Lake of the Isles Update

The following report was provided to Park Watch by Harvey Ettinger:


In April 2011, the Citizens Joint Review Committee for the Lake of the Isles Renovation Project (2001-2009) submitted a comprehensive report to the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board reviewing this project including specific recommendations to address needed remedial work and maintenance concerns. With the continuing deterioration at Lake of the Isles during the ensuing period, the Committee approached Park Board Commissioner Anita Tabb, for assistance in obtaining support from Park Board staff.

Last fall, Commissioner Tabb met directly with Lisa Beck, Director of Park Board Operations, and made a site visit to the lake to review the situation. Following additional discussion with Commissioner Tabb and MPRB staff, Ms. Beck involved Marcia Holmberg, Natural Resources Coordinator, to investigate the Committee’s concerns and draft a long term vegetation maintenance plan that would focus primarily on: a) poor quality of parkland turf, (b) tall shoreline plantings obscuring open views to the lake (including extensive overgrowth of cottonwoods along the south shore of Lake of the Isles and Kenilworth Lagoon), and (c) maintenance of ornamental shrub beds around the lake.

The Committee met with Commissioner Tabb and Ms. Holmberg on March 11, 2013 at which time a comprehensive plan was presented to address the issues discussed above. Committee members were impressed with Ms. Holmberg’s extensive knowledge and experience with park vegetation and her proposal which would direct crews to initiate substantial cutting of tall shoreline plantings around the entire lake, including extreme overgrowth on the south shore, to begin sometime in April. Unlike the mechanized rotary cutter that has been used in recent years which resulted in the shredding of shoreline plants and turf, Civilian Conservation Corps crews will perform this work using both hand and small electric cutters. Because of the scale and complexity of this process, work will likely not be completed until the Fall.

As part of their review of problems with parkland turf, the Committee referred Ms. Holmgren to Sam Bauer at the University of Minnesota Horticultural Department of Soil Services in Andover who expressed serious interest in working with the MPRB as a “Joint” partner to develop an effective,long range turf renovation plan using student and U of M staff. Ms. Holmgren indicated that she had recently spoken with Mr. Bauer regarding such a possibility.

Regarding the status of the ornamental shrub beds, Ms. Holmgren confirmed to the Committee that an inventory has been taken of all of the plantings in each bed and an ongoing maintenance plan will be put in place this Spring. However, due to costly maintenance requirements, staff is considering possible elimination of several beds which would allow them to maintain remaining plantings at a higher level. The MPRB would like community input to determine whether the number of beds should be edited or whether the community was interested in developing an ongoing volunteer group to assist in the shrub bed maintenance.

In conclusion, the Committee requested that Ms. Holmgren forward a more detailed summary of her plan for publication in an upcoming edition of the Hill and Lake Press, the Uptown Neighborhood News and the South West Journal.

Thanks to Committee members representing the four neighborhoods around the Lake: Pat Scott-Kathy Low (KIAA) and Harvey Ettinger (EIRA-Committee Chair), who attended the meeting, as well as Marty Broan (LHRA) and Bob Corrick (CIDNA) for their on going participation. Please direct comments/questions to Harvey Ettinger at The full Committee report and Ms.Holmgren’s specific shoreline renovation plans can be viewed at

The Committee also wishes to thank Commissioner Tabb for her persistence and hard work in keeping this issue a priority at the Minneapolis Park Board leading to concrete action to resolve outstanding issues relating to the Renovation Project