,” said Renae Clark, project manager for the watershed district. “It still won’t be a bad fishing spot, but there will be more fishing spots and more variety of experiences.”
A couple public meetings were held to get feedback on the project. People were generally supportive, and most concerns about losing the fishing hole didn’t arise until after the May 1 meeting, Wilson said.
A dozen Edina residents gathered earlier this week at Davis’ home, which overlooks the creek just south of the hole. They shared memories of bringing their children there to fish.
“It’s almost like a main square, except it’s outdoors,” Davis said.
They said they were not informed of the public meetings and now don’t have a chance to offer their views. They worry that removing the dam will eliminate the entire habitat it created.
They walked over to the fishing hole, the gentle rush of the water growing louder as they approached it. A teenager cast his line below the bridge.
“If you’re looking for a slice of Americana, it’s right here under our noses,” said Edina resident Morrie Hartman. “And the premise of destroying this breaks my heart.”
Wilson said she understands people’s connection to the rapids and fishing hole. She said the concept for the park restoration would engineer the aspects of it they love, such as the sound of the water.
Davis said the park has been neglected, pointing to decaying signs and wild vegetation surrounding the creek. The money should be directed to fixing that, he said.
By Friday afternoon, several neighbors surrounding the fishing hole had planted signs of support on their lawns reading “Save the Waterfall!”