Sometimes a practical project can turn into something beautiful and endearing.
In 1979, the city of Bloomington and the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District built a dam across Nine Mile Creek to reduce flooding in the area. This dam created Normandale Lake, a 112-acre body of water just west of Normandale Boulevard and south of 84th Street. In 1987, the project proved its worth when it mitigated downstream flooding that left parts of Interstate 494 under 13 feet of water.
Besides its practical benefits, Normandale Lake – and the 181-acre park encompassing it – has become a beloved oasis for walking, biking, attending concerts and enjoying some of the best fireworks in Minnesota.
Prior to 1979, our family used to drive to Lake Harriet in Minneapolis to take walks. It didn’t take long, however, for Normandale Lake to become our destination of choice. It was closer to our home, and its 1.9-mile loop around the lake made for a comfortable outing.
In the late 1980s, I taught English in Japan for two years. To help me feel connected to home, my sister would send me photos of friends, family and my beloved Normandale Lake during the various seasons of the year. Soon, my students were quite familiar with at least one Minnesota lake––the one with the ski jump jutting above the trees.
A few years later, when I worked in Eden Prairie, I avoided I-494 by taking the back roads around Bush Lake. Each day, as I approached Normandale Lake from the west, I was always struck by how lucky we were to have such a beautiful refuge so close to the busy business district around I-494 and Highway 100, where one could see the tops of hotels and office buildings peeking between the treetops.
Across the street from the lake are five office buildings that make up Normandale Lake Office Park. With 1.7 million feet of office space on 27 acres of land, it is the largest office park in Minnesota. In 2015, I got a job in one of those buildings. Wakefield Cushman, the property management, does a wonderful job of creating a fun work environment with an annual Halloween costume contest and pumpkin carving event, as well as a festive holiday party for all the tenants in the buildings. It was wonderful to be able to walk around the lake during lunch or after work. In the winter, I found a cozy little spot to eat lunch in front of a large window overlooking the frozen wonderland below. Sadly, the job wasn’t as delightful as the view, and I’m now retired.
One of my favorite events during the year is the city’s annual July 3 Summer Fete at Normandale Lake. The main stage at the band shell features live music throughout the evening as people munch on food either brought from home or purchased at a variety of vendors. At dusk, the city puts on an amazing display of fireworks, set to music.
Lately, however, there was an unwelcome attraction. Curly-leaf pondweed had taken up residence and created a high level of phosphorous that resulted in algae growth and a foul smell. Bloomington and the watershed district initiated a lake “drawdown” in August 2018. With the majority of the water drained from the lake, it was hoped that the invasive weed would freeze during the winter. In March, the lake was refilled.
In early May, an aluminum solution was applied to the lake that will bind with the phosphorus in the sediment to help control it. Later in May, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will restock the lake with fish.
Although we are just at the beginning of our summer season, I’m already looking forward to the 2019 Summer Fete. It makes for a wonderful family tradition. Yet, each year I’m surprised how many residents say they’ve never attended it.
The South Loop and the Mall of America get the lion’s share of attention in the media and from city hall. But in my opinion, places like Normandale Lake, and other recreational areas, are what make Bloomington a very special place to live.
Pam Pommer, a graduate of Lincoln Senior High School, lives in Bloomington, where she enjoys gardening and spending time with her shelties.