Hoyer Heights Tree Trenches

A pilot project in Northeast Minneapolis will install tree trenches in the boulevards to capture and treat stormwater runoff.


Project Details

City: Minneapolis

Type: Capital Project

Status: Active

Timeline: 2020

MWMO Funding: $408,582

Partners: Board of Water and Soil Resources; City of Minneapolis; Hennepin County; Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Contractors: SRF Consulting, Inc., Veit & Company, Inc.

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Staff Contact:

Alicia Beattie
Capital Projects and Stewardship Specialist
Email Alicia Beattie
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The City of Minneapolis installed a series of stormwater-absorbing tree trenches along portions of Fillmore Street NE, Buchanan Street NE, and Lincoln St NE (south of 37th Ave NE) in Hoyer Heights as part of a street reconstruction project. This pilot project, supported by a $408,582 grant from the MWMO and a $113,459 Minnesota Clean Water Fund grant through the Board of Water and Soil Resources, is among the first in the city to capture and treat runoff directly from the street in a residential neighborhood using tree trenches, which is a type of stormwater best management practice (BMP).

Resources for Hoyer Heights Residents

The project was planned for the Northeast Stormwater Management Initiative, which seeks to improve water quality and flood resiliency in Columbia Park (including Columbia Golf Course) and the surrounding neighborhoods. Hoyer Heights was identified as an area that would benefit from flood mitigation measures, with stormwater modeling suggesting that street flooding will occur in a two-year storm or greater. Hoyer Heights also lies within a watershed that received very little water quality treatment prior to discharge to the Mississippi River. The MWMO and the City saw the opportunity for a project partnership, in that the City had been planning to reconstruct the streets and replace the sanitary sewer lines in the Hoyer Heights area (part of the Waite Park neighborhood) in 2020. Three of the streets, which are currently wider than typical residential streets, were slated to be narrowed for traffic-calming purposes. This provided an ideal opportunity to install new stormwater BMPs in the expanded boulevard space. The city held three open-house meetings regarding the project, contacted the individual homeowners on the streets where the tree trenches will be constructed, and applied their input in selecting planting schemes.

Curb cuts with pretreatment structures allow stormwater runoff to feed directly from the street into the tree trenches, which then absorb water and filter out pollutants. A variety of deciduous trees, grasses, sedges, and flowering plants were installed in the trenches, which have about 4.5 feet of soil media for stormwater to filter through. If there is more runoff than the trees and plants can use, the excess flows into an 8-inch perforated PVC drain pipe, which is surrounded by stone to prevent clogging, located below the soil media. Excess runoff can also exit the tree trenches via overflow curb cuts. The deep-rooted plants selected for this project provide excellent food and habitat for pollinators and other wildlife. The project will also help the city and the MWMO evaluate the effectiveness of tree trenches as a stormwater BMP, assess their maintenance needs, and determine their life-cycle costs. In urban settings, trees are often put in spaces that are too small or don’t receive enough water; this stormwater BMP project will give trees a better chance at reaching maturity and provide important co-benefits like shade, carbon storage, improved aesthetics, and energy absorption.  Construction of the tree trenches was completed in the fall of 2020. The plants and trees are under warranty care by the contractor until the fall of 2022.

After the end of the contractor’s warranty care period, the property owners are responsible for regular maintenance, such as watering during drought conditions, pruning or cutting back dead plant material and removing unwanted plant litter (typically no more than once or twice per season), and removing trash or debris that has blown or fallen into the tree trench. MWMO staff will help conduct education and outreach to help residents learn how to monitor and care for the tree trenches. Minneapolis Public Works will inspect the BMPs on average once a year and remove large accumulations of sediment, inspect underdrains, replace plants, and perform any necessary repairs.

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Resources for Hoyer Heights Residents

The resources below are intended to help residents care for their tree trenches*.

*Note: Please do not begin weeding your tree trenches until October 2022. A contractor is responsible for weeding the tree trenches and ensuring the survival of the installed plants through the end of September 2022.

Hoyer Heights Tree Trench Plant and Weed Guides

Hoyer Heights Tree Trenches: Installed Plants (PDF, 14 MB, 20 pages)
Hoyer Heights Tree Trenches: Weeds (PDF, 14 MB, 29 pages)


Tree Trench Summer Maintenance Video (YouTube)