Mill Ruins grass: still dead

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May 31, 2004 // UPDATED 1:48 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Despite staff efforts to save Mill Ruins' Park's lawn, what should be greenspace still looks like a chalky moonscape. Geese, drought and soil problems have combined to keep park grass ruinous despite Park Board efforts over the past several months.

The park is prime geese territory -- they like having short grass next to the water, said Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Project Manager Rachel Ramadhyani.

Last year's drought hurt the grass, Ramadhyani said, because the parkland lacks irrigation. Also, despite a topsoil cover, the park is built on compacted fill ill-suited to growing grass.

The punishing conditions led to a comedy of errors. The Park Board tried to aerate the land, drilling small holes in the ground to get air and water to the grass's roots, Ramadhyani said. However, mesh doesn't biodegrade; it snarled in the aerator, and the machine started pulling up sod.

The Park Board also tried a goose deterrent called Flight Control, a chemical sprayed on the grass -- to no avail.

Geese can see Flight Control in the ultraviolet spectrum, park staff said. When geese eat it they get sick to their stomachs, so they avoid it in the future.

Not the Mill Ruins geese.

"We are starting with a bad situation," Ramadhyani said. "The geese got ahead of us. They are persistent."

So is the Park Board. Staff is preparing for the next Mill Ruins upgrades: $1 million for new tailrace paths, a pedestrian bridge, accent lighting, interpretive signs, benches -- and new sod...without mesh.

The Park Board also plans to plant low shrubs between the water and the park to act as a goose buffer, Ramadhyani said.

Ironically, federal transportation dollars will pay for the sod and shrubs (as well as other improvements) because the park is considered roadside beautification.

Ramadhyani said park improvements should start this fall and end in late 2005.