The Twin Cities have an extensive and well-planned parks system. I’ve lived in or near Minneapolis all my life and I’m still discovering public natural spaces that I’ve never visited before. On the recommendation of a friend, I paid a couple of visits last weekend to the North Mississippi Regional Park. It’s a thin strip of prairie and woodland along the northernmost mile of the west side of the Mississippi River from Webber Parkway to the northern edge of Minneapolis.
Last May, a tornado ripped through north Minneapolis along a diagonal path from Theodore Wirth Park to North Mississippi Regional Park before hopping across the river. Some parts of the park lost many large trees. Stumps, severed branches and newly open spaces remind visitors of the power of the wind.
The park is only a couple of hundred yards wide in places and the traffic of I-94 is always audible. The freeway’s sound barrier is often in sight. But if you face the river, or better yet, climb down to the shoreline, you don’t feel as if you’re in the middle of an industrial zone in a big city. Prairie grasses, trees, waterfowl and the river itself remind you of what the river was like before the city of Minneapolis grew up around it. Biking and walking trails going through the park extend northward and connect the suburbs to the inner city.
The tornado damage is often noticeable, but hasn’t destroyed the natural beauty of this place. Even the brown-gray tones of December provided me with an appreciation for this little gem of a natural space.