Facing a critical decision—preservation as a public park, or sale to a private developer: Rock Island
Of the old Lilac Park near Minnetonka Boulevard, only the oval pond, a footbridge to an island and curved stone bench with pathways on the north end was saved from demolition for roadwork. The beehive fireplace and table on the park’s south end were moved before it became an entrance ramp.
Known as Monkey Island or Hidden Park, we prefer the name Rock Island. Now hidden behind a sound wall, October 2021 news has put these historic Lilac Way structures at risk.
Learn more, and help save this rare historic Lilac Way park from private development.
Rock Island, 1939
This is the only photo we have found
This 1939 MnDOT photo of the northern Rock Island area of the original Lilac Park on Minnetonka Boulevard shows the original park design by Arthur Nichols. The homes behind the park are on Toledo Avenue.
Rock Island, September 8, 2021 – Rock garden and open spaces
Lilac Way’s Rock Island is a little piece of history, surrounded by beautiful open meadows that create an oasis for the community, birds, insects, deer and wild turkeys.
The “Say Yes to Rock Island Park” virtual rally
Join Rock Island Park’s growing community of supporters. Help us encourage the City of St. Louis Park to ‘Say Yes to Rock Island!’, and vote to submit a request letter to MnDOT take the park and surrounding open green space for the community. Send your photo to firstname.lastname@example.org
Rock Island, April 6, 2021 – After MnDOT removed damaged, diseased and invasive trees and shrubs
What a difference! Rock Island is heading into a new life. The difference is dramatic at first, but best for the long-term life of this historic park. The lilacs in the long hedge along 28th & Toledo are already flourishing, no longer crowded out by invasive buckthorn. We hope to see new, healthy trees installed.
Rock Island, March 22-26, 2021
MnDOT began an overdue removal of diseased, damaged and invasive trees and shrubs from Rock Island. This photo album includes the first four days.
Removal is extensive and dramatic but necessary. Invasive buckthorn has crowded out original 1939 lilacs near the corner of 28th & Toledo. Large ash trees are damaged and susceptible to Emerald Ash Borer. Invasive Eastern Red Cedars and Honeysuckle must also be removed.
Restore Lilac Way is communicating with MnDOT about future planting quality, long-term plants.
Rock Island, March 17th, 2021
Restore Lilac Way followed MnDOT as they reviewed trees and shrubs in Rock Island. If you see a tree or lilac marked with a blue ribbon, that means it is SAVED & PROTECTED. If it is not marked, it is invasive, diseased or damaged and will be removed the week of March 22.
Click on any photo to see which trees and lilacs are being saved, there are detailed captions.
Rock Island – 2020
Rock Island, Summer 2020
More 1939 original structures have been excavated this summer. Pathways and newly uncovered garden beds are again part of this historic park.
Rock Island, 2020 garden beds
After volunteer Dennis Williams discovered buried garden beds circling the pond, volunteers are weeding and installing commercial-grade landscape weed barrier. A garden plan is in the works.
Rock Island, 2020 new signage
It’s the unveiling of the new Rock Island logo, designed and illustrated by Karen Laukkonen, Laukkonen Design. All time and expenses were donated.
Rock Island, Spring 2020
Through May 31, 2020. Dennis Williams and volunteers continued to discover more 1939 buried structures. Pathways and gardens areas were found under years of dirt.
Rock Island – 2019 and 2018
Rock Island, June 2019
A dedicated group of volunteers have weeded, excavated and transformed this hidden 1939 Lilac Way park into a gem. Their dedication proves that this historic Lilac Way park deserves to be preserved as a companion park to the restored Lilac Park near Nordic Ware.
Rock Island Cleanup Event, May 2019
More than twenty people showed up for a major Rock Island cleanup event. Amazing hard workers. Wonderful volunteers.
Rock Island, 2018
Tucked safely behind a sound wall, this hidden gem is just waiting to be restored. There is growing community interest to save this historical park.
Rock Island – 2009, 2007, 2004
Rock Island, 2009
Our cleanup day included sweeping and planting wildflower seeds. But in July, a crew of tree trimmers mistakenly cut down the brush and trees that hid this Lilac Way park from public view.
Rock Island, 2007
Overgrown and covered with leaves, these fall photos show the park’s hidden features. Built in 1939, it is a piece of history.
Rock Island, 2004
John McHugh, City of St. Louis Park Information Resources, sent us these photos, showing this overgrown and mostly forgotten Lilac Way park.