The island north of the Plymouth Avenue Bridge isn’t new to the Mississippi River, but it hasn’t been there for over half a century.
Hall’s Island has made its return to the Northeast Minneapolis riverfront thanks to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which will complete an initial phase of recreating the small island by the end of June.
“Everything worked out as we imagined,” said Michael Schroeder, the board’s assistant superintendent for planning. “There’s been pretty significant flows on the river, but everything held together.”
The island never quite left the riverfront. Rather, it was sold and dredged by the Scherer Bros. Lumber Co. in the 1960s, becoming part of the former lumberyard.
Beginning last October, the Park Board excavated an approximately 150-foot back channel to create the island, which stretches north and beneath the bridge near the Sheridan neighborhood. The roughly 4.4-acre island is meant to resemble the original.
Hall’s Island won’t be usable for park goers until the board builds a boardwalk out to the island as part of a future construction phase. Schroeder said the next wave of improvements to turn the island into a new park destination is reliant on state bonding money. Eventually the board would like to connect the island to Boom Island Park via a bridge and build an observation platform that will keep humans and wildlife separate.
In the meantime, Schroeder said the island has already become a sanctuary for birds. Crews will add a number of trees before the work is complete this spring to flesh out the habitat. The Park Board envisions turtles, mussels, fish and other wildlife calling the island and the new back channel home.
“By establishing vegetation on the island, it will be that habitat that we’re imagining,” he said.
The island is one of several improvements the Park Board has planned for the stretch of Northeast Minneapolis. Just upriver, the board is planning to finish building Sheridan Memorial Park north of Broadway Street with art and recreation areas for both younger and older kids.
The Park Board is considering devoting a small portion of Boom Island Park for a memorial recognizing survivors of sexual violence in partnership with a local group of survivors and allies. Park staff are exploring ways the board can financially support the project.
Schroeder said the board doesn’t have a plan yet for the former lumberyard, now known as the Scherer site, that once included the island. The Park Board had opened a portion of the 11-acre site to private developers, but the board and a nearby business failed to reach an agreement on how to develop the land. Right now, Schroeder said, their focus is on the new island on the Mississippi River.
“We would love to find a way to advance that and get something happening so that the (Scherer site) is not some fallow piece of land,” he said. “It’s an amazing park site.”