The 2020 Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan


The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s (MPRB) latest Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan is another example of pie-in-the-sky ideas with little ability to pay for them. And it lacks answers for many of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) requests. And, since the CAC has been disbanded by the MPRB, who will now hold the MPRB accountable?
The new golf course plan has fewer water hazards, but it is still challenging, especially for beginners. And noisy activities like the new driving range, pumping station and snow-making machinery will be right across the street from homes.
Reducing pumping has been the MPRB’s reason for getting rid of the 18-hole golf course. In the new plan, the pumping will be moved into the neighborhoods, but no engineering details are given. A new concern is that the golf course will be elevated above the normal water levels of Lake Hiawatha, adding a massive amount of fill to this property (up to 6-8 feet). This does not fit the MPRB’s description of a wetland restoration, and will drastically change the current flood plain. This could trap water in the neighborhoods, and the most important priority for the CAC was protecting the homes from flooding.
The berm between the golf course and Lake Hiawatha was deemed to be unsafe because it could burst and drown golfers. Now the berm will serve as a walking/bike path around Lake Hiawatha, surrounded by water. Will the berm survive with water on both sides, and will it now actually become unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists?
The MPRB proposes three new buildings on the knoll: a restaurant, a small pro shop and a canoe rental. One building for a golf course clubhouse and restaurant with adequate parking should be sufficient. The canoe rental should be on the east side of the lake, not in the middle of the golf course where canoeists can get hit by golf balls.
The reconstruction of the inlet of Minnehaha Creek seems to promote a backup of water, sand, debris and trash at the inlet, which is the opposite of what needs to be done. Water needs to move in and out of the lake quickly, considering the high volumes of water that go through Lake Hiawatha.
This plan would abandon the 43rd Street pipe that runs under the golf course to Lake Hiawatha, and dump storm water into an open channel at 43rd Street and 19th Avenue South. The MPRB states that this new channel will include “an opportunity to reduce flooding in the watershed to the north.” So, the City and MPRB will dump even more water into Lake Hiawatha? Plus, has the grading analysis been done to see if this channel will flow as intended? If it doesn’t work, houses on 19th and 43rd will be the water repository.
Turning part of the 18-hole golf course into a tiny amount of floodplain storage is unlikely to accommodate increased storm water due to expected infrastructure development in Minneapolis and the suburbs, and climate change. This plan just continues 40 years of dumping water on the Hiawatha neighborhood.
The price tag of $43 million appears to be very low considering the massive property alterations that are proposed. The Minneapolis golf courses will pay $11.2 million for construction of the new golf course. The MPRB’s mismanagement of the golf courses over the past 10 years makes it unlikely that they will have this money, especially when Hiawatha’s revenue disappears. And the projected $550,000 in revenue is unlikely. Fort Snelling, a comparable facility, has at best made $350,000 per year. Add in $130,000 from the driving range’s best year, and you might make $480,000.
The $6.35 million cost for the restaurant will be paid for by a restaurateur. With an estimated annual net revenue of $251,000, it will take 25 years to pay off the capital costs. And what partner will pay $4 million for winter sports activities when these activities lose money every year? Other funding includes Wetland Banking, which lets developers and other communities pay to dump their water into Lake Hiawatha. Please, no more water!
And where is the plan for honoring Hiawatha’s African-American golf history? Save Hiawatha 18 says you best honor this history by retaining a championship level 18-hole golf course. A substandard 9-hole golf course says that the Black community is not important enough to deserve a full 18-hole golf course!

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