Decades ago Lady Bird Johnson transformed the highways of the nation with her intrepid support of wildflowers, the perky blooms that continue to beautify the terrain and eliminate costly grooming of the land. The spirit of Lady Bird lives on in Northeast Minneapolis.
Wednesday, June 26, marked a major event in development of the Blooming Prairie on Central, installation of a prairie landscaping project on the Central Avenue median. City Council member Kevin Reich who has spearheaded the project was on hand, along with representatives of the partners including the City, Parks and Rec, neighborhood greenthumbers, the Green Council at Edison High School and Prairie Restoration, Inc., source of the prairie plantings. Though this busy stretch of Minnesota Highway 65 may be an unexpected site for prairie plantings, the collaboration and the possibilities hold great promise for the community.
The original planted islands were installed in 2004 as part of the Central Avenue reconstruction project. These first plantings weren’t prepared to stand up to the harsh environment of the street and failed to prosper. Funds were allocated in 2011 to replace the plantings with a more durable landscape design.
During the fall of 2011 a steering committee from surrounding neighborhoods met to weigh options and select a prairie style landscape for the replacement. Prairie Restoration began installing the new landscaping in the arid summer of 2012.
Rob Brown of Prairie Restorations is quick to remind the novice that prairie-style plantings need to be established in stages for an optimal final result. Still, the result is a sturdy landscape that requires minimal care and tending on an ongoing basis. The 15,000 native plantings of Indian Grass, Golden Alexander and Yellow Coneflower being planted this summer are hyper local plants grown within 200 miles of their new home, becoming what Brown refers to enthusiastically as “remnant prairie.” Preservation of the urban prairie will involve some controlled burning during the months to come.
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has also planted trees along stretches of Central as part of the overall landscaping upgrade.