Planning for the future of Hiawatha Golf Course

BY STEPHANIE FOX

Since 2014, when a series of torrential rains flooded much of the once popular 18-hole Hiawatha Golf Course in South Minneapolis, the Park Board has been weighing options for how to deal with the situation.
Currently, the city is pumping 242 million gallons of ground water and 64 million gallons of storm water into Lake Hiawatha from the course every year. Without pumping, the golf course would flood, along with nearby streets and the basements of some of the homes in the area.
As of yet, the board has not made any decisions about what to do with the course. Options include keeping the pumps going, reducing pumping or stopping the pumps altogether. But the city and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed Districts are currently reaching out to the public as they consider their options.
If local governments decide to change the way they deal with the water at the Hiawatha course, there would no longer be an 18-hole golf course, and land at the golf course could be opened for other uses.
The Park Board sought public commentary, putting together an April 20 evening of information gathering with an activity that seemed to almost be a board game—with real world consequences. Participants were enthusiastic, even though no decisions will be made anytime soon.
More than 100 people showed up at the Lake Nokomis Community Center to have their ideas heard. Each attendee was directed into randomly chosen groups of eight to 11 people, to discuss ideas and to decide what kind of uses for land and water they thought would be best. The city hopes to consider these ideas to get a better understanding of what is needed and wanted.
“The activity is hypothetical,” said Michael Schroeder, the Park Board’s assistant supervisor for planning the evening’s activities. “Dialogue is the key. There is no expectation that any arrangement of uses resulting from the dialogue will be the answer. Rather, it’s the starting point for an extended dialogue, should the current pumping regime change.”
The groups were seated in a circle and given 49 cards printed with ideas for the area and asked to discuss the social and cultural factors, possible revenue and the environmental impact of each. Each group agreed upon which activities they wanted and then arranged their cards on a map placed at the center of each circle placing them on blue (water) or green (dry land) areas of the map. The cards included value numbers, and the total of those could not exceed the value number on the map areas.
Possible activities and new uses included everything from an urban agriculture area for vegetable gardens and fruit and nut trees, a bird sanctuary, an archery range, a dog park, prairie restoration, bee keeping space, a brewpub and restaurant and a skate park. The current 18-hole course or a smaller nine-hole course were options and people could submit their own ideas, as well.
Most who attended used only their first names on their nametags. One group discussed installing groomed trails for winter bicycling, a food forest and public art. But, one attendee named Jim pointed out, “A driving range will bring in money.”
Some advocated for a dog park as part of the mix. Others said that there were already a number of dog parks in the city, pointing out the large off-leash area near Minnehaha Falls. “Going to Minnehaha is such an event,” said a woman named Monica. “I’d like something closer to my house.” The group decided to keep the dog park as an option.
There was also a discussion on what the pumping is doing to the water quality of nearby Lake Hiawatha. “I remember 15 years ago, going to the lake and catching muskies. It was fantastic, but you can’t do that anymore,” said one man.
While some claimed that golf served only an upper income demographic, a number of others were in favor of continuing the current golf course, or at least maintaining a nine-hole course. “I’m not rich, but I have three kids. They all took the Park Board’s golf program during the summer,” Monica said.
Another city-run golf course, Meadowbrook, located in Hopkins, was closed three years ago because of flooding, but repairs are just starting on the course’s sand traps, irrigation system, cart paths, trails and lakeshores. While Meadowbrook was closed, it was used for running and biking, but now the Park Board is asking people to stay off the area while repairs are being made.
So far, Tyler Pederson, the design project manager with the Minneapolis Park Board said that the board has not yet compiled a summary from the meeting. They plan to discuss results and possibilities further at the next meeting on May 18.
[Editor’s Note:  Southside Pride has long said we believe the reason the water table is artificially high is because the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and the Minneapolis Park Board have constructed a dam at 27th Avenue that stops water from Lake Hiawatha from entering the creek.  This artificially raises the water table by as much as 2 feet and is the principal cause of flooding on the Golf Course and neighboring homes.]

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