Response to the 2022 Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan Presentation
March 2, 2022
The Planning Department of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board gave a presentation to the Planning Committee on March 2, 2022 about the Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan.
The following is some additional information about the presentation.
TYLER PEDERSON'S PRESENTATION
The presentation mentioned that the Hiawatha Park project filled in the western portion of park (the golf course) in the 1920's and early 1930's.
The presentation stated that the lake level could not be lowered by dredging the creek.
- Park Board documentation states that dredging of the creek could lower the lake level by up to 1 foot. This would reduce the water seeping back into the golf course through the berm, thus reducing pumping.
- It was stated that the water level of the lake has always been at the current levels and that the golf course has sunk below the level of the water. That is not true. A graph in the Barr documentation shows that the average lake level of Lake Hiawatha has slowly increased since the original dredging in the 1930's (808.2 ft) to its current level in the 2010's (812.8 feet). The question should be why has the lake level increased and what can be done to correct this? .
- Also, some barriers in the outbound creek to dredging were mentioned. One of them has been found to be an abandoned containment structure that serves no purpose anymore and could be removed.
Alternative B was presented as the plan of choice while referencing all of the modeling and studies that were done for this plan.
- Alternative B was a totally different plan than what is currently being proposed.
- Alternative B flooded the whole property. It also had no golf course.
- The current plan would have the new "flood-resistant" and "flood-resiliant" 9-hole golf course. It is totally unknown what the Park Board means by "flood-resistant", but it most certainly has to mean that massive amounts of fill would need to be added to this property to elevate it above the level of Lake Hiawatha to keep the fairways from flooding. In fact, the whole proposed footprint of the 9-hole golf course is below the level of the lake and current berm. How would this massive reconstruction of the golf course property (a flood plain) affect the residential area that currently drains by gravity into this portion of the golf course. Most assuredly, the studies done for protection of the homes are no longer valid due to this radical change in the plan.
- It needs to be noted that Park Board documents state that stopping the pumping at the golf course would affect water levels as far away as Powderhorn Lake, requiring more pumping of water there.
- And, stopping pumping at the golf course would not eliminate pumping; this plan would only move pumping into the neighborhoods at a much higher risk to the residential property.
The 2017 statistics were presented comparing the number of users, and the 2017 cost/benefit analysis for Alternative A (18-hole golf course) versus Alternative B (no golf course), indicating that Alternative B is so much better overall.
- These statistics were for the original plan without a 9-hole golf course and are no longer valid for the current proposal.
QUESTIONS FROM THE COMMISSIONERS
Commissioner Cathy Abene - She made a statement about cleaning up the water.
- Over 99% of the pollution comes from Minnehaha Creek and the 3 or more pipesheds that drain directly into Lake Hiawatha, so removing the golf course will, effectively, do nothing to clean up the lake. Best Management Practice (BMP) should be implemented that mitigates pollution at the sources of the pollution, not the destination.
Commissioner Tom Olsen - He talked about the "original sin" of developing the property into a golf course in the 1920's and 1930's.
- If you look at the history of the development of this property you will see that the property was in the hands of private property owners including farmers, homeowners, speculators and developers. And, the property was rapidly being developed with almost 40 buildings on the property when the Park Board bought it in 1922. Fifteen new homes were built on the property from 1917 to 1922. So, this property was rapidly being sub-divided, platted and developed. Theodore Wirth stopped that development and preserved this landscape as park land for the people of Minneapolis, retaining the basic landscape with some modifications. Theodore Wirth had plans to divert Minnehaha Creek through Lake Nokomis, bypassing Rice Lake, if he was not allowed to acquire Rice Lake. This would have left the Rice Lake property open for even more massive development. So, we can only speculate what this property would have become in the hands of private developers. Theodore Wirth deserves praise for saving this now beloved piece of property.
Commissioner Billy Menz - He asked why pumping has increased from 300 to 400 million gallons in the past few years.
- Mr. Schroeder's response talked about adding groundwater testing wells, which is true. But, his response was unclear as to what this has to do with the increase in water being pumped, unless it was just to say that the Park Board Planning Department doesn't currently know why the levels have increased?
- He also talked about a ridge that is impeding water flow. It is unclear what ridge he was talking about. Currently, a ridge is being studied that may be trapping water at Lake Nokomis.
- He also talked about a study that is coming out. Publishing of this white paper about Lake Nokomis and the watershed is currently being reviewed by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.
- Mr. Schroeder's response reflects what we have been saying all along; there is so little knowledge of the hydrology of this area and the effects of making any changes.
Commissioner Becky Alpers - She asked about the potential water problems in the basements of nearby homes.
Mr. Schroeder stated that these homes were built in a dry period in the 1920's and 1030's. That is not correct.
Many of these at-risk homes were built in the 1940's or later. For example:
- 4300 block of 19th Ave. S. - 1 built in 1914, 3 built in the 1920's, 8 built in the 1940's, 2 built in the 1950's
- 4400 block of Longfellow Ave. - 6 built in 1920's, 5 built in the 1940's, 1 built in the 1980's
- 4400 block of Cedar Ave. - 4 built in the 1920's, 1 built in 1940, 19 built in the 1950's, 1 built in 1960
- And, the Park Board documents say that one house on our block WILL NOT be protected. Its basement is 2 feet lower than the nearby homes, and it is specifically excluded from flood protection.
Commissioner Steffanie Musich - She brought up a case in Minneapolis where the Park Board stopped a homeowner from pumping water into one of the Minneapolis lakes.
- She seemed to be saying that this allows the Park Board to stop pumping at the golf course anytime that they want? But, the cited case was a private entity dumping water for their own personal benefit, and the golf course is a public entity pumping water for a public purpose.
Commissioner Cathy Abene - She stated that the development of the Hiawatha Park property would not be allowed today.
- Maybe so. But, that doesn't change the fact that the surrounding neighborhood is not what it was in the 1920's, and the Park Board has a responsibility to do the right thing for the people in this neighborhood. The Park Board needs to deal with what they have now.
Commissioner Elizabeth Shaffer - She asked about losing more trees on the property.
- Hundreds of trees have already been lost on the property over the past 20-30 years, many to disease, and new trees have not been planted. This project would get rid of more, just when they are needed to abate climate change and to absorb water.
- Some of the existing trees are memorials paid for by people to memorialize their family members or friends. This includes a tree memorializing Park Board Commissioner Edward Solomon, one of the first Black Park Board Commissioners.
Commissioner Elizabeth Shaffer - She asked about how the water would be kept off of the 9-hole golf course.
Mr. Schroeder said that in 2014 it took 2-3 months to remove the water from the golf course because they couldn't get the water out due to the berm. This is not true.
- Hiawatha Golf Course was closed on June 14, 2014 due to the flood.
- The driving range was reopened 18 days later on July 2nd, 2014, meaning the water had been pumped out of the golf course.
- Hiawatha's front 9 was reopened 41 days after the flood on July 25th, 2014.
- The back 9 reopened on June 5, 2016.
- We believe that the Park Board kept the back 9 closed so that they could get a FEMA award of $1.1 million which was obtained but never used to repair damage to the Hiawatha Golf Course. It was spent at Gross Golf Course for a new roof and windows, and at Theodore Wirth Park for repairs there.
- Mr. Schroeder also said that certain elements of the golf course would be elevated above the 100-year flood level to protect them. That is already done on the 18 hole golf course today, so this already exists.
- What wasn't addressed is how the Park Board will protect the fairways of the new 9-hole golf course. The current property is below the normal level of the lake, which is why there is a protective berm. So, without the berm, this new golf course would have to be elevated above the level of the lake which would require elevating over half of the current golf course property. So, how much of the flood plain capacity will be lost???? And, those who want the property to go back to what it was will be sorely disappointed to find out that the property will be radically changed and reconstructed far more than Theodore Wirth ever did?
- Meadowbrook Golf Course also pumps water over a protective berm. This water ends up in Minnehaha Creek, and eventually ends up in Lake Hiawatha.
Commissioner Elizabeth Shaffer - She asked how the health of Lake Hiawatha intersects with the rest of the watershed.
- Statements were given about balancing recreation with the environment, and re-establishing the ecology of Rice Lake. This ignores the massive changes in the watershed that have pummeled Minnehaha Creek and Lake Hiawatha over the past 80+ years. Lake Hiawatha cannot be the answer to the problems created by the whole watershed.
- A comprehensive approach needs to be taken with all communities being involved and taking responsibility for their own water and pollution mitigation. A perfect example is Richfield which has a flocculation facility to remove phosphorus from their water before it passes to Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis.
- The Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan ignores and violates the equity goals established by the Metropolitan Council.
Commissioner Becka Thompson - She asked if a study has been done regarding the trash coming from the 43rd street pipe.
- Mr. Schroeder talked about the plan to daylight the pipe across the street from the homes. He doesn't reveal that all this would do is put trash into the ditch through the golf course. If a grit chamber is installed, it would capture the sinkable trash, but not the floatables. So, who will clean up this ditch running through the golf course?
- A grit chamber could be installed right now by the City of Minneapolis to catch much of the trash. Why not do it now?
- Mr. Schroeder also stated that water backs up into the 43rd street pipe which can produce bacteria. What wasn't said is the reason why the pipe backs up. It is because the lake level is now higher than when the pipe was originally installed. This is another reason to look for ways to mitigate the volume of water that is dumped into Lake Hiawatha from the City of Minneapolis and the rest of the watershed so that the lake level can be lowered.
Commissioner Becka Thompson - She asked how much water is pumped from Lake of the Isles.
- Mr. Schroeder said that he didn't think there was any pumping done at Lake of the Isles. Ms. Thompson then asked where the water drains. Mr. Schroeder said that the water flows through the Chain of Lakes to Minnehaha Creek, and then through Lake Hiawatha. This just reinforces the idea that Lake Hiawatha is everyone's dumping ground for water.