More than 9 million visitors and 25 years of wear and tear made it clear that sustainability was a key factor in reconstructing the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. One key to sustainability was dealing with water that, over the years, had caused various types of damage and deterioration, including compacted soils, erosion and uneven pavement. In fact, stormwater drainage was one of the main objectives of the reconstruction project. That may not sound glamorous for a sculpture garden that’s considered a “crown jewel” of the Minneapolis park system, but stormwater management, water conservation and related sustainability practices have gone mainstream as the effects of climate change become increasingly evident.
Locally, that’s in part due to the work of organizations like the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO), which protects and improves water quality and other natural resources in the watershed draining into the Mississippi River. MWMO also invested $1.5 million in reconstructing the garden, helping to showcase sustainable landscaping that “embraces the site’s natural hydrology,” as MWMO’s Nick Busse wrote on the organization’s blog. Those sustainability elements include:
Water reuse system
An 80,000-gallon underground cistern is the heart of this system, buried underground at the nexus of the garden, adjacent to the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture. It stores stormwater and excess water from Spoonbridge’s fountain for reuse in irrigating the garden and the nearby baseball field in Parade Park, all while keeping more than four million gallons of runoff out of storm sewers each year.
The garden’s low-lying land and damp soils are characteristic of the “natural hydrology” mentioned above—and make the northern half of the garden a great site for a fresh meadow. That’s not just a pretty name, but a technical term for a landscape of deep-rooted native plants that thrive in wet soil, but not standing water. As the 17,656 seedlings grow into the garden’s fresh meadow, they will absorb stormwater runoff and filter out pollutants.
Enhanced turf and engineered soils
These elements work together as the landscape’s foundation; the former is designed to withstand considerable foot traffic, while the latter provides optimal drainage and a stable foundation for the new pavement and paths.