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Hiawatha Golf Course Master Planning

Last night the board of commissioners voted 6-2 (Musich, Forney, Vetaw, Cowgill, Meyer, Bourn- For; French and Severson-Against) to pass a resolution intended to provide the appointed Community Advisory Committee for the Hiawatha Golf Course Property's Master Plan additional guidance. The revised compromise resolution drafted by my colleague on the board,  Commissioner At Large Vetaw, strikes a balance between the environmental stewardship of the land, as well as the cultural and community significance of its historical use as a golf course. I am thankful for her leadership in drafting this version of the resolution and look forward to hearing from the community about what their ideas are for educating their fellow Minneapolitans and park visitors about the important role that public golf courses played in integrating the sport.

Resolution 2018-230 (Regarding Hiawatha Golf Course Property)
Whereas, The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) is the steward of Minneapolis parks;

Whereas, Hiawatha Golf Course is a part of the Minneapolis park system and a component of the Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park;

Whereas, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board adopted Resolution 2017-243 on October 4, 2017;

Whereas, A Community Advisory Committee (CAC) was formed to guide a master plan process for the Hiawatha Golf Course Property according to Resolution 2017-243;

Whereas, On April 30, 2018, the CAC voted to request a clarification of Resolution 2017-243 by the Board of Commissioners;

Whereas, Resolution 2017-243, when it was first approved by the Board of Commissioners included direction for "strong consideration for traditional golf in some form on the property" as the CAC explored possibilities through a master planning process; and

Whereas, Golf stakeholders have noted the importance of Hiawatha Golf Course and other MPRB golf courses related to the introduction and perpetuation of the sport for black golfers.

RESOLVED, that the Board of Commissioners clarifies Resolution 2017-243 to indicate the master planning process shall pursue a reduced pumping scenario as conceptualized in Alternative B;

RESOLVED, that the Board of Commissioners intends for the CAC to bring forward a solution resulting from the master planning process that includes, at a minimum, a flood-resilient and ecologically-driven nine-hole configuration for a golf course on the property;

RESOLVED, that the Board of Commissioners intends for the CAC to reflect in the master plan appropriate methods of recognizing the role of Hiawatha Golf Course and the history of black golfers in the Minneapolis park system; and

Resolved, That the President of the Board and the Secretary to the Board are authorized to take all necessary administrative actions to implement this resolution.

 I am optimistic that this compromise agreement will provide the CAC the guidance they need to move on in a productive way to plan the future of this park land. While it reduces the potential land available for uses other than golf, this resolution does achieve what so many of you have told me is of paramount importance to you--a framework for a plan that is ecologically and environmentally responsible while enhancing the park's flood resilience. As was true of Resolution 2017-243, this resolution does not call for a specific closing date of the 18 hole course and learning center which currently occupy the property. The property will continue to be operated as it is today until such a time as a master plan is adopted by the board and ready to be implemented. The park's planning division estimates the entirety of the process, including procurement of appropriate funding mechanisms, will take at least five years. 
I would like to thank each and every one of you that took time out of your busy lives to write, call, or share your thoughts during our meetings' open times to share your opinions on the direction that the board should take in regard to the future land use and water management strategies for the Hiawatha Golf Course Property over the last few years. I have strived to understand, and help my constiuents and colleagues understand the complexities of this site since its flooding in 2014 and the subsequent discovery of a large volume of groundwater pumping taking place on the site.

Below is a brief overview of studies that are being used by me, the park board and its partners to inform current decision making:
Hydrologic, Hydraulic, and Pollutant Loading Study (HHPLS):
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District developed a comprehensive computer based model to model watershed hydrology, hydraulics and pollutant loading for the entire Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.
This study included three years of engagement with elected officials, the public, and technical consultants to identify water management issues across the  watershed. The model has been used by the MnDNR and Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop revised 100 year flood maps, which required extensive technical review and public engagement.
Minnehaha Creek Baseflow Study:
This study was a partnership with the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization and the University of Minnesota to explore opportunities to improve "base" flow in Minnehaha Creek. It is a multi-year research project that examined the interaction between Minnehaha Creek and shallow groundwater reservoirs to determine where the creek is receiving groundwater contributions and where it is not.

 Minnehaha Creek E. Coli Bacteria/Lake Hiawatha Nutrients TMDL:­study
The TMDL was a joint effort by MCWD, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and MN Pollution Control Agency. In addition to the study focusing on impairments to Minnehaha Creek and Lake Hiawatha, it also analyzed and estimated the sources of flow to Minnehaha Creek from stormwater runoff and baseflow from Lake Minnetonka and shallow groundwater.

Barr Engineering Study for the Hiawatha Golf Course Area Water Management Alternatives Assessment:
 This is the study commissioned by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to understand the water issues at play on the golf course site and was done in collaboration with the City of Minneapolis and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.

I fully comprehend the anxiety that homeowners living at elevations close to natural groundwater levels adjacent to this property feel and have made it clear in discussions of this topic that reduction in groundwater pumping must protect homes to the same level as current dewatering does. As the project progresses, additional engineering work will be done to minimize dewatering within the golf course property to allow for greater ecological health of the land and perpetuate it for homes within the cone of depression created by current pumping practices. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a cone of depression, I've included an image below that illustrates this phenomenon.

Due to some less than comprehensive reporting in local news publications, residents may be concerned that a change to water management within the park space will increase the probability of flooding outside of the park's boundaries. That is not an accurate portrayal of the impact of the conceptualized changes called for in Alternative B. 

The reduced pumping scenario conceptualized in Alternative B provides the same  level of protection from groundwater for nearby homes as is provided by current pumping by moving pumps closer to homes and further from the lake. The groundwater pumping is, in practice, functioning similar to a residential sump pump. Currently the pumps in the park intercept and then pump the groundwater into Lake Hiawatha to keep basements and the golf course dry. However, much like a residential sump pump, no level of groundwater pumping will guarantee protection from surface water flooding as the result of extreme weather events. Areas adjacent to park properties that have been identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to have flood risk under the current water management regime will continue to have a flood risk under a reduced pumping water management strategy.


Residents concerned about flood risk and understanding if they qualify for flood insurance can find flood maps and more information about insurance on the FEMA website:

Last night my colleagues and I heard not only from residents living near the golf course property within the Hiawatha sub-watershed that were concerned about groundwater levels, but also from residents living to the SW of Lake Nokomis within the Nokomis sub-watershed that have been experiencing high groundwater levels recently. The City of Minneapolis is leading a multijurisdictional investigation of what factors are contributing to high groundwater levels in this area. They share information about their work via the Lake Nokomis Groundwater and Surface Water Issues website:

Recent findings have concluded that high groundwater levels are driven by the following combination of  factors :
  • Due to historic conditions and development patterns, properties in South Minneapolis are close to groundwater
  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, precipitation records were set in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018
  • This record precipitation occurred outside the growing season when soils weren't frozen, causing it to infiltrate into local groundwater
  • Across the metropolitan region, groundwater recharge rates have increased 3-4 inches over the past four years which has resulted in many communities experiencing higher than normal groundwater elevations
  • Shallow bedrock geology in this area, coupled with higher volumes of precipitation infiltrated into shallow groundwater, is causing increased interaction of that water with public infrastructure and private property
These variables acting upon shallow groundwater in the vicinity of Lake Nokomis are independent of the water level in Lake Nokomis and Minnehaha Creek, which are between 10 and 30 feet below homes being impacted. This has led to the conclusion that Lake Nokomis and Minnehaha Creek are likely not principal drivers in the groundwater issues being experienced.  This information is summarized in more detail on the City of Minneapolis' project website linked above, and the interagency partnership continues to meet to assemble information to inform potential management strategies.

Thank you for taking the time to read this update. Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Steffanie Musich
Commissioner, 5th District
Commissioner Musich represents the fifth park district in the South East corner of Minneapolis.

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Utilize a systemic approach to capital improvements and planning processes to ensure that investments being made build on system wide goals and are done equitably.


Commissioner Musich has a BA in English Literature from the University of Minnesota, and has worked in the banking industry for the past 16 years, six of them as a Corporate Accountant and for the past seven years in various capacities on an IT team.  Along with several other neighborhood residents, she started the Friends of Lake Nokomis, a non-profit stewardship and advocacy group that partners with local government agencies and other non-profits to protect, preserve and improve Lake Nokomis and its surrounding park.  She has also served the community as a University of Minnesota Master Gardener with Hennepin County.   

Special Interests 

The commissioner, along with her husband and son have converted the lawns of their urban lot just south of Lake Nokomis into a small farm with honeybees in a second story apiary, plum trees, a cider apple tree, lingonberry and blueberry bushes, grape vines, a vegetable plot and herb gardens.  To bring more pollinators to their gardens, established perennial beds have been slowly converted to house native plants, and turf has been over seeded with yarrow, marjoram, tickweed, ground plum, creeping thyme, calico aster and clover and a green roof prairie was incorporated into the rebuilding of their garage. Learn about Bee Lawns and Green Roofs

Avid cyclists, skiers, canoists, sailors and swimmers you can often find them cruising the trails, swimming or boating throughout the system. The commissioner's son participates in the MPRB's and MPS youth sports leagues bringing the family to park courses and athletic fields throughout the city for games. While recuperating from outdoor adventures, the commissioner can be found immersed in a book.

Current reading selection: Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber. A suspenseful read that echoes pop culture through a podcast tie in theme reminiscent of the buzz around the first season of the popular podcast Serial. A fast paced summer read, perfect for the beach, mocking, park bench or lounging on a blanket in your favorite park spot.


Discover Your Next Park Adventure!

Each year, through generous donations from corporate sponsors and local musicians, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board puts on concerts and shows films throughout the summer season. This year, I've added all of the events occurring in or very near the 5th district to my Facebook events to make it easier for you to find something fun, and free to do that's close to home. So pack a picnic, pump up the tires on your bike and head to a park near you for some free and fun entertainment this summer!
Family Nature Club

Parks on Social Media

Lake Hiawatha Park
Minnehaha Park
Morris Park
Keewaydin Park
Hiawatha Golf Course
Elmer the Elm Tree

Help Minneapolis Parks Flourish

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