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‘Don’t close Minnehaha Parkway’

Posted on 01 July 2019 by Tesha Christensen

South Minneapolis residents say they want to continue to drive the entire length of the parkway in both directions, putting them at odds with a proposal to close a few sections and make others one-ways.

Attendees at a community meeting on June 13 check out proposals for the parkway. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Don’t close the parkway. That’s the message a majority of residents are telling the Minneaplis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB).
The proposal to close the section of Minnehaha Parkway underneath the Nicollet Ave. bridge and put a small playground and parking lot there instead is part of a larger master plan being developed for the five miles of Minnehaha Creek that stretch through the southern part of Minneapolis.
Vehicles would still be able to drive continuously on the route. Eastbound traffic would not go under the Nicollet Bridge but would instead go up and be forced to make a right-hand turn due to a median on Nicollet. Traffic from Nicollet could turn right and head back east down to the creek. Westbound traffic in that area would not change.
The current eastbound lane on the west side of the bridge would remain as a trail. The section of eastbound traffic east of the bridge would be a two-way roadway to access the climbing wall, picnic area, canoe/kayak launch and small parking lot planned for the site instead.

What’s the purpose of parkway?
During a meeting at Nokomis Recreation Center on Thursday, June 13, 2019, MPRB Planner Adam Arvidson explained that they began this process by asking, “What is the purpose of the parkway road? Is it a pleasure drive or a commuter route?”
They discovered that east of the bunny sculpture, Minnehaha Parkway is the southernmost route people use to get across town. West of the bunny, the parkway is functioning more as a pleasure route, and drivers have many options for travel throughout the area.
MPRB staff heard from many people about areas where there are safety concerns between drivers, pedestrians and bikers, including the area of the parkway just west of Portland where some traffic diverts to 50th at an angled intersection.
In order to simply things and create more space for bikers and pedestrians, MPRB is proposing that a few sections of roadway near Portland and Lynnhurst Park, as well as Nicollet, be designated as one ways.
Minnehaha Parkway crosses 50th St. just west of Portland and connect back with it at Lynnhurst about 20 blocks later. “We are talking about a portion that touches the same street twice,” said Arvidson. “There is enough redundancy in the city grid.”
He observed that planners are focused on this question: “How do we think about the park as a whole?”

‘People want to drive entire length of creek’
Several citizens pointed out that Minnehaha Parkway is part of the Ground Rounds system, and talked about how much they enjoy using this route.
Kevin Kvale at 54th and Logan, drives for a living. “You look for sources of calm and the parkway is definitely one of the sources I use,” he said. “I think it’s a mistake to limit the access to it.”
Susan Reinhardt, who lives at 53rd and Girard, remarked, “We use it to show off the city. There’s an aspect of driving down the creek – it’s iconic to living in Minneapolis.”
Barbara Mahoney is 81 and uses the parkway each day to drive from East River Road to her daughter’s house in Hopkins. “I enjoy every minute,” she said, lamenting the loss of viewing the fall foliage if this plan goes through.
“People want to drive the entire length of the creek,” stressed Steve Thompson.
A number of people pointed out that due to their age and health, they are no longer able to bike or walk along the trails, and instead rely on driving.
In contrast, a younger woman said she’s excited about the plan for a park in Nicollet Hollow, and believes it is a good compromise. She pointed out that in her zip code only 11% of residents are over 65, and suggested that younger residents have childcare and other obligations that prevent them from attending an evening meeting to voice their support.
A teenage girl questioned whether it would be wise to restrict the number of cars in the area, and said she wouldn’t feel safe biking or walking in Nicollet Hollow with this plan.
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