414 E Diamond Lake Road
Minneapolis, MN 55419
Ice rinks are closed for the season.
Recreation Center: Pearl Recreation Center
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This park will be affected by a completed park or service area master plan. View Master Plans
Size: 29.33 acres
Service Area: South
Master Plan: After two years of extensive community engagement, the Pearl Park Master Plan was approved in 2016 as part of the South Service Area Master Plan. The Pearl Park Master Plan will guide outdoor park improvements at Pearl Park for the next 20-30 years. Click the link below to view the master plan.
Rec center staff collaborate with the Hale-Page-Diamond Lake Neighborhood Association for special events, including Frost Fest, Earth Day and Picnic in the Park.
Name: The park was named for Pearl Lake, which once occupied the site. In its early years it was referred to as Pearl Lake. The “lake” was not dropped from the name until the park board built a shelter at the park in 1968.
Acquisition and Development
The first mention in park board proceedings of what became Pearl Park was an offer presented to the park board on December 19, 1923 from Clarke’s Diamond Lake Realty to donate a tract of land “surrounding Pearl Lake and a portion of the shores of Diamond Lake” for park purposes. That donation, valued in park board inventory at $1,500, was accepted in 1925. About a third of that value was later attributed to Pearl Lake when the park board first listed Pearl Lake and Diamond Lake separately in its inventory in 1942, although the majority of that first donation was closer to Pearl Lake.
In the 1927 annual report, park superintendent Theodore Wirth described four projects “it is hoped may be completed this year.” One of them was the acquisition of another 116 acres surrounding and including Pearl Lake and Diamond Lake. Wirth planned to dredge Diamond Lake and fill Pearl Lake.
In a revised plan in 1930, Wirth expected the southern end of Pearl park to be a landscaped grove of trees, perhaps a buffer between the beach he proposed for the north end of Diamond Lake and the athletic grounds he proposed for the northern section of Pearl Lake.
While the plans to dredge Diamond Lake never were executed, the plans to fill Pearl Lake proceeded fairly quickly. Pearl Lake was on its way to becoming a recreation park from the time the first skating rink was provided there in the winter of 1929-1930.
The Pearl Lake and Diamond Lake park holdings were increased dramatically in 1936 when the park board acquired another 72.32 acres—mostly water—for the modest price of $1,035. The acquisition included land to expand the planned recreation area at Pearl Lake. The park board conducted studies with the community on development of Pearl Lake as a community park and regional athletic field.
That year about 15,000 yards of fill were dumped and graded in the south end of the “swamp” to improve the skating area. Later, with the help of federal work-relief crews, the park board stripped a foot of peat off the bed of Pearl Lake and raised it two feet by using 60,000 yards of fill acquired from the airport, where federal crews were grading for new runways. (The park board owned the airport at the time and was responsible for its development and operation until the 1940s.) Scoops dragged behind caterpillars pealed off the peat surface, which was stockpiled. After loam from the airport was used as fill, the peat was put back as a top coat.
The work by the federal work-relief crews at Pearl Lake continued in 1937, when 200 men and 75 trucks worked to fill another 500 feet of the former lake bed with fill from the airport. With filling completed, the crews built a skating rink, baseball, softball and football fields, two tennis courts, a volleyball court and horseshoe pits. A children’s playground was also installed. A twelve-inch drain was also placed in the center of the park to drain excess water into Diamond Lake. Despite the drain, excess water at Pearl Park would remain a problem for decades.
The park board planned big improvements to the Pearl Lake-Diamond Lake complex after World War II, but was never able to get bond funding for the project. Even without further development, the park was heavily used. Estimates of attendance in 1955 made Pearl Park the second-most heavily used skating rink in the park system, behind only Folwell Park in north Minneapolis.
By the early 1960s, while Diamond Lake improvements had been forgotten, Pearl Lake was included in the board’s plans for improvements. In 1962, the board reported that its capitol improvement program for 1965 included $600,000 for Pearl Lake, but added that the project “depends on receiving fill material.” Pearl Lake, as most other parks in the system built on filled land, continued to settle and need more fill. In the meantime, the board authorized the superintendent to seek excess fill in 1963 from the construction of I-35W a few blocks to the west.
In the 1965 annual report the board reported that plans for the improvement of the park were completed. The new plans positioned the park recreation center at the south end of the park instead of in the center of the park as earlier plans had done. Work to execute those plans began in 1966, primarily grading and landscaping, and were continued the next year with work on the new recreation center, wading pool, ball fields and playgrounds, with lighting throughout the park.
The new recreation center was dedicated in December, 1968. The total cost of the renovation of Pearl Park was $522,000, half paid on assessments on neighborhood property and half by city bonds.
Pearl Park came close to being reduced in size in 1971, when the northern end of the park was included on a list of park properties that were unused and could be sold. Although one property on that list was sold, a portion of Park Siding Park, the board voted in 1972 that all parcels previously declared surplus would not be sold.
A park retrieved from a lake continued to have flooding problems, which caused the need to refill and regrade the fields in 1979. Not only had flooding problems persisted, but the original fill material from the airport included chunks of concrete that migrated to the surface over time.
The old shelter was renovated and a gym added in 1996 with a contribution of neighborhood funds through the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. Ironically, given the park’s wet history, in 2006 of an in-ground irrigation system was added for the playing fields.
In 2008 the wading pool at the park was upgraded to meet new safety standards.
Arbor Day in 2011 was held at Pearl Park and 270 trees were planted by volunteers. In 2011 the baseball field was also improved with new fencing and a remediation of poor soil.
In spring 2014 a residential organic waste drop-off site opened at Pearl Park. That summer, the park board’s first outdoor Pickleball court debuted at the park when the tennis courts were resurfaced. In 2015 the basketball and volleyball courts were resurfaced, and a new youth-sized basketball hoop was installed.
History through 2008 written by David C. Smith, with updates from 2009 to present written by MPRB.