Nicollet Island Restoration

A community-led coalition restored native prairie and forest and removed invasive species on Nicollet Island.

Project Details

City: Minneapolis

Type: Planning Grant, Action Grant

Status: Completed

Timeline: 2017–2019, 2023-2024

MWMO Funding: $75,000

Partners: Friends of the Mississippi River; Friends of the Riverfront; Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board; Nicollet Island — East Bank Neighborhood Association

Staff Contact:

Adam Flett
Communications and Outreach Specialist
Email Adam Flett
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Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) led a group of community partners in restoring natural areas on Nicollet Island. The MWMO provided funding to remove invasive species and restore native prairie and forest on more than 7 acres of open space and natural areas on the island. The project created improved habitat and reduced erosion on the island. An expansion of this project continued in 2023 and will continue in 2024.

Located north of downtown Minneapolis, Nicollet Island contains several undeveloped natural areas that serve as a valuable link to other parkland and habitat along the Mississippi Riverfront. Invasive plant species like buckthorn and honeysuckle had spread across these areas, hastening erosion problems along the shoreline and degrading the island’s ecology. Restoring these lands provided a variety of benefits, including healthier and more diverse habitat, improved recreation opportunities, and better stormwater retention and infiltration.

An FMR ecologist led contractors in removing the invasive species and replacing them with native grasses, wildflowers, trees, and shrubs. The native species will help stabilize the soil with their extensive root systems. Erosion bars and earthwork were also used to repair areas with extensive damage from erosion. Ongoing management of the restoration areas will be accomplished through partnership with community volunteers.

FMR utilized a Planning Grant to support the development of a Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP) for the island’s east side. The plan provided an ecological inventory and assessment, recommendations for restoring and improving native plant communities, and a strategy for implementation and maintenance. The MWMO subsequently awarded an Action Grant to help fund the restoration project.

The project area is owned by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB), and is located in the Mississippi River Critical Corridor Area. MPRB’s Master Plan for the area describes a goal to “restore and enhance natural resources, improve wildlife habitat, and water quality.”

During the planning phase, FMR and the Nicollet Island — East Bank Neighborhood Association organized neighborhood meetings to present the plan, gather community input, and encourage neighborhood involvement. FMR plans to hold additional public outreach events and engage local volunteers and students from DeLasalle High School in planting and maintaining the vegetation.