Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board approves reduced pumping for Hiawatha Golf Course

At its August 9 meeting, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) Commissioners approved a resolution, which directs MPRB staff to apply for a groundwater appropriations permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to reduce pumping at the Hiawatha Golf Course property from the current amount of 242 million gallons of groundwater to 94 million gallons.

The resolution also directs staff to organize a process of amending the Nokomis Hiawatha Regional Park Master Plan to accommodate changes to the Hiawatha Golf Course property made necessary by the reduced groundwater pumping. An amendment to the resolution also called on MPRB staff to form and work with a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to determine if some form of traditional golf can remain on the property.

The resolution did not directly address the closure of the golf course, and the process to determine future usages of the course is estimated to take between 9 and 12 months. The process to prepare plans and obtain permits will take another 12 months or more. During that time, the MPRB will work with the DNR to continue current pumping levels so that Hiawatha Golf Course will remain open as an 18-holf golf course until at least the end of 2019.


Record rainfalls closed Hiawatha Golf Course in June 2014. In the months following the flooding, MPRB staff began the preparation of a series of concepts for the restoration and possible enhancement of Hiawatha. As concepts were about to be presented to the public, the MPRB became aware that a significant volume of groundwater was being pumped by MPRB from the golf course property into Lake Hiawatha. The final volume was determined to be 242 million gallons annually, significantly more than the MPRB’s groundwater appropriations permitted volume. Once the discovery was made, work stopped on the golf course’s restoration.

Since early 2016, MPRB staff has worked with the City of Minneapolis, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, DNR and its consultant, Barr Engineering, to assess the implications, options, and parameters for pumping groundwater at the Hiawatha Golf Course property.

While the DNR has stated it would allow the MPRB to continue groundwater pumping at the current volume, it would do so only until the next flood occurrence, after which the property would have to reduce pumping.

An important goal of any reduced water management/pumping scenarios has been protecting nearby homes from groundwater intrusion.

Community Involvement

Prior to the formal assessment performed by Barr Engineering, public meetings about the groundwater issue were held in June and November of 2016. During the assessment work, meetings were conducted with the public on March 30, 2017, April 20, 2017, May 18, 2017, and June 21, 2017 to share information related to pumping investigations and a range of water management alternatives; to discuss possible other uses should an 18-hole golf course not be possible to perpetuate; to demonstrate the narrowing of options to two water management alternatives; and to gain input on directions related to those alternatives.

Next Steps

A CAC will be formed to help MPRB staff determine possible uses for the property under an alternative that reduces groundwater pumping to approximately 94 million gallons per year; eliminates pumping of stormwater; creates an open channel through the property to address stormwater issues and trash in the neighborhoods north of the property; realigns Minnehaha Creek; maximizes water quality treatment; and introduces new uses to the property.

Information about the CAC’s charge and composition will be presented to the Board of Commissioners at the October 18, 2017 board meeting. Once the charge and composition has been approved by the Board, MPRB will seek CAC applicants.