Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board approves Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska-Harriet Master Plan, including support for county, state and federal process to change name of Lake Calhoun

At its May 3, 2017 meeting, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) Commissioners approved the Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska-Harriet Master Plan. The Master Plan is a written and graphic document that sets a 25-year vision for Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska, Lake Harriet and the surrounding parkland. The area is part of Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park, the most popular park in Minnesota with an estimated 5 million annual visits.

Changing the name of Lake Calhoun

Included in the Master Plan is the MPRB’s support for the restoration of the Dakota name Bde Maka Ska to Lake Calhoun. In 2015, MPRB legal counsel determined the MPRB does not have the authority to change the name of a lake on its own.

Instead, the MPRB is advocating for the name restoration in “all appropriate fora (forums) including the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).” If approved by both agencies, the DNR submits the proposed name change to the United States Board on Geographic Names for final approval.

In this matter, MPRB Commissioners followed the recommendation of the project’s 26-member Community Advisory Committee (CAC) and the CAC Racial Equity Subcommittee. This project’s Racial Equity Subcommittee is one of many efforts the MPRB has undertaken since 2011 to improve diversity and inclusion and to integrate racial equity into all aspects of work done by the MPRB.

The names of Calhoun Parkway, East Calhoun Parkway and West Calhoun Parkway will not change in the interest of public safety, which aligns with the CAC recommendations.

MPRB Commissioner’s support for officially changing the name from Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska follows its Sept. 2, 2015 resolution to modify each of the seven Lake Calhoun park entry signs to include the name “Bde Maka Ska” to honor the Dakota people and educate the public about its Dakota name. The signs were updated Oct. 1, 2015.

Bde Maka Ska Facts

  • Pronounced “b-day ma-kha skah” according to the Dakota Language Society
  • Translates to “White Earth Lake” in Dakota

Planning Process and Final Approval

The Master Plan was shaped by feedback gathered at numerous public meetings, open houses, listening sessions and community events over 17 months, including 12 meetings of the project’s 26-member, appointed Community Advisory Committee (CAC) and four meetings of its Racial Equity Subcommittee.

A draft of the plan was published on Jan. 18, 2017. During the subsequent 45-day public comment period, 2,226 comments were submitted. The comments were grouped into themes and the themes were assigned categories: No, Low, Moderate or High Impact to the Master Plan

On April 19, 2017, 30 amendments based on “Moderate Impact” comment themes were offered for consideration by the MPRB Planning Committee. Amendments 10, 11 and 29 passed. The intent of Amendment 9 was folded into Amendment 10.

The theme with the most comments expressed opposition to the recommendation to close the Lake Street underpass to bicycles. The Master Plan change called for in Amendment 10 will keep the underpass open to bikes.

Two amendments passed at the May 3 meeting. One reinserts plans to improve an at-grade crossing at the intersection of W Lake Street, Lagoon Avenue and East Calhoun Parkway. The other amendment formalizes MPRB support for a skate park facility on the northwest side of Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska.


The Master Plan contains an estimated $126 million in capital improvements projects, sorted into short-, medium- and long-term priorities. Currently the MPRB has $3.7 million allocated for trail and access improvements around the two lakes, which will be completed this summer. For more information on that project, please read the latest Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska-Harriet Trail and Access Improvements update.

The MPRB is also partnering with the City of Minneapolis and community members to create a unique public art gathering and memorial space on the shore of Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska to acknowledge the historical presence of the Dakota. Learn more about that project on the Mahpiya Wicasta Public Art and Site Improvements project page.

Notable medium- and long-term major changes in the Master Plan:

Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska

  • Relocating boat launches and sailing school/club facilities away from the NE corner.
  • Building a new sailing center and boat launch in the NW corner.
  • Creating an entry into Chain of Lakes Regional Park from the NW corner that connects to the upcoming West Lake Station of the Southwest Light Rail Transit line.
  • Building a land bridge over West Lake Street between Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska and Lake of the Isles.

Lake Harriet

  • Relocating the bicycle trail to the perimeter of the Bandshell area.
  • Building a pier into the lake near the Bandshell.
  • Converting the Lower Road of Lake Harriet Parkway (east side of lake) to a two-way bicycle trail.

The Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska-Harriet Master Plan is divided into 13 chapters containing recommendations for five topic areas (Natural Resources, Access and Circulation, Recreation, Events and Enterprise, Historic and Cultural Resources, Equity) and nine Focus Areas around the two lakes.

View the full plan online: Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska-Harriet Master Plan [PDF].