Residents rally to ‘Save the Waterfall’ at Arden Park

Over a hundred people gathered at Arden Park last week to protest a proposed renovation project that some felt was poorly communicated.
The plan, in partnership with the city of Edina and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, includes replacing the dam under the 54th Street bridge with an upstream rock rapids in an effort to re-meander the creek.
The district believes this will improve the habitat and enhance the fish passage and water quality of the creek.
A group of residents disagree, however, citing the waterfall produced in part by the dam to be an integral part of the not only the park but many childhood and family memories.
For Stan Davis, who has been leading the rallying effort, Arden Park is more than just a “regular” city park.
“There is a lot of wildness to it,” Davis said. “There are a lot of places in it now that you can’t get to unless you are real adventurous.”
But he said the waterfall underneath the 54th Street bridge, slated for reconstruction, is the major draw to the park.
“Who else has a
waterfall in their local city park?” Davis said. “The waterfall becomes kind of a town square but out in the wilderness. Kids are fishing, playing in the water – they are probably doing it right now.”
A second rally was held before the June 6 Edina City Council meeting, where roughly 20 people gathered with “Save the Waterfall” signs and planned on speaking before the council.
Several people shared their stories of the time spent at Arden Park, specifically with relation to the waterfall and fishing.
One woman shared that while her children and grandchildren spent many summers enjoying Arden Park and wished to see it stay relatively the same, the park was still in need of improvements.
Several people gathered outside the city hall said they felt out of the loop and that the city and watershed district could have done a better job of mentioning the three public meetings over the last six months.
“Their communication has been woeful,” Davis said.
Davis attended the second and third meetings and didn’t realize until the middle of the last meeting that the removal of the dam meant getting rid of the waterfall, a piece of information he thought should have been more openly discussed.
He called the process around the project to be “disingenuous.”
The proposal is projected to be $4 million, but there are currently no funding commitments. The draft plan assumes 40 percent of the cost to the city, 40 percent to the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and 20 percent in outside grants.
“I’d like to see money that has … been thought to be appropriated, to help clean up the park,”
Davis said. “There are a lot of erosion issues, water issues like sogginess, and could use some tidying up. But $4 million? I’ll take a third of it and I’ll do a hell of a job.”
The project began in 2014 when the city and the watershed district signed a Memorandum of Understanding that identified stormwater management, flood mitigation, parks and public land management among several other points of improvement.
This include examining options for the removing the dam to coincide with the 54th Street bridge replacement project.
The watershed district stands by the dam, which was installed pre-1938, a
s being a barrier to fish
passage and degrading to the aquatic habitat.
They also contend that the dam has changed the function of the creek system by removing a mile of spawning habitat for fish.
On June 20, the City Council will review the agreement for coordination and cost sharing. Two days later, the watershed district will also review the plan.
If approved, final approval is tentatively scheduled for July 13.
The full plan is available online at minnehahacreek.org/