The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is about to kick off a river revitalization project upgrading green space, bike and pedestrian paths, and water treatment.
The $1.5 million first phase of the Above the Falls project will begin “in a week or two,” said Project Manager Nick Eoloff.
On the Park Board website, it states that in Phase I, “…bicycle and pedestrian trails will be extended from Plymouth Ave. N. to the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge (BNSF) north of 22nd Ave. N. along the west bank of the Mississippi River.
“Additional projects completed this year, all part of the first phase of the Above the Falls project, include a realignment of W. River Road north of Broadway Ave., shoreline stabilization of the west river bank, installation of a plaza at 17th Ave. N., and construction of a rain garden at 22nd Ave. N. Construction is scheduled to begin in August and be completed in October 2007, weather and construction schedules permitting. Throughout construction, public access to the river banks will be limited.”
In all, the project will affect about three-quarters of a mile of the east and west sides of the river, Eoloff said.
He said the $400,000 in shoreline improvements “will be more of a natural approach to erosion control and riverbank stabilization.”
Eoloff said there’s riprap (boulders used to stop erosion) along the shore that serve as good examples of what the Park Board won’t be doing.
“That’s not what we want to do,” he said. “That’s just all riprap boulders and no plants. We want this to look natural and still control soil erosion. It involves some native planting, some what they call coconut logs, which is just mainly coconut fiber rolled into logs and staked into the ground.”
The logs disintegrate in the course of a couple of years, allowing the root structures of the native willow and honeysuckle and other plants to take hold.
The project also includes pedestrian and bike trails along the river, with the pedestrian trails closer to water and the bike paths nearer to streets.
Eoloff said shoreline stabilization, even employing methods using native plants, is something of an unnatural approach to resource management because rivers, including the Mississippi, naturally meander.
“But when we lose shoreline, it will eventually affect roadways, storm sewers. In the long run, it will take a major effort to make up that ground,” he said.
In some ways, the plants will make the shoreline less artificial than it is now, he added.
“That whole bank, believe it or not, is not natural. That’s all fill. It’s all sawdust and sand. It’s not natural; it’s not pristine.”
Eoloff said the sawdust and other materials comprising the shores were dumped there years ago as waste by milling and manufacturing operations.
When the project is completed, drivers who use River Parkway will also feel the impact of the changes.
“The northbound lane starting north of the Broadway Pizza entrance drive will gradually work down from four lanes to two lanes,” he said. “With that, we get more park land and with that we can do some storm water retention ponds and rain gardens to treat water before it enters the Mississippi.”
Eoloff hopes to see this portion of Above the Falls completed “before the snow flies.”