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Lake Hiawatha Golf Course Pumping and Delta History

By Steve Skaar (former Manager of Hiawatha Golf Course), July 30, 2017.

I still find myself wondering who on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board even cares about golf or our many golfers in the City of Minneapolis. It doesn't seem like there is even one Commissioner on the board that cares about City of Minneapolis golfers. How can this be? How can we have no representative in a city the size of Minneapolis that even cares about golf.

How could the board leave Meadowbrook Golf Course closed for almost three entire years. Meadowbrook normally nets the most of all of the city golf courses. Money must not be of any concern to any of our park commissioners.

Hiawatha Golf Course has been a money making entity for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for almost 83 years (with very few exceptions). Many improvements have been made to the golf course over the years. The addition of a 52-position driving range and learning center was a wonderful addition, not only to the golfer, but to the money the course nets each season. Our First Tee and many other wonderful programs use this area which helps promote golf.

When the City of Minneapolis came to us with a plan to use our pond and pumping system to alleviate flooding problems along the 44th Street corridor, Hiawatha Golf Course worked with the city to accept that water and eventually pump it into Lake Hiawatha through our ponds on the 6th, 7th, 9th, 8th, 1st and 2nd holes. Nobody at the time questioned how much water would be pumped into Lake Hiawatha. Somehow, the water before this eventually would find its way to Minnehaha Creek and Lake Hiawatha one way or another.

Being a former Manager of Hiawatha Golf Course, I was never aware that there was any restriction on the amount of water that could be pumped into Lake Hiawatha. I did know that we had an agreement with the DNR to not pump more than 32 million gallons of water from Lake Hiawatha to water the golf course each year (later a deep well was installed and we actually never did pump any water from Lake Hiawatha to water the golf course).

Lake Hiawatha's water contaminant problem has been wholly caused by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board itself. The delta as Minnehaha Creek enters Lake Hiawatha has not been dredged since 1984! The sand that was taken out in 1984 was used to create fill for Fort Snelling State Park.

Before 1984, the delta at Lake Hiawatha was dredged every ten years or so. In 1972, much of the sand was used as fill for many area paving projects in the area, to build new tees at Hiawatha Golf Course and to build up the area near the lake. In 1973-1974, sand from the delta was used to fill in the north end of Pearl Park for additional soccer fields (that are still being used today).

Through neglect, the MPRB has allowed the delta to overgrow that entire area of the lake. Beavers created dams that changed the entire direction of Minnehaha Creek out into the middle of Lake Hiawatha. This has caused much of the lake to fill in and has greatly degraded the water quality of Lake Hiawatha. The creek used to flow along the south wall of the lake right back into Minnehaha Creek.

I challenge the Board of Park Commissioners to name just one problem that is being created by the amount of water that is currently being pumped into Lake Hiawatha. After all, the water will always end up in the Mississippi River one way or another. I'm not aware of any flooding problems being created after the water re-enters Minnehaha Creek as it leaves Hiawatha.

I believe the current Board of Park Commissioners has not been totally truthful with us at the many meetings that have been held over the past six months. Why are there always more people supporting leaving the 144 acres that Hiawatha sits on as a golf course. And yet, the committee voted 5 to 0 to close the course.

Commissioners: please ask yourselves, why did such respected people such as Theodore Wirth, Francis Gross, Maude Armatage and many others deem it proper to build such a beautiful golf course out of a swampy area in the middle of the city back in 1934. It has been there for 83 years. Please, let's keep it there!!!!