After years of planning, the Park Board released its preferred plan to transform the areas around Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles over the next 20 to 30 years at a meeting on Wednesday night.

One big difference between the initial draft concepts and the plan released today is that it includes no new permanent structures around the lakes. Earlier iterations of the plan included building a few structures, including bathrooms, a year-round building and warming house, a boardwalk through the north end of Isles, and kayak & canoe rentals. "Generally what we heard is that people wanted a lighter touch," said Emma Pachuta, the Senior Planner on the project for the Park Board. 

While the new structures won't be permanent, there will be additional port-a-potties and an improved temporary warming house, along with a possibility to save slots in the kayak and canoe racks for rentals later on.

A huge focus of the new design is on improving water quality. It will include details like littoral edges (if you, like me, didn't know what this meant, see the image below), tree trenches, and rain gardens that can clean the water as it enters the lake. The new features will aim to address runoff from 6 pipes (four at Isles and two at Cedar) through stormwater runoff areas and rain gardens. 

Another key feature is increased accessibility, including a new ADA accessible picnic area. There will also be lots more new water access points, which the Park Board hopes will reduce people entering the water in areas that can cause erosion and damage the shoreline.

One of the factors in the plan was identifying and preserving key areas of Indigenous importance, including the littoral edge at the northeast end of Cedar and the islands that give Isles its name.

The plan will add "lookout points" on the west side of Cedar, which will give people transporting around that side of the lake more of a chance to stop and take in the view.

The plan proposes that the Park Board acquire land on the Kenilworth Channel, which is currently owned by a private landowner, and the "remnant lands" of Cedar, which is land owned by the Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority (HCRRA) that will be leftover from the Southwest Light Rail project [more details in the FAQ section here]. 

In the winter, a skating ribbon will be added to the north portion of Isles for people to use in the winter.

Two areas of the one-way bike lane will become two-way to help increase connections, which will better connect cyclists from the Kenilworth Trail to the lakes. It all proposes adding a new soft surface trail along the Kenilworth Trail, which will go underneath the future Southwest Light Rail bridge.

A diagram that shows the new proposed two-way bikeways along the Kenilworth Channel and the south side of Isles

The area by the Isles dog park will be getting two upgrades, including a soft trail connecting the park's front gate to the Midtown Greenway and bumpouts that will slow traffic in the area.

Pachuta said the idea to "keep Cedar wild" came up a number of times during the community feedback sessions, and the more "wild" parts of Cedar will see lots of restoration of existing habitat.

Cedar will get a few more additional changes, including shrinking the parkway on the west side of Cedar to leave room for other uses (there will still be enough room for two-way car traffic). East Cedar Beach will also get a natural concert and event area.

The engagement work for the project was delayed as a result of the pandemic to ensure that as much of it as possible could be conducted in person. This summer, another round of public engagement will kick off, starting with the Citizens Advisory Committee meeting tonight. They're hoping to have the plan finalized by this winter. The CAC can make recommendations about priorities in the plan, including things they want to get built first. 

Much of the public engagement has focused on water quality, so Pachuta expects that to be one of the priorities that the CAC will push for. She left open the possibility that philanthropic partners may eventually fund some of this work.

What do you think about the new plan? Tell us below in the "Add Context box.

Here's a list of upcoming meetings where you can tell the Park Board what you think about the plan:

In-Person Open House
Saturday, June 25, 9-11 am

Lake of the Isles Parkway and Euclid Place

Discuss the Preferred Park Concept with MPRB staff. No formal presentation, this event allows for informal
discussion and Q & A.

In-Person Open House
Tuesday, June 28, 4:30-6:30 pm

Cedar Lake South Beach

Discuss the Preferred Park Concept with MPRB staff. No formal presentation, this event allows for informal
discussion and Q & A.

Water Quality CAC Subcommittee Meeting #4
Tuesday, July 12, 6-8 pm

This is a virtual meeting, Link to Join
Water Quality experts with EOR and the design team from Ten x Ten will present their Water Quality findings
developed from the CAC Water Quality Goals and how they informed the Preferred Park Concept. CAC
discussion to follow. Fifteen minutes are reserved for public comment at the end the meeting.

Water Quality CAC Subcommittee Meeting #5
Thursday, July 21, 6-8 pm

This is a virtual meeting, Link to Join
The CAC subcommittee will continue their conversation from Subcommittee Meeting #4 and finalize draft Water
Quality Goals. Fifteen minutes are reserved for public comment at the end of the meeting.