Father Hennepin Bluff Park Improvements

Chairs: Cordelia Pierson + Ted Tucker

Father Hennepin Bluff Park History

In 2016 the MPRB approved the Central Riverfront Master plan. The purpose of the Master Plan is to provide guidance on the redevelopment and enhancement of existing facilities and resources thatendeavors to create: ‘a regional park that will connect people to the Mississippi River, restore and enhance natural resources, reveal and interpret past and present nature and culture, engage visitors and adapt to changing social, economic and ecological realities.’ MPRB and Metropolitan Council have dedicated $1M to phase 1 improvements and rehabilitation for Hennepin Bluff Park. Phase 1 will be dedicated to improvements that were identified in the master plan for the upper portion of Father Hennepin Bluff Park.

This project is being led by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, with Kelly Wilcox as the Project Manager. To learn more about the MPRB's overall approach to this project, please follow THIS LINK

Improving Father Hennepin Bluffs Park – 2018 – 2019

As MPRB leads the park design for investing $1M in our neighborhood’s regional park, MHNA is encouraging people to learn about current plans for the area, share their values and how they want to experience the park, and help shape the MPRB’s designs.  Some resources for you:

Excerpts from these plans provide background for people helping shape the park’s improvements.

Guiding principles for this regional park:

  • Connect people to the river by foot, bicycle, transit, boat, and private vehicle.
  • Restore and enhance natural resources, improve wildlife habitat, and water quality.
  • Reveal and interpret past and present, nature and culture.
  • Engage visitors through activities, amenities, food, and events.
  • Adapt within the changing social, economic, and ecological realities.
  • Complete a continuous bicycle and pedestrian trail system on both sides of the river.

A continuous trail system would help provide connections, wayfinding, and, in general, orientation to the regional park for visitors.
Key sections of trail are missing and should be finished to offer a continuous pedestrian- and bicycle-focused trail experience along the entirety of the Saint Anthony Falls riverfront.

Incorporate green infrastructure into new design initiatives.
Improve water quality in the river and protect wildlife habitat.
Partnering opportunities and a variety of funding sources are available.
Expand opportunities for pairing design with green infrastructure function to enhance the experience of the regional park.
Reduce maintenance costs over the long-term.

Elements from the East Bank Interpretive Plan:

Build clear and connected trails
Integrate interpretive experiences between sites and subjects
Develop Main Street as an experience connector
Employ a wide array of interpretive modes and tools
Get people underground

Specific sites and subjects that should be highlighted are the East Falls, Chalybeate Springs, river ecosystems, hydroelectric sites, the Pillsbury A Mill complex, and tunnels and caves.

Sections specifically for this area, as informed by guiding principles and interpretive plan elements: 

The goal for Father Hennepin Bluffs is to improve circulation and park function while opening up the park edge to the street and surrounding neighborhoods. This upland area would continue to be programmed for medium sized events, concerts, and picnicking.  Facilities proposed include large flexible area, family picnic site, Restroom facility, and convertible event space.

Supporting Initiatives: (page 7-22 of the Central Riverfront Regional Park Plan) 

Create a permeable park edge along Main Street that promotes connections to the neighborhood while strengthening the Park’s orientation towards the River. This could include the following initiatives:
Remove berming along the Main Street edge where appropriate.
Manage deciduous trees to maintain an overstory canopy, particularly as ash trees are removed over time, in a manner that also frames views to the River.
Realign pedestrian and bicycle trails to meander close to the bluff edge in a manner that does not interfere with the band shell function.
Build a new band shell away from the sensitive bluff edge in a manner that still maintains the open space of the park.
Selectively remove degraded and/or invasive vegetation to frame views to the river along the bluff edge.
Clarify and emphasize pedestrian and bike circulation at the junction of the Stone Arch Bridge and 6th Avenue SE in a manner that reinforces the historic connection to the rail alignment. This could also include the following initiatives:
  • Provide a signature entry experience as outlined in the East Bank interpretive plan.
  • Extend 6th Avenue Greenway design and create a programmable convertible street between the 6th Avenue and Main intersection and the Stone Arch Bridge while still allowing University of Minnesota service vehicles and emergency vehicle access.
  • Interpret the historic railroad alignment to promote wayfinding for bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Eliminate the utilitarian experience of the existing cul-de-sac.
  • Provide a safe, accessible surface for bicyclists and pedestrians while still maintaining the historic cobblestones.
  • Add a restroom facility and/or visitor orientation center

Additional elements for this upper area:

  • Complete Portage Route on East Bank - see Figure 28 in plan
  • Create a Granary Corridor connection between East River Road and the Dinkytown Greenway. The Granary Corridor is the railroad and industrial land going east from the Stone Arch Bridge;
  • Continue to strengthen the 6th Ave SE on-street bikeway connection;
  • Create more flexible space for everyday activities and events, while maintaining historic features and green space.
  • Integrate stormwater treatment to define separation between the roadway and trail system.
  • Create separate bike and pedestrian trails along historic Main Street SE.