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Upper Post transformation: vacant buildings to affordable housing

Posted on 18 December 2018 by calvin

(Concept illustration provided)

Located on 47 acres, developers believe it will feel more like a neighborhood than an apartment complex

Nearly 160 years after their construction, the brick buildings at the Upper Fort Snelling Post will once again house military families.

Vacant and abandoned for decades, 26 buildings are being renovated through a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and a private development firm, Dominium.

“We’re excited to be focusing on housing low-income veterans at this site by having a veteran’s preference,” pointed out Mark C. Lambing of Dominium.

“By having a high count of three- and four-bedroom units, we believe that the redevelopment is going to attract families with children. Because the site is located on 47 acres and contains a large amount of green space, it will be a great place to raise a family. Upper Post Flats will feel more like a neighborhood than an apartment complex.”

Photo right: The Upper Post was once the military capital of the Dakotas, and George Armstrong Custer’s superior officer commanded there for a time. It served the armed forces from the Spanish American War until after the dropping of the atomic bomb. It was also home to the Japanese Language School for the entire U.S. military during World War II. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

In all, about 176 units of affordable housing will be created in the historic buildings at the Fort Snelling Upper Post, near the Fort Snelling Golf Course and Historic Fort Snelling. The development is tucked into a corner of the last unincorporated part of Hennepin County bordered by Hwys 62 and 5 and the airport.

Fills affordable housing need
“This is an outstanding example of a public-private partnership with important benefits for Minnesotans,” said Gov. Mark Dayton in a release issued by his office. “It comes at a time when there is a great need for affordable housing.”

A report by the Governor’s Task Force on Housing, published in August, called for the creation of 300,000 new affordable housing units by 2030.

Rents will be restricted to residents who make 60% of the area median income and below. Currently, those rents range from around $1,000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment to around $1,500 a month for a four-bedroom duplex.

Photo left: In all, about 176 units of affordable housing will be created in the historic buildings at the Fort Snelling Upper Post, near the Fort Snelling Golf Course and Historic Fort Snelling. The development is tucked into a corner of the last unincorporated part of Hennepin County bordered by Hwys 62 and 5 and the airport. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“There’s a great need for affordable housing throughout the metro area in general,” stated Lambing. “The Met Council found that only 1 in 7 units of housing created in the region during 2016 were affordable for those that make 60% of the area median income. The site’s proximity to the Fort Snelling Light Rail Station provides access to large employment hubs such as downtown Minneapolis, MSP Airport, and The Mall of America. The easy highway access also offers convenience to those that commute by car.”

To open in 2021
Upper Post Flats is expected to open to its first residents in 2021, and units will be available for rent on a rolling basis as the buildings are complete, pointed out Lambing.

The project will be segmented into multiple zones that will be worked on concurrently by the various trades.

The $100 million project is being financed through a combination of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, Federal and State Historic Tax Credits, tax-exempt bonds through Hennepin County, and other sources.

About half of the project bill will go towards historic preservation.

Photo right: Vacant and abandoned for decades, 26 buildings are being renovated through a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and a private development firm, Dominium. Veterans will receive priority in these affordable housing units. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The first step is to assess all 26 buildings to identify elements of historical significance. At the same time, Dominium is evaluating the current state and structural integrity of the buildings so that its construction scope is accurate.

“Next is figuring out how to fit apartments into buildings that were built for other purposes, which can be tricky and time-consuming,” explained Lambing. “Then you have to abate the asbestos and lead-based paint throughout the site to make sure that there is nothing is hazardous to future residents.”

Lambing added, “After this, it’s a matter of implementing the new design through the construction process while dealing with all the unforeseen issues that might arise—which is typical for a project of this nature.”

Next steps will include finalizing the design and seeking approval from the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office. Dominium expects to close on financing by late summer or early fall 2019.

Under the agreement, the state of Minnesota retains ownership of the site, but all management and operation of the buildings and site amenities will be Dominium’s responsibility per a 99-year lease.

An important part of history
“The buildings are an important part of Minnesota’s and the U.S. Military’s history,” remarked Lambing. “The history of the site, in addition to the craftsmanship used to construct these buildings, make it irreplaceable and deserving to be saved.”

Photo left: The infantry quarters of Fort Snelling Upper Post, 1908. (Photo provided)

Beyond the visible history, the archaeology on site is also an important element to consider, observed Lambing. “Because of the age of the site, the ground has kept a record of all the activity that has taken place. We have to be much more aware of what we’re doing to the ground than a typical new construction project.” Dominium will work with archaeologists to document what is hidden in the soil and better understand potential impacts that construction might have on the site.

In 2006, the Upper Post was named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Most Endangered Places list.

The Upper Post was once the military capital of the Dakotas, and George Armstrong Custer’s superior officer commanded there for a time. It served the armed forces from the Spanish American War until after the dropping of the atomic bomb. It was also home to the Japanese Language School for the entire U.S. military during World War II.

The land was transferred from the military to the VA and then to the DNR in the 1970s.

Vacant and boarded up for decades
The buildings were in rough shape, and one fell down ten years ago. Hennepin County Commissioner District 4 Peter McLaughlin, chair of the Fort Snelling Upper Post Task Force, recalled bringing Sentence-To-Service crews out to stabilize the structures by boarding up windows, fixing roofs, and repairing downspouts.

Patrick Connoy, retired manager of development for Hennepin County, pointed out that many people and organizations came together over the years to provide stopgap measures to prevent additional decay while waiting for someone to rehabilitate the buildings for a new use. Among those were the Friends of Fort Snelling, the Minnesota Historical Society, Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, National Park Service, DNR, and more, with Hennepin County taking the lead to pull resources and people together.

“Everybody helped as much as they could,” observed Connoy. “‘They’ in this case was a lot of people committed to doing something and working together.”

In 2011, the county also began working with others to create a plan for redevelopment, Light Rail Transit, and Upper Post master plan.

While the condition of the buildings is a challenge for development, with structures ranging from pretty good to collapsed, Dominium has a top team of architects and construction professionals. “We’re confident in our ability to breathe life back into the site,” said Lambing.

Past Dominium projects have included Schmidt Brewery on W. Seventh St. in St. Paul, the Pillsbury A-Mill in Minneapolis, Millworks Lofts at 4041 Hiawatha Ave. in Longfellow, and other historic landmarks.

‘Can hardly wait’
“The DNR is pleased to be working with Dominium on this redevelopment project, and we can hardly wait to see these beautiful old buildings occupied again after standing empty for so long,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

“We’d like to thank the DNR for their help in getting this project one step closer to fruition,” said Lambing. “Without this close public-private partnership this project would not be possible.”

Anyone interested in living at the Upper Post can visit to join the insider’s list.






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A group of retirees gathers monthly to tell their ‘elder stories’

Posted on 18 December 2018 by calvin

Members of the monthly discussion group Elder Voices gathered on the last Friday of November at Turtle Bread in Longfellow. Their next meeting date is Jan. 25, and they welcome newcomers to come and share their “elder story.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

A group of retirees gathers at Turtle Bread in the Longfellow neighborhood on the last Friday of every month from 10-11:30am to ask the question, “What has been your elder story?” That question can bring up as many different responses as there are people gathered around the table, but there does tend to be a common thread.

A newcomer to the November gathering put it best: “If I were to give out one piece of advice, it would be that you really need to have a plan for retirement. Not just a financial plan, but also a plan for how to use your time wisely.” She continued, “I had a great career as an elementary school teacher, but decided to take fairly early retirement. My adult children didn’t live nearby, and most of my friendships were connected with my job. It was kind of a rough transition into retirement. I’ve landed on my feet by being involved in the community. I’m a tutor at Hiawatha Elementary, where my granddaughter goes. I participate in a knitting group and a book club at the Nokomis Library. One of the best things I ever did was to join OLLI (the Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning) at the U of M. OLLI offers hundreds of courses each year in history, art, and architecture, science, business, economics, world cultures, and more. Enrollment costs $240/year, and you can take an unlimited number of classes.”

This informal exchange of ideas and resources is what fuels Elder Voices, and it can help people whose retirement plan is still in progress. The group is fairly small: Don Hammen, Marcea Mariani, and DeWayne Townsend are the core members. The three had been meeting monthly for breakfast for years and found themselves gravitating toward issues of retirement and aging.

Hammen got the idea to make their breakfast group public after participating in a project last summer called Multicultural Elder Dialogues. He was one of 300+ diverse elders across the state who gathered to answer questions about physical and mental health, access to health care, housing, safety, economic security, family relationships, transportation and mobility, and the importance of community. “That experience made me wonder why don’t we have a forum to discuss these kinds of questions in our own neighborhood,” Hammen said.

Mariani, who is a past board treasurer and president for the Longfellow Community Council, added, “While some people fall into a natural rhythm with retirement, many do not. If there is a void, as we call it, a group like Elder Voices can be a comfortable place to ask questions or offer help to others.”

Elder Voices will continue to meet monthly in 2019, with the next meeting Jan. 25, and newcomers are welcome. They hope to eventually share some of their stories and concerns with the City of Minneapolis Advisory Committee on Aging.
Turtle Bread is located at 4205 E. 34th St.



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Longfellow School celebrates its 100th anniversary

Posted on 18 December 2018 by calvin

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
On Dec. 6 former and present staff, students, and neighbors gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Longfellow High School at 3017 E. 31st St. When the building was constructed in 1918, World War I had just ended; the word teenager hadn’t been invented yet; zippers were a shining innovation; and, a loaf of bread cost seven cents.

To begin the anniversary celebration, visitors were invited to peruse memory books and photo albums that marked decades from the past. Classrooms were open for viewing, and tables in the hallway were staffed by several of the programs that currently make Longfellow a successful school: Teen Parent Services, High 5, Early Childhood Education, Holy Trinity Church, Project Success, AchieveMPLS, and Check & Connect.

Since 2008, Longfellow has been a community school for pregnant and parenting students and their children. For the first 83 years of is existence, it served as one of the neighborhood elementary schools. As Minneapolis Public Schools superintendent Ed Graff said, “A community is reflected in its schools.” That sentiment was reiterated through the stories of every speaker who followed.

Former student Aswar Rahman (now a small business owner, digital director, and recent mayoral candidate) arrived at Longfellow Elementary School when he was just six years old. “From the first moment I entered the school, I was welcomed here – as was my sister,” he said. “We were immigrants from Bangladesh, India. My mom was fleeing an abusive relationship, and this school was our first sanctuary.”

Rahman went on to explain that his mom had been a school principal in their home country, but her credentials weren’t recognized when they came to America. She had to start her education over again. Rahman said, “It makes me so happy to see Dr. Udapa as the principal of this school because she looks just like my mom.”

Dr. Udapa has been in her position for the past six years.

Longfellow High School wishes to thank the following local businesses for their support of the anniversary celebration: Jakeeno’s, McDonald’s, Saint’s Food Service, Walgreens, the Longfellow Market, Parkway Pizza, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, and Big Bell Ice Cream.

Photo left: Lauren Tolbert, staff member and event organizer, thumbed through one of the albums of memories and photographs.





Photo right: Minneapolis Public Schools superintendent Ed Graff asked for a show of hands from the audience in response to his question, “How many of you worked here at one time over the years?” About 1/3 of the audience raised a hand.

Photo left: Geneva Dorsey, dean of students, commented on the supportive and encouraging atmosphere of the school. On her t-shirt is the school mascot: a kangaroo with a baby in her pouch.







Photo right: Former student Aswar Rahman looked out over the audience during his comments and said, “I wonder if by any chance my first-grade teacher is here? Her name was Miss Emy.” Emy Mariano, now a teacher at Sheridan Elementary School in North Minneapolis, was seated in the third row.




Photo left: Former music teacher Amy Furman sang the old Longfellow Elementary School song.

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Firehouse Performing Arts to open Mission Room alongside Hook & Ladder

Posted on 18 December 2018 by calvin

Logo for FPAC, Mission Room and The Hook and Ladder Theater & Lounge. (Image provided)

As early as March, a new venue space will open inside the old Firehouse 21 building at Lake St. and Minnehaha Ave. Called The Mission Room, it will be a performance and gallery space to serve local visual, literary, spoken-word, singer-songwriter and multi-media performance artists, as well as host community meetings, fundraisers and events.

Firehouse Performing Arts Center (FPAC) Executive Director Chris Mozena, sees this as filling a gap in the performing arts community.

“It certainly wasn’t part of the original plan to be pursuing an expansion within two years of opening,” said Mozena. But since their opening in 2016, several other venues closed—Bedlam Theatre, Triple Rock Social Club, Intermedia Arts—and The Hook and Ladder kept on booking. In just two years, they have presented more than 4,000 local, regional and national performing artists and helped numerous nonprofits raise funds for their organizations.

“Due to circumstances we had to pick up the slack,” said Mozena. “Here we are, two years later, and we’re still saying ‘no’ more than we’re saying ‘yes’ to performers.”

Photo right: Chris Mozena, Executive Director of Firehouse Performing Arts Center, outside the red brick building that will soon house the Mission Room next to The Hook and Ladder Theater & Lounge. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

This speaks to a demand for more artist and community space, but it also speaks to a demand for a “different” space. The Hook’s capacity is just shy of 300, which is a lot more than is needed for some events. With a 100-guest capacity, the Mission Room will be a better fit for some artists and performers. Some book readings, spoken word or singer-songwriter performances, and community meetings may benefit from a more intimate setting. It also gives the FPAC room to support startup and experimental works.

“The smaller space will lend itself to these kinds of activities,” said Mozena. “It’s a way to meet our commitment to community and to our mission.”

The Mission Room will be in the space formerly used by Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre, who is moving to a new nearby location. It’s the red brick section with an entrance from the south side parking lot. The venue will require a basic interior remodel to make the space accessible, both physically and regarding proximity of artists to their audience. The raised dance floor used by Zorongo and the tin ceiling will be removed. A small stage will be built, acoustic, lighting and aesthetic improvements made, and new seating added.

The concept is for it to be a hybrid gallery and performance space. They plan to utilize eight to a dozen six-foot wide, two-and-a half-foot deep plexiglass casters to showcase non-performing arts.

“Some artists work in 2D or 3D pieces of art,” said Mozena. “Each one would be available to monetize their work.”

Mozena would also like to house a box office there so that patrons can avoid processing credit cards online, with tickets for any FPAC venue shows available.

“What we’re hoping is to look for a synergy of performances, crossover from one theater to another,” he said. “Three stops [including the small MPLS stage within The Hook], one venue.”

FPAC has held numerous fundraisers for community groups, like the benefits for the Roosevelt Theater program, Water Mission, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and Standing Rock, and the Mission Room will open up more opportunities.

“We’ve been the nonprofit helping other nonprofits,” said Mozena. “We just want them to engage artists in some way.”

FPAC relies heavily on sales of tickets and beer, individual donations as well as volunteer hours to put on the shows they have. At the time of this writing, they’d received about 60% of their fundraising goal for the Mission Room. Donations are still welcome and being accepted on their giveMN page under Firehouse Performing Arts Center.

The first week of January, The Hook will be dark as they make improvements to the bar that will allow them to get a spirits license. A few highlights after that are: Jan. 10, Bedroom Floor Body Positive Fashion Show and Cabaret; Jan. 24, Growler Gala to benefit Roosevelt Theater; Jan. 25 ouTposT performance by MN Orchestra musicians. Check their calendar for more.





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Roosevelt HS to grow indigenous garden and cooking program

Posted on 18 December 2018 by calvin

Teachers at Roosevelt High School are teaming up to create a farm-to-table system that celebrates indigenous food. A new Three Sisters garden, along with a perennial community garden and a ramped up culinary arts program promise to serve students and the community alike. The program will showcase the farm and food systems.

“I think it will very much be almost a complete closed local community food system,” said ESL and Food Educator Ben Rengstorf. “It will be an example of how food can travel through the food system and back.”

Photo right: Teachers Ben Rengstorf and Shannon Nordby outside the Roosevelt Urban Farm greenhouse. (Photo courtesy of Roosevelt HS)

From farm …
The Roosevelt Urban Farm (RUF) squad, which began about five years ago as an after-school program and is now a science elective, has been cultivating a number of gardens, each with its unique features. In front of the school’s main entrance on 28th Ave. is an old piano that has been turned into a planter.

Along the same front face of the building is a turtle garden, whose benches and eventually the whole thing will be covered by Minnesota river grapes. Next to that is a greenhouse signposted with the letters RUF, where strawberries are currently grown.

There’s also a fully-planted rain garden on the northwest side, another area where they’ve added plants and food trees, including cranberries, blueberries, and serviceberries. Indoors they have aquaponics labs, wherein tilapia and koi fish provide natural fertilizer for the beans and spinach grown in the garden. And they’re getting specs to add a hydroponics (without fish) lab.

“Everything we grow we sell to the lunchroom,” said Shannon Nordby, an indigenous teacher at Roosevelt specializing in urban farming science. This is done through a partnership with Spark-Y, who handles the transaction between RUF and the lunchroom.

All of it provides a hands-on farming experience that is available because it is on the school campus.

“It’s really hard to get kids to go off site sometimes,” said Nordby. Being here is a “much better place to be able to participate.”

Photo left: Members of the Roosevelt High School Beacons cooking club. (Photo courtesy of Roosevelt HS)

The new Three Sisters garden, which will be on the east side of the school building, will add yet another dimension. An indigenous planting method, the Three Sisters—maize (corn), beans and squash—are planted to benefit one another. According to Nordby, pole beans climb up the corn and also put nitrogen back into the soil. Squash protects the garden from raccoons and other pests because of the sharp parts on their vines, and it also provides shade.

The Three Sisters garden is what most excites Nordby, who is Native American, and tries to weave in as many indigenous methods as possible. This year, in teaching other ways to look at Thanksgiving, she talked about the many early indigenous foods that were passed along.

“So I made them wild rice, and they tasted it,” she said. They continue to try different foods and buy indigenous seeds.

… To table
An alumnus from St. Paul Culinary Arts Program, Rengstorf already has a hand in teaching cooking at the school. But what has been offered as part of a Beacons after school club will now move into the school day—next semester as an elective for students in Rengstorf’s ESL program, and next year, as a general elective for all students.

Rengstorf’s interests lie in teaching food traditions and culturally relevant food, examining the indigenous food system of each place, be it East Africa, Latin America or South America. An emphasis on Native American food traditions from this region will fit right in.

“We’ll be doing lots of crossover between what they’re doing and what we’re cooking, having students interact across the classes,” said Rengstorf.

Photo right: Members of the Roosevelt Urban Farm squad in front of the turtle garden. (Photo courtesy of Roosevelt HS)

The plan is to get food grown in the garden. Nordby’s classes will care for the garden. They can all harvest together. The cooking classes will produce food that they can then eat together. They’ll then recover food scraps and return them to the garden to nourish the soil. They’ll decide what they’ll eat right away versus preserve, for example by drying beans or canning and freezing corn. They’ll use foods seasonally in ways that represent a more traditional food system in contrast to today’s global system that ships bananas and other non-native produce across vast distances.

But Rengstorf plans to take the instruction even further and incorporate a broad range of experiences by bringing in chefs from around Minneapolis-St. Paul and the surrounding area to share their expertise.

The class will be set up to share food histories and a recipe from local chefs including Diné Chef Brian Yazzie of Yazzie The Chef, Doug Flicker of Bull’s Horn, Ruhel Islam of Gandhi Mahal, among others, who will also help students cook the food. Students will then take that inspiration to talk about their own food histories and foods they want to explore.

“We’ll always reflect their experience and expertise back to students,” said Rengstorf.

This type of shared experience was evident in a recent cooking class, in which tacos were on the menu. They prepared everything, from cooking the meat, chopping up vegetables for the pico de gallo, to making tortillas. “[The students] knew things they had learned from their families about how soft the dough is supposed to be, how to flip it,” Rengstorf said.

The indigenous garden and kitchen program is the result of a collaboration with the Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association (SENA), Ryan Seibold (Hiawatha Food Forest) and other community partners with interest in new permaculture gardens featuring native plants and food species.

As a community garden and kitchen that will be open to the community, it will take a lot of hands. SENA will remain a partner in designing and caring for the project.

Those interested in supporting Roosevelt’s Three Sisters garden and culinary arts program by volunteering or donating expertise, equipment or funds can contact Ben Rengstorf at Roosevelt High School.

A farm and food summit is planned for April 23 at the school that will bring students and community organizations together for panels, workshops and a meal activity under the theme “food justice.”






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Standish-Ericsson boy battles rare polio-like illness

Posted on 18 November 2018 by calvin

Four-year-old Orville’s right arm is paralyzed and both legs affected by Acute Flaccid Myelitis; benefit set Dec. 16

Pressing on after a life-changing event takes a village, and Standish-Ericsson residents Elaine and Michael Young are so grateful for theirs.

In the aftermath of their young son’s paralysis and hospitalization, the family has been amazed at how supportive and giving people have been, despite the family only having lived in Minnesota for a few years.

“Thanks to everyone for everything,” stated Elaine. “Having people drop off meals and stuff has been so helpful.”

Suddenly paralyzed
The summer began like any other, and the Youngs kept busy with friends and outings.

On July 4, 2018, all four members in the family were sick with a cold, but Elaine didn’t think much of it. Six-year-old Audrey seemed the sickest, and three-year-old

Orville just had a runny nose and a cough. Then on Tues., July 10, Orville started running a fever of 101 degrees. His mom wondered if it was a urinary tract infection and began treating it with over-the-counter medications. When it still hadn’t gone away by Friday, she began debating whether or not to bring him in before she flew out of town for a visit with family in Northern California that weekend. They had spent the morning playing at the neighbors, and Orville went out for the mail when they got home.

That’s when Elaine noticed that his right hand was just hanging there.

“Buddy, can you raise your arm?” she asked him.

He couldn’t.

Elaine moved fast, and within minutes they were in the car, heading to the only hospital the recent transplant to Minnesota knew in the area, the Masonic Children’s Hospital.

Elaine says she already knew what this was—Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM), a rare, polio-like condition caused when enteroviruses invade the nervous system and target the spinal cord.

She had been pregnant with Orville in 2014 when there were several cases in California that hit the news, and she’d read up on it.

Photo left: Standish-Ericsson resident Orville Young refers to his paralyzed right arm as his “wonky arm.” Orville has therapy appointments at Gillette Children Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul four times a week, and is likely to have surgery in January to move a nerve to help stimulate movement in his paralyzed arm. A youth art show benefit to pay for medical bills is being planned for Dec. 16, 3-6 p.m., at the Public Functionary, 1400 12th Ave. NE, Minneapolis. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

By July 13, the doctors also suspected AFM because of the inflammation in Orville’s spinal cord that showed up on an MRI, although it wasn’t officially confirmed by the CDC until November.

None of the treatments they tried in the hospital worked.

“They sent us home with a kid who couldn’t walk,” recalled Elaine.

Orville and AFM
Back home, Orville’s family noticed the stark difference between what he used to be able to do and what he could do now.

His right arm wasn’t working. Everything but the hand was paralyzed.

His right leg was extremely weak. He tripped and fell a lot. His right trunk muscles were weak so getting up was hard.

Because Orville’s entire spine had been inflamed, both of his arms and legs were weak at first, but some movement came back within the first two weeks as the inflammation went down.

Later, they realized that his left leg had also been affected, and he can’t stand on his tiptoes or heels. He often catches his foot and trips when he’s moving fast.

Four months out, his stamina is still low, and he tires quickly.

Photo right: At home, mother Elaine (left) and father Michael hook four-year-old Orville Young up to an electrical stimulator while he plays video games. He gets the stimulation twice a day for 15 minutes at a time. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Orville, who turned four a month after he got sick, had been pretty independent. Now he has trouble dressing or feeding himself. He is right-handed, so opening doors is difficult. Pulling up his pants is really hard.

Orville’s right bicep and deltoid are completely flaccid and have not contracted even once since he got sick. Elaine has begun noticing that his right arm is smaller than the other.

His right hip remains weak. If he jumps off something and lands a certain way, it’s likely that his right leg will buckle.

‘It’s just a cold’ has new meaning
Life after Orville’s illness has taken on a new routine. They juggle Orville’s various appointments with research and have been grateful for meals and babysitting from friends and family.

“I have a 9-5 job spending time on the phone,” acknowledged Elaine, who is a stay-at-home mom who homeschools their children. “I keep my ringer on now.”
She’s also “constantly paranoid,” she admitted.

“The term, ‘It’s just a cold’ means a whole lot more to me now,” agreed Michael.

Orville refers to his right arm as his “wonky arm.” His parents said he’s pretty good about maintaining a positive spirit about his many appointments although he does get tired of it all sometimes.

Orville goes to therapy at Gillette Children Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul four times a week. He rides a functional electrical stimulation bike and uses a robotic exoskeleton arm. He’s started therapy in a pool and picked out a fun swim cap and bathrobe to use. They play games and try different things, but there isn’t a set protocol for this and no guarantee that it will help, according to Elaine.

At home, he is hooked up to an electrical stimulator twice a day for 15 minutes at a time.

He’s about to get a brace on his left leg to use for long walks to help keep him from falling so much.

While they work with occupational and physical therapists, Elaine and Michael are also meeting with specialists who have successfully treated this type of paralysis with a nerve transfer. For instance, they take a coughing muscle and move it to the arm and then work to rewire the brain. The Youngs anticipate a surgery in January at either Philadelphia Shriners or in California. It will take 6-12 months after surgery to know how effective it is.

“The hope is that he can regain function,” remarked Elaine. “But even then he’ll probably never regain 100 percent.”

Photo left: Orville Young, age four, goes to therapy at Gillette Children Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul four times a week. “The hope is that he can regain function,” remarked his mother, Elaine. “But even then he’ll probably never regain 100 percent.” (Photo submitted by Elaine E. Eller Young)

When paralysis like this happens at such a young age, the arm doesn’t grow as it should, and some of the kids affected have undergone amputations.

Elaine said she was glad Orville’s doctor was straightforward with them and didn’t sugarcoat things. “But I also decided he was going to be wrong. I was going to do everything in my power to make him wrong,” she stated.

A fine line to walk
Michael and Elaine are happy that Orville has a lot of body positivity, and tells others, “I’m a buff guy.” They started nicknaming him “Lefty” to pay attention to his strong left arm, but Orville batted back, “No, call me Righty.”

The couple acknowledges that they have a fine line to walk between pushing Orville to regain function and accepting him for who he is now and letting him just be a kid.

“We can’t forget the other parts of him,” said Michael, who is a special educator at Groves Academy. “I want him to be body positive and pro-disability.”
They are glad that they will be able to tap into a larger network of people, including polio survivors, to make sure Orville has a community of people who understand the challenges he faces.

Michael doesn’t think his son understands yet how permanent the paralysis is.

One of the hardest things for him and Elaine was a few weeks out from Orville’s hospitalization when they realized how little control they have over this illness. “We can’t protect him from it,” Michael stated. “We can’t promise him that we can make it better.”

Elaine has found support in a Facebook group populated by families from around the world who are dealing with this polio-like illness.

“There are cases from 30 years ago,” Elaine pointed out. “This isn’t a new thing. The new thing is the numbers. It’s happening in larger amounts.”

To help spread awareness and work on solutions, the Youngs and other Minnesota families met with Senator Amy Klobuchar and staff from the Minnesota Department of Health in October.

About AFM
Overall, the Youngs feel lucky that Orville’s case was mild as it has been. Others can’t walk.

Most people affected by AFM are children under the age of 10. While the polio vaccine guards against poliovirus (a type of enterovirus), there is no vaccine for the strain of enterovirus that Orville contracted. Symptoms may include facial-muscle weakness, issues moving the eyes or droopy eyelids, issues in swallowing, or slurred speech. It can also lead to paralysis, respiratory issues, and death.

There have been two cases of AFM in Minnesota in July, and another seven from the end of September/beginning of October. The kids have nothing in common, did not come in contact with each other, and come from all over the state, observed Elaine.

Parents are advised to keep a watchful eye for AFM symptoms and bring a child to the doctor immediately if they experience any limb weakness, facial drooping, and trouble swallowing or speaking.

More at

Benefit for Orville planned
A benefit youth art show for Orville the Awesome is being planned for Sun., Dec. 16, 3-6pm at the Public Functionary, 1400 12th Ave. NE, Minneapolis. (

This will be a celebration of art and community with live bluegrass music from No Man’s String Band, face painting from homeschooler Jesica Gibson of Painted Imagination, and a silent auction and raffle featuring art, handmade goods, tickets, passes, and gift baskets.

Admission is a suggested $5. Proceeds will go towards Orville’s medical bills.

The event is being organized by South Minneapolis resident Jenna Bergendahl, who is part of the homeschool group, Little Urban Explorers, that the Youngs are also members of.

“I think part of being in community with each other is helping each other, and I love the idea of the homeschool community coming together for each other in this way,” stated Bergendahl.

She has been delighted by the response of homeschoolers and community members who have donated items to be in the silent auction and raffle, as well as those who have opted to be part of the youth art show.

In addition to individual submissions, courageous heARTS at 2235 E. 38th St. is involved.

“I hope this will be a powerful experience for the kids—not only to have their art treated with the kind of respect usually reserved for adult, professional artists—but also to know that they made a donation to a local family with their submission and to see a little bit of that impact at the show,” remarked Bergendahl.

“I know many parents are looking for ways to engage their kids in the community, and helping them see themselves as people who contribute, share, and lend what they can to others. I think that this event will be a very hands-on, tangible way for young people to see what’s possible when we come together for each other. It’s also going to be a lot of fun!”

Photo right: A Go Fund Me page has also been set up for the family to help purchase a child-size functional electrical stimulation bike for Orville to use at home. Right now he’s just able to ride the one at Gillette once a week. Learn more at As of Messenger press time they had raised $15,147. (Photo by Elaine E. Eller Young)


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Min Hi Line linear park becoming a reality in Longfellow

Posted on 18 November 2018 by calvin

After years of talking about a protected path for biking and walking, coalition delighted to see first sections going in

A pilot project identified early on is near the General Mills grain elevators at 3716 Dight Ave. The site was recently sold to Hayes Harlow Development, who is also working on a development at 46th St. and Minnehaha Ave. This graphic illustrates what the linear path could look like in the area. (Graphic courtesy of the Minnesota Design Center)

Standing in front of Longfellow House next to Minnehaha Falls Regional Park, one can see it is a straight shot up the train tracks to the Midtown Greenway and then downtown Minneapolis.

“It is an inspiring view. No great leap of imagination is required to envision how wonderful it will be to have a protected wide path for recreation—biking, walking, gardens—that connects Minnehaha Falls Park to the Midtown Greenway in that rail corridor,” remarked Cora Peterson.

Photo right: The Min Hi Line is a piece that would connect to the Greenway and a larger network around the Twin Cities. Organizers support extending the Midtown Greenway over the Short Line Bridge to St. Paul. (Graphic courtesy of the Min Hi Line Coalition)

A few years ago, she banded together with other South Minneapolis residents to dream about a path that would do just that.

The Min Hi Line Coalition aims for a protected, purpose-built, multi-use path for walking, biking, and other moderately paced people-powered transit, as well as park space in the wider areas of the corridor, explained Peterson, who grew up in Nokomis. There are opportunities for gardens, playground equipment, and art installations along the rail bed.

The line will help green the urban landscape and provide social connectedness, Peterson pointed out.

“The development of the Min Hi Line is the next step to ensure that Minneapolis and the Twin Cities continue to lead in quality of life nationally,” said Peterson.
She encourages people to take a look up and down the Min Hi Line corridor at one of the intersections that cross it to get an idea of the substantial space the rail bed comprises.

“Our goal is that Minneapolis and Hennepin County preserve the full boundaries of the current corridor for the Min Hi Line linear park,” Peterson stated.

First section being installed
In the fall of 2016, Peterson and co-founder Nathan Van Wylen began collecting letters of support for the Min Hi Line from neighborhood associations and local organizations such as Squirrel Haus Arts.

Photo left: The General Mills grain elevators at 3716 Dight Ave. have been identified as a pilot of the Min Hi Line. The site was recently sold to Hayes Harlow Development,who is also working on a development at 46th St. and Minnehaha Ave. (Photo submitted by the Min Hi Line Coalition)

They also pursued engagement with the Midtown Greenway Coalition, acknowledging the group’s vast experience in developing and maintaining a successful city path. The Midtown Greenway is a 5.5-mile long path along a former railroad corridor in south Minneapolis with bicycling and walking trails that opened in three phases since 2000 thanks to the grassroots advocacy of the coalition.

The section between Hiawatha Ave. and the river opened in 2006, and the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge was erected in 2007 so that users could avoid the dangerous at-grade intersection at 28th and Hiawatha.

Currently, the first section of Min Hi Line pathway is being installed by the city just south of the Sabo Bridge between the Greenway and Lake St.

“It is very exciting to see the aspiration for the complete Min Hi Line begin to be realized through trail installations at the north and south ends of the corridor,” commented Peterson.

Photo right: Currently, the first section of Min Hi Line pathway is being installed by the city just south of the bridge between the Greenway and Lake St. “It is very exciting to see the aspiration for the complete Min Hi Line begin to be realized through trail installations at the north and south ends of the corridor,” commented Min High Line Coalition co-founder Cora Peterson, who grew up in the Nokomis neighborhood. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The next section of the linear park slated for completion is on the south end. It will be part of The Capp development at 46th and Minnehaha Ave. being built by Oppidan Development in the old railway bed from Nawadaha Blvd. north to 46th St.

“It’s an idea whose time has finally come with the Oppidan development because they choose to orientate their development to the line,” remarked Peterson.

Another pilot project identified early on is near the General Mills grain elevators at 3716 Dight Ave. “Historically, General Mills has been a strong supporter of the park system in Minneapolis, and so this seemed like a promising opportunity. Council member Andrew Johnson was instrumental in facilitating meetings between General Mills and possible community-oriented developers that were interested in purchasing the site,” observed Min Hi Line co-founder Van Wylen.

The site was recently sold to Hayes Harlow Development, who is also working on a development at 46th St. and Minnehaha Ave.

Extension over river
Recently, the Min High Line Coalition has banded with the Midtown Greenway Coalition to support extending the Greenway over the Short Line bridge to St. Paul.

“The bridge is also the rail outlet for the Min Hi Line corridor, and a future in which that bridge connects Greenway bike and pedestrian traffic over the Mississippi would mean vast transportation and economic impact at a regional level,” remarked Peterson.

Creating an attractive corridor
Peterson is a returned resident of Minneapolis. While she lived elsewhere, she said she benefited from creative, modern parks developments that have transformed various inner-city neighborhoods such as the Atlanta Beltline and the New Your City High Line.

Like the Min Hi Line, the Atlanta Beltline sit in an at-grade corridor. Construction on the Atlanta Beltline’s East Side trail began 2011, through an area of Atlanta that feels similar to the Min Hi Line corridor neighborhoods, Peterson pointed out.

The Atlanta Beltline had an initial projected return on investment of $3.5 for each $1 of public/private investment. The project has already doubled that return, reaching $7 to $1—and the entire 22-mile Beltline loop around the city of Atlanta will not be completed for another decade.

“We hope the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County will work with developers, like Oppidan, who see the value and want to be a part of developing the Min Hi Line, and work in partnership with those developers to find ways to finance the park’s development along with other building in the corridor,” stated Peterson.

She observed that most of the Min Hi Line corridor has been identified by the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board as needing parks. “Installing a park and path in the old railway bed will preserve public green space in the corridor even as the corridor becomes attractive to private, for-profit development,” said Peterson.

Submit photos and stories
New housing and commercial buildings are already popping up along the Min Hi Line as the corridor’s historic freight rail traffic gives way to new uses that serve East Nokomis, Longfellow, and Seward neighborhoods. There are currently three businesses that are still using the CP Rail freight line (Archer Daniels Midland, Leder Brothers Metal and General Mills), which has put the Min Hi Line at a simmer until they are no longer active.

“Civic engagement on this topic is essential to guide the Min Hi Line corridor’s equitable development—to help elected officials and developers understand the corridor’s highest and best use for Minneapolis residents,” remarked Peterson. “Most important is that interested residents consistently bring up the Min Hi Line with elected officials at Minneapolis, Hennepin County, and Minneapolis Parks and Recreation.”

Landscape architecture design students mocked up some Min Hi Line visuals, which can be viewed on the group’s Facebook page. “We want more visual arts work like that to propel the Min Hi Line image forward,” said Peterson.

Peterson encourages residents to follow, and link photos and stories about the corridor to the Min Hi Line Facebook page.






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Community chats about Hiawatha Golf Course during focus sessions

Posted on 18 November 2018 by calvin

Community members shared their thoughts about the Hiawatha Golf Course during informal focus sessions in November.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) held two of five focus session meetings on Nov. 8 at the Nokomis Recreation Center.

“The sessions are a tool for park board staff and the design team to listen to the community’s conversations surrounding specific themes,” explained MPRB Design Project Manager Tyler Pederson.

“Nov. 8 night’s focus on ‘environment’ and ‘neighbors’ was very successful. The team heard many great comments from the community and comments from folks we had not yet heard from.”

There were four tables of between six to eight community members. Each table was asked to record their comments and conversations on sheets of paper and on large maps.

Photo right: Community Advisory Committee member Sean Connaughty (second from left) chats with community members during informal focus sessions on neighborhood and environment at the Nokomis Recreation Center on Nov. 8. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Some comments revolved around watershed issues.

“The city, park board, and Minnehaha Creek Watershed want residents to see the problems as individual areas; however, we do not and cannot understand how they can be separated when the whole watershed drains into Lake Hiawatha (all 180 square miles),” stated Joan Soholt in an email following the focus session. She is a CAC member who is also part of the Nokomis/Hiawatha Water Sustainability group. Fellow group member Monica McNaughton also pushed for a comprehensive study that incorporates the changing climate and a bigger area than just the golf course.

Safety, art, changing the fence, creating a trail around the entire lake, and wetland restoration were also among the topics discussed.

More focus sessions planned
Two more sessions were held on Nov. 13 at Hiawatha Golf Course that focused on “golf” and “African American history” at Minneapolis golf courses.
The fifth session on Indigenous history is being planned with help from those communities.

As the Hiawatha Golf Course Community Advisory Committee (CAC) moves through its planning process, committee meetings will be interspersed with community focus sessions.

Photo left: The environment and neighborhood were topics during informal focus sessions on neighborhood and environment at the Nokomis Recreation Center on Nov. 8. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Another series of focus sessions is expected in late January/early February 2019, and a third set in late February/early March.

By the CAC’s seventh meeting in April, it is expected to have a draft master plan and final CAC recommendations that will go out to the community for a 45-day review period. The planning committee will then hold a public hearing on the plan, and the board of commissioners will vote on the issue in July 2019.

At the same time, the community advisory committee is working to create a vision to guide their work at Hiawatha Golf Course.

At the October 2018 meeting, CAC members reviewed the vision statement developed in 2015 for the larger Nokomis-Hiawatha Master Plan. (The golf course wasn’t included in the master planning process for the regional park at the time.)

Photo right: A focus session about the history of African American golfers at Hiawatha Golf Course was held on Nov. 13. (Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board)

The vision of the Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park Master Plan is to maintain Nokomis-Hiawatha’s status as a premier regional park by enhancing the existing well-loved amenities and adding select new features. The park will continue to offer a range of recreation activities located primarily within three identified focus areas, rather than scattering active uses throughout the park. The remaining parkland will be used for more natural amenities, passive recreation, and trail use.

Guy Michaelson of Berger Partnership pointed out that the landscape is steeped in legacy, it’s cherished and historic, it’s a treasured destination, and it’s gathering place.

In addition to enhancing the human experience, there’s also the opportunity to strengthen ecology, and the two can thrive together, encouraged Michaelson. He believes there are innovative ways to solve the stormwater problem while creating a cool park experience and building “in-fun-structure.”

Michaelson suggested that CAC members welcome absurdity because along the way those are the ideas that are memorable and create special places.
Ultimately, he stated that the lens to look through for this project is the Grand Rounds legacy of ecology, equity, recreation, and experience.

Community members may contribute to the visioning process at



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Community Connects makes a web of public art in Longfellow

Posted on 18 November 2018 by calvin

Sara Hanson (left) and Jessica Bergman Tank (right) are the creators of Community Connects. They’ve made cast iron and aluminum sculptures in partnership with Metro Work Center since 2013, and the finished sculptures can be visited throughout the Longfellow neighborhood. The functional art table shown here is a permanent installation at the East Lake Library. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Community Connects is the name of an innovative partnership between metal artists Sara Hanson and Jessica Bergman Tank, programs participants at Metro Work Center—along with their direct care professionals—and the Longfellow neighborhood. Since 2013, these many sets of hands have worked together to make cast metal sculptures for exhibit and use in public places.

Photo right: This piece made for Alexander’s Import Auto Repair used on-site textures representative of an auto repair shop: castors, gears, and tools. (Photo provided by Community Connects)

This year, Community Connects partnered with four very different enterprises: Alexander’s Import Auto Repair, Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits, Moon Palace Books, and the Third Precinct Police Department. All four partner sites are within walking distance of Metro Work Center (MWC) (see the article here), which is housed in Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

Proximity was a factor in choosing the partner sites. MWC participants are developmentally disabled, and some also have mobility issues.

Photo left: Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits is currently exhibiting all of this year’s sculptures in their front window at 2613 E. Lake St. (Photo provided by Community Connects)

Hanson and Bergman Tank are both independent community artists. When they work together, they call themselves Metal in the Void. Their art making uses the cast metal process to bring people together, and to affect change in people’s lives and environments. Community Connections was conceived as a way to integrate MWC participants into the surrounding neighborhood, and to give them a great art-making experience too.

Beginning in August, the whole crew of community artists spent several days at each of the partner sites. They worked together to press patterns and textures into clay, or to mold clay objects by hand. Techniques for manipulating clay are adaptable to different levels of fine and gross motor skills and cognitive abilities.

Photo right: The process of creating art promotes daily living skills, problem-solving, team building, community integration, self-empowerment and, last but not least, it’s fun. (Photo provided by Community Connects)

Bergman Tank explained, “Metal casting involves working at very high temperatures, so most of the melting and pouring was done in-studio. We did do a demonstration pour at MWC with one of our portable furnaces, so everyone could see what the process was. This type of art-making is very process focused; it’s not just about what the finished product looks like.”

The finished sculptures have been hanging in the front window of Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits since early October and will stay up through the end of the year.

MWC participants will then bring each of them home to the four partner sites where they’ll be on permanent display. Hanson said, “It’s important that the MWC participants be able to see their work when they walk through the neighborhood. That experience brings a sense of pride and professionalism that is part of community connection. Past projects have been done with Longfellow Family Dental, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Gandhi Mahal Restaurant, and the East Lake Library.

Consider taking a walk through the neighborhood to see how many of the sculptures you can find. Community art projects like this (and the connections that they build) are part of what hold a community together. Community Connects is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to an appropriation form the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Photo left: Members of the Police Department Community Engagement Team joined community artists in finalizing the piece that will hang in the Third Precinct building. (Photo provided by Community Connects)

Hanson has a workshop on wheels (a portable foundry) and a studio in SE Minneapolis; she can be reached at

Bergman Tank is the foundry director and volunteer coordinator for the Chicago Fire Arts Center in South Minneapolis, and also has a portable furnace she can bring to arts and community activities. She can be reached at





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Team works to understand groundwater problem around Lake Nokomis

Posted on 18 November 2018 by calvin

Nokomis Area Groundwater and Surface Water Evaluation team discusses study results with residents

Why are there higher levels of groundwater and standing water in previously dry areas of South Minneapolis, such as Solomon Park and Lake Nokomis Park?
The Nokomis Area Groundwater and Surface Water Evaluation team is studying that problem and held an open house on Oct. 24 at the Lynnhurst Recreation Center.

A primary goal of the network is to better understand water level trends and support water supply planning, according to members.

The team is working to answer these questions:
• Are surface water and groundwater levels near Lake Nokomis rising, particularly south and west of the lake?
• To what extent do groundwater levels interact with surface water levels in this area?
• What are potential impacts to public and private infrastructure from rising water levels?
• If groundwater and/or surface water levels are rising, why and what can be done about it?

As presented at the open house, the work of the technical team has included installing new shallow groundwater wells, reviewing groundwater elevation data from existing monitoring wells, understanding soil characteristics and geology underlying the area, summarizing precipitation data, modeling groundwater recharge rates, looking at the Lake Nokomis water levels, and reviewing the operation of the Nokomis weir.

Photo right: Kenny Blumenfield with the Department of Natural Resources climatology office chats with attendees at an open house on Oct. 24 regarding the increase in precipitation the department has been tracking in Minnesota over the past few years. There have been more storms with higher rainfall levels, as well. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The team is first working to understand the problem and what solutions are. “Then we will prioritize which projects we will start with,” remarked Minneapolis Surface Water and Sewers Katrina Kessler.

For the city of Minneapolis, this also means learning what other projects are being done in an area and working flood mitigation in too.

In south Minneapolis, this might mean enlarging the undersized system at Sibley Field or working more stormwater storage at the Hiawatha Golf Course.
“It’s all about working with partners and taking advantage of opportunities,” said Kessler.

Yes, the water is higher
A cluster of properties southwest of Lake Nokomis is dealing with basement flooding while another group near Solomon Park is faced with flooded backyards.
These homes have basements that are located 10-30 feet above the Lake Nokomis water level, which suggests that groundwater levels are likely the issue, rather than the Lake Nokomis water level, according to team members.

A weir that controls water entering Minnehaha Creek has existed at the outlet of Lake Nokomis since 1931. The weir is a dam-like structure that prevents polluted stormwater and zebra mussels from entering Lake Nokomis from Minnehaha Creek. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board operates the weir in coordination with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District consistent with an approved operating plan.

The outlet elevation of the weir has always been set at 815.10’, and cannot be changed. When Lake Nokomis’ water level drops below 815.10’, it is due to factors other than the operation of the weir.

Following a wet start to the year, August 2018 was very dry. Subsequently, the water level on Lake Nokomis dropped below the weir’s outlet elevation sometime around Aug. 11, meaning water could no longer flow from Lake Nokomis to Minnehaha Creek. It remained below the outlet through mid-September. Before 2018, the last time the water level on Lake Nokomis dropped below the outlet elevation was on Nov. 28, 2017.

In 2018, due to dry weather, water flowed out of the lake via the weir for only 53 days. In comparison, from mid-March to the end of December 2017, the weir was open for 121 days and water flowed out of the lake until it dropped below the outlet elevation at the end of November.

Rainfall prompted the reopening of the Lake Nokomis weir on Sept. 25, when the lake level measured 815.98’ and water once again flowed out of the lake.

Is there a bedrock dam?
One theory being evaluated by the team is the idea of a bedrock dam that might be causing a backup of groundwater.

There is a rise in bedrock east of Lakes Hiawatha and Nokomis, but before Minnehaha Falls, that could be acting like a dam to the groundwater and causing it to rise higher than it would otherwise.

Where the water table is only a few feet below the ground surface, small (but long-term) changes in the water-table elevation can have dramatic effects, according to Barr Engineering.

Record precipitation
Coupled with the possibility of a bedrock dam are a few years of record-breaking precipitation in the Twin Cities. Historically, water levels around Nokomis would spike during rainfall events and snowmelt but drop, during the winter. This has not been happening the past 4-5 years because of an increase in precipitation outside the growing season when the ground is not frozen. This has led to increasing groundwater recharge rates because plants are not growing and taking up water. This year marked the all-time snowiest start to a year (Jan. 1 – July 1, 2018).

Photo left: Scott Pearson of the Department of Natural Resources Ecological and Water Resources Department talks with attendees at the open house on Oct. 24 regarding groundwater and surface water around Lake Nokomis. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Winter lake drops are likely very important in controlling groundwater elevations in the area, pointed out a Barr Engineering document. It’s like a giant seasonal drawdown well to remove built-up storage.

The annual precipitation in 2013-2016 was above average, and 2014 had the wettest Jan. 1 to June 30 ever on record. June 2014 was the wettest month ever on record, and 2016 was the wettest year ever on record. Aug. 2016 to July 2017 was the wettest 12-month period ever on record.

With that, groundwater recharge rates have increased 3-4 inches per year in the past four years when compared to the last 25 years. Average recharge in 1988-2011 was 10.1 to 12.0 inches per year compared to the average recharge in 2012-2016 at 14.1 to 16.0 inches per year.

Wetter years may be the new normal. Right now, the problem may be more visible around Lake Nokomis because of the shallow water table. Team members are asking whether there are other parts of south Minneapolis where similar issues are occurring.

In 2014, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District began partnering with the National Weather Service to anticipate rain events in order to more proactively manage the Gray’s Bay Dam at the headwaters of Minnehaha Creek, pointed out MCWD employee Tiffany Schaufler. In 2016, the wettest year on record in the Minnehaha Creek watershed, this weather information allowed MCWD to operate the dam in a way that did not result in any flooding on Lake Minnetonka or Minnehaha Creek.

“It’s been a really helpful tool,” said Schaufler.

Wells will help gather data
The team is working to identify where data gaps exist, pointed out Schaufler.

This summer, two new observation wells were installed at Solomon Park and Lake Nokomis Park. These wells were installed at the base of the water table near the existing shallow water table wells.

Together, the new basal water table wells and existing shallow water table wells will provide information about the vertical flow of groundwater in the Nokomis area. In all, there are four observation wells near Solomon Park and Nokomis Park.

Two deeper bedrock aquifer wells will be installed soon. The six wells together will provide additional information about groundwater levels and movement in the area, including vertical movement of groundwater.

What’s next?
The technical team will continue to map infrastructure impacts to determine if they are connected to potential water level changes. The team will also review water elevation information on existing sewer maps and measured water levels from the city of Minneapolis’ water utility holes to gain a better understanding of groundwater levels.

Partners will explore whether additional wells are needed to determine if changes to existing infrastructure might alleviate problems and to estimate associated costs. Then they will develop a holistic plan that includes additional funding, if necessary, and work to keep residents and elected officials informed of progress.

The Nokomis Area Groundwater and Surface Water Evaluation team began meeting in January 2018.

Participating agencies include the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the city of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, and Hennepin County. Other agencies are coordinating with the team include the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Airports Commission, the city of Richfield, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

To view technical data, technical team meeting notes, and presentations, visit





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