Water quality has improved in a restored West St. Paul wetland, and River to River Greenway users can enjoy an enhanced trail following completion of the Dakota County-led Thompson Oaks project.
The county partnered with the City of West St. Paul and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources to transform the former Thompson Oaks Golf Course site. Decades ago, the site featured a natural wetland with a pond, creek and marsh areas, but it was later filled in with contaminated soil and other materials prior to golf course construction. The polluted area qualified for environmental cleanup funds.
“It takes a contaminated, blighted site and turns it into a water quality success story," Dakota County Commissioner Joe Atkins said during an Aug. 21 community event celebrating the project.
The project turned the former brownfield site into a model regional stormwater treatment system. About 200 dump truck loads of contaminated soil were removed. A natural filtering process was created with wetlands and a small creek to clean runoff collected from roughly 25 percent of the city. Now, cleaner runoff water will enter the groundwater and the Mississippi River after collecting at the site.
“I want to thank the current council and past council to have the vision to change a community amenity — a golf course — with the idea that we can do something bigger and better for the whole community," West St. Paul Mayor Dave Napier said.
The project also included a new segment of the River to River Greenway from Robert Street to Oakdale Avenue. The greenway segment offers a route past the Wentworth Library and across a 400-foot boardwalk overlooking the restored wetland.
The project was paid for with $4.5 million from the county's American Rescue Plan Act funds. The city contributed $700,000. The State of Minnesota provided an additional $575,000 from the Clean Water Fund.
“You guys have created a legacy," said Rep. Mary Frances Clardy, who represents West St. Paul. “You've created a place where families and communities can now gather and have a place that they call home and be very, very proud of."
Local residents of all ages joined county, city and state leaders at the Aug. 21 event. Attendees enjoyed a community bike ride along the greenway, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, children's activities and information about the water quality improvements.
“It does all these wonderful things — all these things that everybody talks about but very seldom accomplishes," Atkins said. “That happened because of this terrific partnership that we have with our city and state partners."