Riverfront regional park plan roundup

by Colleen O'Connor Toberman

Students participate in a water sampling project at Crosby Farm, a beloved St. Paul park. The draft master plan proposes to improve access here while maintaining its undeveloped feel.

This past month, FMR's River Corridor program staff have been busy reviewing and commenting on draft master plans for Above the Falls, Mississippi Gorge and Hidden Falls Crosby Farm regional parks.

These parks contain some of the most unique and accessible stretches of Mississippi riverfront in the Twin Cities metro, and their master plans evaluate current and future park needs and set out the long-term vision for park improvements and natural resources management. These plans are essential for setting a community's vision and accessing regional park funds.

Participating in these planning processes has been a critical component of FMR's work since its foundation. As these plans were under development, FMR participated in focus groups, advisory committees and community meetings to provide feedback. Here's a roundup of the draft plans we've commented on recently, links to all of FMR's comment letters and opportunities for further public participation.

Above the Falls Regional Park Master Plan

FMR is generally supportive of the vision set out for this park in the draft master plan, which covers the east and west banks of the river between the Plymouth and Camden bridges in Minneapolis. We appreciate the emphasis on improving riverfront trails and access.

The key exception is our concerns about the park boundary within the Upper Harbor Terminal site. We would like to see more of this site be used as parkland. The 2013 Above the Falls draft master plan included a much bigger park of approximately 28 acres. In the 2019 draft plan, parkland has been reduced to 19.5 acres.

We are also very concerned that the plan includes private development between the river and the parkway. The city of Minneapolis has been the primary decision-making body in setting out the site design for Upper Harbor Terminal, but we are concerned with how these decisions affect Above the Falls Regional Park. Read our comment letter.

Opportunities for your future involvement

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board staff are reviewing and incorporating public comments. A public hearing will be scheduled (tentatively for May 15) before the final plan is approved. Sign up for e-mail updates from the park board to be notified when this date is set.

Mississippi Gorge Regional Park Master Plan

In general, FMR was pleased with the draft plan for the river gorge between the Dinkytown Greenway bridge and Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. We appreciated its focus on restoring and protecting ecological assets while improving visitor access.

We recommended including a stronger emphasis on the ecological significance of the gorge, more prescriptive goals for the oak savanna to ensure remnant prairie is preserved, and clear direction that existing natural surface trails are to remain pedestrian-only in perpetuity and not be opened to mountain bikers. Read FMR's full comments.

Opportunities for your future involvement

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board staff are reviewing and incorporating public comments. A public hearing will be scheduled before the final plan is approved. Sign up for e-mail updates from the park board to be notified when this date is set.

Hidden Falls Crosby Farm Regional Park Master Plan

The Hidden Falls and Crosby Farm draft master plan for these two beloved St. Paul parks includes many elements of which FMR is supportive, including recognition of the river confluence area's cultural and spiritual significance and plans to improve park access while maintaining an undeveloped feel in most of the park.

Our primary recommendations are to fully integrate the River Learning Center — the proposed Environmental Learning Center and National Park Service Headquarters — as a centerpiece of the draft plan, place more emphasis on land acquisition opportunities on the former Ford motor plant site, and to locate any future mountain-bike trails only on the floodplain, not on the bluff as proposed, and keep them separate from pedestrian trails. Read FMR's full comments.

Opportunities for your future involvement

No further public comment opportunities are planned at this time.

Become an FMR River Guardian

Sign up and we'll email you when important river issues arise. We make it quick and easy to stay informed and contact decision makers at the right time.