The Minneapolis Park Board will soon attempt, for the fourth time, to pass sweeping alterations to the Hiawatha Golf Course in order to repair a host of water issues.
"People on both sides of this issue feel that it is unresolved," Board President Meg Forney said. "Right now, there is no plan in place that guides any decisions or investments in the golf course, neither for improving the golf course amenities nor for addressing environmental issues like groundwater, stormwater trash or other lake pollutants."
The board's Planning Committee will vote Wednesday evening on holding a public hearing for park staff's proposed Hiawatha Golf Course Master Plan.
If the committee chooses to have a hearing, the full board will weigh in on Aug. 3. If approved then, the hearing could be held as early as Aug. 17, with a resolution to reconsider the master plan scheduled the same night.
Park planners created their proposed redesign three years ago. But because the plan would reduce the 18-hole golf experience to nine, golfers have consistently pressured commissioners to reject it. Hiawatha is significant to African American golfers as the home of the Bronze Tournament for many years, holding a special place in the history of racial integration. Last month, new signs were installed at the clubhouse in honor of Black golf champion Solomon Hughes.
Frustration has been building among supporters of the redesign, including environmentalists, park users who want greater access to areas now reserved for golf, and Friends of Lake Hiawatha, which has fished thousands of pounds of trash out of the lake in recent years.
Several first-term park commissioners ran last fall on promises to finally pass the master plan. In April, the board took up the matter for the first time since the 2021 election but ultimately failed to set a public hearing after half of eight commissioners present voted against it.
During those discussions, the Bronze Foundation, a golf advocacy group, proffered an alternate idea by California water engineer Andy Komor. With a focus on keeping 18 holes, Komor proposed addressing the course's constant flooding and unsustainable rates of groundwater pumping by disconnecting Minnehaha Creek from Lake Hiawatha and draining the lake by 3 feet.
Barr Engineering, the firm that park staff consulted to create their draft master plan, reviewed the Komor concept and found that several of its components are "explicitly prohibited by state statute." These include filling in public waters and erasing officially delineated wetlands without replacing them.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit allied with the Bronze Foundation, is seeking to have the Hiawatha Golf Club listed in the National Register of Historic Places to fend off any major changes to the course.
The foundation has not yet submitted its application, according to a spokesman.