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Exploring the Upper River: Stormwater Park

Article by Kathleen BoeMinneapolis Riverfront Partnership

Exploring the Upper River

A look at hidden gems along the Minneapolis Riverfront

As you come across the Lowry Bridge into Northeast, or drive north on Marshall, it’s easy to get caught up in looking at the bridge itself, especially if it’s lit up at night, or the Ferris Wheel outside Betty Danger’s Country Club. But the hidden gem I’m writing about this month would be right under your nose at that point, Stormwater Park at the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization’s facility, 2522 Marshall Street NE.

The Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership has had the privilege of having an office in this building over the past five years, and during that time, the building and the space around it have really come into their own.

One of the areas that is open and accessible to the public is the Stormwater Park itself. The area, off the Marshall street front, heads down behind the MWMO building and slopes down to the river. While this area is a park, it is also an active demonstration project using the many tools that MWMO recommends to ensure that stormwater run-off is as clean as it can possibly be when it reaches the river.

To start, if you can take your eyes away from the river, look down. You’ll see permeable pavers that allow water to be absorbed, rather than run off.

Continuing on, a wildflower garden borders the building and serves as a filtering system for stormwater coming off the street. In the spring, it blooms into the most incredible set of flowers. Under the flowers, the garden acts as a filtering system. The goal is for all of the stormwater to be captured and filtered on site.

This is one of the places where you can actually dip your toes in the river – in season, mind you. It’s not recommended after the recent return of cold weather. But there is a meandering path down to the water, with markers noting the high-water mark of various Mississippi River flood events in recent history. 

At river’s edge, there is a beach, and it’s not uncommon to see people launch canoes or kayaks from that spot. The Mississippi Parks Connection’s kayak sharing program placed one of its locations at MWMO and that’s a legitimate option for getting on the river this summer.

This is an area where every day the river looks different, depending on how cold it is, what the wind is like, the angle of the sun. As the sun sets, the Lowry Bridge will light up in the color scheme scheduled for that night.

While visiting, you can always stop by and have a Greenie at the historic Tony Jaros Rivergarden at the corner of Lowry and Marshall, or grab a tea at Betty Danger’s across the street. The Ferris Wheel has occasionally been in operation this winter, and commands a great view.

Meanwhile, it’s been a privilege to be part of this community at MWMO. While the first thing one notices is the light-filled space and unique design of this building, as you work here you also appreciate the community and staff who work here, how passionate they are about their mission, and how they care so deeply about the watershed that feeds the Mississippi River.

Kathleen Boe is Executive Director of the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership. She can be reached at via email, or on the web.

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